Dear Preemie Dad,
We couldn’t have grown without you.
On the day of our child’s delivery, as our world came crashing down, it seemed to be all about the baby and I. There was so much fear, heartache, anticipation and confusion, and to the world it looked like I was carrying it all. There is some truth to that – the baby was inside of my body and in sudden, real distress. We were nowhere near his due date. There was no more time to wait. It was my responsibility to keep our child inside, and my feelings of failure and sadness could fill the room. Everyone was worried for me, for us, and most of all, for the baby. The baby who was under two pounds and might not live through the night. The baby that we were all so excited for. The baby that would be your first born son and the sweetest gift I could ever give to you. I was scared that you were disappointed. It felt like the unluckiest day of my life.
But you, my love, did not show even a bit of frustration. You held my hand and listened intently to the doctor as he explained the C-section and the reason it had to happen now. In your eyes all I saw was love and concern, intense and limitless. Yes, I was terrified for the baby, but you were terrified for the both of us. In the midst of so much uncertainty, I can still remember how solid you were. You were strong enough for the both of us.
I don’t know if you noticed, but I looked to you to see if I could sense some shame or regret. There was none. In fact, you even seemed amazed by me. We were both holding it together and taking it in, ready to face this remarkable challenge with our son. Ready to fight. All you wanted to do was be there for me and our baby. You wanted to know the odds. You live on odds. And as long as the doctor said there was a chance for everything to turn out OK, you were betting on us. You gave me the courage to believe.
And then, it was time.
When they wheeled me into the delivery room, you stayed right there. You caressed my face and wiped every tear away. Baby, you cheered me on. And when our baby silently came into the world, you saw him before I did. I would not have had it any other way. I was satisfied with the fact that, even if our baby didn’t live another minute, he would know his father’s love. He would have sensed his father’s gaze and felt the gleam of pride in your eyes. He had known my heartbeat for 24 weeks and now, he had become yours. When the doctors rushed the baby out of the room, you turned your attention to me. You did not skip a beat. Immediately, you became a father to one pound, five ounces of son. And that was all that mattered.
I know you were terrified too. I know your heart was broken. I could not control the tears, so you had to. But I know you cried. I know you went into a quiet place and prayed. I am so glad you did. The prayers of a faithful father, availed.
In the hours after our preemie’s birth, all of the questions were for me. The doctors and nurses checked on me constantly. Our family and friends were excited to see the baby and wish him well. You, were third on the list. But not to me. I watched in awe as you made sure I was taken care of and took visitors to see our son. I was honored to feel your protection. I relied on your reports to tell me how our little, little one was doing. Each one was optimistic. Each one was just what I needed to hear.
And looking back on our NICU journey, it is true, you never showed an ounce of doubt. You appreciated all I did for him daily, the endless pumping of milk and the relationship I built with the nurses and doctors. The way I mothered our son completely despite the tremendous amount of anxiety I now carried. You were the one who told me to have the baby shower, to buy the clothes, to step out completely on faith. You were so much more confident than I. And each and every day you sat at our baby’s incubator, you gave him the strength to grow. He got that from you. You made it clear to everyone that THIS little boy, was coming home. You, my dear, never wavered. You gave me permission to trust.
Thankfully, we have a life after the NICU. You are all of the dad I hoped you would be, plus more. You give so much of yourself to our son, and he admires you greatly. When you enter the room, his face lights up. His eyes follow your every move. He sees you the way I see you. As the man who made it possible for us to keep going, inch my inch, ounce by ounce.
Neither of us, could have made it through the NICU, without you.
You were our life support.