Okay, so Father’s Day is a few days away, but we want to start to celebrate these un-sung hero’s today!
As a NICU nurse, I have been present for hundreds of critical admissions to the neonatal intensive care unit. Rather than the birth of a new baby being surrounded by joy and celebration with balloons, flowers and cigars; these small and fragile infants are born with families that are now faced with fear and uncertainty.
While parents have frequently told me that they admire me for what I do, I always tell them it’s the other way around! I have always had the utmost respect and admiration for NICU parents. They come in to this completely foreign and scary environment day after day, having to trust complete strangers with the most precious thing in the world to them.
They have to leave their child in the hands of nurses and doctors for days, weeks, months or even years while they do everything they can to feel like a parent. They have to juggle their outside life and this new life that revolves around a hospital. Some parents have infants that are so sick, that they come in never knowing if it will be for the last time. Yet these parents stay strong and keep going. They manage other children they have at home, they manage to get out of bed each day and go back to the hospital and they manage to show their baby more love than I ever knew a human could possibly have.
Yet above this generalized admiration for NICU parents, I have found that I personally have the most respect and highest regard for the dad’s in the NICU. Please don’t take that as an offense to mothers because as a mother myself, I am fully aware of the sacrifices moms make. It’s the moms that are pumping milk every two to three hours around the clock, getting no sleep, usually are the ones that help keep the house going, the other kids going, juggle the priorities to make sure everything gets done and lets not forget the hormonal changes they have to suffer through after having a baby. Yet when you stop and watch a family, and really look at the experience and stress they are going through, I see something very different in the eyes of the fathers.
When I watch a dad come in, there is this overwhelming weight that I will see in his eyes. The weight is filled with hope of course, but it’s as if he realizes that he not only has this small little person to fight for and care about, but he also has this baby’s mother to worry about. I have watched countless fathers be at the bedside around the clock just like a mother. Yet not only is he tending to his child’s needs, but he is also making sure his partner is eating enough, drinking enough, getting up and moving enough. He is worried about how she feels, if she is getting enough rest, and the list goes on and on.
So NICU fathers, on this coming fathers’ day, we will celebrate YOU! We will celebrate the dad who shows up to the NICU with unbreakable strength and never ending devotion to care and provide for everyone that is important to him!
Visit our Celebrating Fathers Day Pinterest page to find ways to help celebrate the NICU dad’s this weekend!