Having a baby in the NICU will probably be the most emotional period of a parent’s life. During this time mothers and fathers feel sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger, etc. I know when my son was in the NICU I felt all of those emotions and more. However, being a father and a man I felt that I needed to be strong for my wife, my kids, and my family during this tough time because that is how a man should act in this situation. So, like most men, I held in my emotions and I didn’t express my feelings in public. Behind closed doors, I would let it out, but in front of others I was like a stone wall. I thought I was doing the right thing, but it actually made my life very hard. It would take all my strength to keep my emotions in check while I was in public. Because of that I would forget to focus on the important things. Sometimes I would space out in the NICU when the doctors and nurses would talk to me. I would forget to ask important questions about my baby’s care just to keep up my appearance of being emotionally sound. At home, I found myself being aloof, and not wanting to interact with my family. At work, I would lose focus on even the simplest tasks. I continued with this behavior, and it took a very emotional experience to make me think different.
After a series of good days my little one took a turn for the worst. During this time it was very hard to hide all my emotions in public. Several days went by and he got worse. One day, there was an incident where we almost lost him, but the doctors and nurses were able to save his little life. He was stabilized and I had a moment with him by his bedside. He opened his eyes, turned his head and looked me right in my eyes. Again, I was doing everything I could to hold emotion inside, but his eyes told me, “Daddy, let it go.” I couldn’t hold back any longer, so I let it out. I didn’t care who was around, I just cried, as long as I needed to. Afterwards, I felt completely different. The weight of hiding my emotions was gone and I felt rejuvenated. I wasn’t using all my energy keeping my emotions pinned inside me and I was able to take that additional energy and focus on other aspects of my life that I had neglected. Now, I was able to focus on getting my son well and getting him home, and that’s what I did! If you have a baby in the NICU, whether you are a mommy or daddy, do not waste your precious energy hiding emotions. Instead, express them and share them. You will find doing will release a heavy burden from your shoulders and allow you to focus your energy to getting your baby well.