I know that when we think of birth stories, we typically assume they’ll be told from the mother’s point of view. Today, we have a special treat – a birth story from the father’s perspective! This story comes from Joel Brens, husband to Gena, and founder of Papas of Preemies.
Tears Of Joy: The Day I Became A Preemie Papa
There was a time I felt I wasn’t fit to be a father. I struggled with finding an identity and path in my early to mid twenties. I often thought about what it takes to be a parent, and considered the idea I couldn’t hack it. I have always loved mentoring and being around kids, but the responsibility that comes with your own? When I met my wife, Gena, everything changed. I knew in my heart she was going to be an amazing parent, and after we married, we found out we were expecting a child. It was the most exciting and scary moment of my life, to that point.
When we went to our first ultrasound, I remember hearing our son’s heartbeat for the first time. Tears rolled down my face, as I was so happy that life existed. My wife’s OBGYN mentioned to her early on that a family history of high blood pressure may dictate an early delivery, but that they would keep a close eye on her progress. The first half of our pregnancy was tame, but as we got into the second half of the pregnancy, complications began to arise. Gena’s blood pressure started to elevate, so much so that she had to be admitted to the hospital to get it under control at 30 weeks. Luckily for us the doctors were able to get Gena stabilized, and she was released from the hospital four days later with instructions to come in for bi-weekly fetal Non-Stress Tests (NST) and a biophysical.
It was during a biophysical a little over two weeks later that we discovered that Jayden’s umbilical artery blood flow had become diastolic, meaning the blood flow was starting and stopping, which is very dangerous. On Monday, May 10th, Gena was admitted to the hospital again. The team of doctors decided to administer two rounds of steroid shots over two days and induce or perform a c-section on Wednesday the 12th. On Monday night, Jayden had his most active NST to date and everyone was encouraged we would proceed as planned. As a restaurant manager, I was scheduled to work Tuesday morning, and then I would be with her the night before we became parents. Unfortunately as most preemie stories go, things didn’t exactly go as planned.
Within minutes of me arriving to work, my cell phone started to ring as my wife was calling. My heart sank. I KNEW something was wrong. When I answered the phone, my wife tearfully explained our son’s heartbeat had dropped to a dangerous 60bpm and doctors had decided Jayden would be better served in their care than continue in utero. Gena said she was so scared and I needed to get there as soon as possible. I told her I would be there as soon as I could and that I loved her very much.
I frantically called my boss to have her cover my shift so I could go to the hospital. I was completely beside myself. Forty-five minutes passed before I was able to leave the restaurant. As I drove to the hospital, unable to reach my wife, unsure of the condition she or our son Jayden was in, I took a moment to ask God to protect Gena and Jayden. Regardless of how the next few minutes, hours, and days played out, that they would both be okay. I texted family and close friends that we were about to be parents, that I didn’t know how things would play out, but I would let them know as soon as I had more info. I sprinted from my car to the room she was in only to find it empty. I was so scared, and at that moment I feared the worst. I turned to find a nurse to see if they had any information. Before I even had the chance to ask, a nurse walked out of surgery and asked if I was Mr. Brens.
My entire world slowed down as I anxiously waited to hear the news. With a warm smile she said, “I am happy to tell you your son is happy and healthy, congratulations! You’re a dad!” At 8:11am on Tuesday May 10, 2010 our beautiful son, Jayden Jack Brens, was born weighing 3 lbs. 6 oz. and was 17.5 inches long. I was so happy and relieved, I wept. I can’t tell you how much of a weight was off of my shoulders. I certainly was disappointed I missed my son’s birth and wasn’t able to be there for Gena when she went into surgery, but after failed attempts for an epidural, the doctors were forced to give general anesthesia and I wouldn’t have been able to be in the room anyway. Knowing as soon as I arrived at the hospital that mom and baby were okay took a lot of the sting out.
The nurse brought me to a small hallway and told me our son would be out shortly. About 10 minutes later, my life changed forever. When I saw my son, tiny, bundled up in blankets and in an incubator, I was in love. Once again, I shed tears of joy.
While the NICU proved to be a roller coaster ride during our sons 25 day stay, I was so very excited about being a dad. What I’ve learned and how I’ve grown as the parent of a preemie has forever changed me. I am so proud of my son, and no matter what happens, no matter what path his life leads, I will always be proud of him.
Dads and moms, if you don’t follow Papas of Preemies yet, we encourage you to do so! It’s so very fascinating and enlightening to hear things from the fathers’ perspectives.