Editor’s Note: September is Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Awareness Month, designed to honor families who have used these medical facilities and the health professionals who care for the them.
My son starts preschool today.
It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I was sitting in the NICU snuggling his entire tiny body on my chest.
My son was a preemie, born at 34 weeks. Those were some really long and tough days for us. My wife felt guilty but it certainly wasn’t her fault. She had a normal, healthy pregnancy. We don’t know why he came early and we’ll probably never know. But it happened and we dealt with it.
He was being held in NICU because his lungs were not fully developed just yet. He was hooked up to all kinds of machines … feeding tube through his nose for a bit, heart monitor and more. I will never forget the alarming sound the monitor would make when his heart rate would drop and the doctors and nurses would come rushing in. They called it a “bradycardia,” or abnormally slow heart action, and it was one of the scariest moments for us.
During our daily rounds with the doctors, they told us that for him to come home he had to have three straight days without any “bradys or spells,” as they referred to them. We would call each morning, crossing our fingers, to see how he did overnight. Then we would pack our lunch, grab coffee and fight traffic each day while heading to the hospital to spend a few hours with him. It was a strange feeling to come home each night and not have our newborn son with us. My wife was in tears at times because we didn’t know how long he would be in the NICU and she was worried about spending her entire maternity leave in the hospital.
Fortunately, her boss was very supportive and gave her extra time off. There were other dads there and I would see them each day and we’d give each other the nod. We sort of became a club; each waiting for our turn to go home with our child. I know we were fortunate. Our situation could have been much worse. There were some parents there with twins in which one got to go home and the other one didn’t and some babies were there for 3 months or longer. In total, we spent five weeks in the NICU.
Today, my son has caught up and with the exception of a slight speech delay, he has met all of his milestones. He is now a tall, active and healthy 3-year-old who loves fire trucks, Paw Patrol and pancakes.
So, it’s an exciting day and I’m a happy dad. My once tiny NICU baby is going to meet his new teachers and make new friends. He’s going to laugh and learn and play and he’ll have a big smile on his face … and so will I.
My son starts preschool today!
About the author
Lou Marino, shown with his wife and two children, is a member of our Boston/Providence Dads Group.
Photos: Contributed by the Marino family