The most difficult job of a NICU parent is that of the mother. While others sleep, she lies awake. While others hug their children, she stares at hers through a plastic box. While others relax, she anxiously awaits the inevitable darkness. For months, she was the closest thing her baby felt to a home. And then, it was all taken away. Mothers in the NICU are heroes without a cape, warriors without a sword. Along with my son, my wife is my hero. But just like any hero, they need someone to pick them up when the task at hand is insurmountable for one person. Enter the NICU dad.
We’re prepared from a very young age to lose. Small children are told not to lose their toys, that old people and animals die, and that it’s the lessons we learn from losing that help us become winners. We’re prepared, yet we still expect to win. When it’s something we can control, we feel insufficient when we can’t win. For the most part, losing is transient. We think it’ll last forever, but it doesn’t. Failure precedes future success. But what if our preparations were futile? No parent is ever mentally prepared to lose a child. I wasn’t. But I came closer to it than I ever want to be again in my life.
Some days I find myself so overcome with emotion, it seems it would be easier if I didn’t feel anything. I try to make myself feel better, remembering that someone out there has it worse than I do. But it doesn’t always help. “I feel, therefore I am” is not necessarily uplifting. The world we live in does not discriminate when it comes to anxiety. We all feel it. Whether it’s to-do’s, never did’s, or should have done’s, we all feel as if we are inadequate, like we are competing against something immovable. All we are really doing is competing against what we think about ourselves and how others perceive our performance.
Sick, injured, and premature children need our help now more than ever. It takes a community of people to get these kids home from the hospital. For every St. Louis Cardinals home run this year, I'm donating $1 to the MU Children's Hospital, part of the Children's Miracle Network, starting with last year's home run total of $205. Join me in supporting this mission, our children, and our Redbirds by donating to the St. Louis Cardinals Blasts for Beckett Challenge, named after my hero - my son Beckett - who is himself fighting to come home. Be Good. Do Good. And go Cards!
This wasn’t how we envisioned it would be. Not even close. We had visions of welcome home parties, a laughing baby, up-all-night swaddling, and grandparent spoiling dancing in our heads. But not this. And that’s okay.
"I have a son." Over the course of the last few weeks, I've found myself saying this a lot. I think about it when I wake, I dream about it when I sleep, and I even say it to others I speak to. I couldn't be any happier.
This is the story of us telling our family we are going to have a baby.
I believe there's a fundamental difference between being anxious and having anxiety. I'm more anxious to be a father than anything I've experienced in my life, in a good way. With that comes more anxiety than I've ever experienced in my life, not necessarily in a good way. Learning to cope will be a struggle, but there's not many things more gratifying, calming, and ultimately rewarding than hearing your baby's heartbeat for the very first time.
One of the most exciting times of my life was finding out I was going to be a father. A close second? That would be telling our parents they are going to be grandparents. There were tears, excited shouting, and even a few expletives. We wouldn't have it any other way.
I'll be honest...I'd always imagined it differently. Where I grew up, there is a meticulous order you abide by in regards to the roadmap of your life. You go to school, hope to get into a good college, graduate, get a job, work, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. I suddenly found myself in a situation where I thought I had everything I'd ever dreamed of wanting, but something was missing.