Daddy Directions - When Your Baby is In The NICU
I used to think that I knew all about babies. My sister grew up a teen mother and I figured I got all the seasoning I would ever need helping her over the years. When I found out my twin daughters would not be coming home with us and instead would be kept in the NICU, I realized I had no clue. I also realized that my wife was going to need me on a whole new level and that I needed to go find some answers quick.
For those fathers out there that might be facing this situation, this article is for you.
My situation was unique in that my twin daughters arrived unexpectedly at only 25 weeks. Their little skin was totally opaque and you could see every vein and artery in their little bodies. My wife was out of it of course as they had to take the girls by C-section. They were not breathing when they came out and went straight to an incubator. This all happened when we showed up to the hospital for a routine ultrasound. She went into labor and bam...we were off on the NICU express.
We were not prepared on any level. We were supposed to have some more time. We had nothing in place.
As a dad, I felt like a complete failure.
Weren’t Dads supposed to have all the answers? I had none.
At this point, life switched into overdrive. My girls were breathing but in very precarious situations. My wife was not out of the woods by any means but she was hanging in there like the superstar that she was (is).
Like most people I was looking for answers. When I need answers of that magnitude, I go to God. Prayer was a life saving thing for me during those horrible early days.
The best advice ever came to me in prayer.
The Lord softly whispered a simple phrase that kept me focused and grounded…
“Never forget the where the real end zone is.”
It’s funny because God sometimes speaks to me using sports because he knows I will relate to them well. For those that are not football savvy, the end zone is ultimate goal in football.
I took it to mean that I need to keep my mind and heart focused on the ultimate prize...eternity with our Lord and Savior. When things are so out of our minds nuts that we can’t think logically, this reminder can bring you back to center. No matter how much pain, sadness and grief we encounter here on earth, the Lord is moving us towards that perfect eternity.
Dads, my first advice for you is to keep your eyes on the end zone and stay in touch with God.
From the first moment I felt that answer from the Lord, I never worried about my girls passing away. It was a very possible reality, but I somehow knew that God would take care of them. If they did pass, I would have been crushed and sad beyond words. I also, however, would have known that they were sitting on Jesus’s lap in eternity. That gave me comfort.
What to do when you have no idea what to do
For those of you with kids in the NICU, you know what that silly phrase means. You find yourself pulled in a million directions with no clear idea about which one is the right one. This is all about priorities and decisions.
My wife and I tried to go at it with both of us doing everything. That was a huge mistake. We both tried to work to prepare for them coming home. We both tried to put in hours we had no business working and we both tried to be at the NICU every moment we could. What we ended up doing was burning our candles slap out and really accomplishing very little.
If I had it to do over again, I would have split up the duties. My job would have been to take care of the home and the job. My wife would have stayed with the kids and took care of communications. We were kids, however, and could not see that clearly.
My next piece of advice is to split up the duties if you have that as an option.
If you are not sure what to do at a given time, do something sweet for your wife or kids. That always works. If you have two things that both need doing, do the one that affects your loved ones first.
Know your wife’s needs
As hard as a NICU situation is for you, it is infinitely tougher on your wife. Understand that the connection between mother and child is strained when she is unable to hold her baby and bring her home. Where you hurt in your heart, she hurts down into her soul. She feels as though part of her very being is missing and she will need you like never before.
Men, if ever there was a time to be selfless, this is it. Forget your rights. Forget your ego. Check it at the door and be there when she needs you. She needs you to hold her hand, kiss her cheek and carry her when she is weak.
If you do these things, you will survive this NICU experience. Stick with God, keep your eyes on the prize, support your wife and share the stress and duties. Most of all, pray on a regular basis.