Preemie Fatherhood at a Moment’s Notice

June 17, 2012

Mike Holding Jackson in the NICUI was ready for children years before my husband, Mike, embraced the idea. As I impatiently waited for him to give the green light, the ticking of my biological clock constantly rang in my ears. Looking back, I am so thankful he asked for more time – he instinctively knew that parenthood was more than sleepless nights, diapers and play dates. Although he could not have known the tremendous challenges the birth of our micro-preemie would bring, he knew as a father he had to be ready to lead, guide and protect his family – not a role to be entered into lightly.

I truly believe our son, Jackson, would not be alive today had it not been for Mike’s actions during my pre-term labor. He insisted a reluctant EMS team take me by ambulance to the hospital even though they felt a simple visit to my OB would be sufficient. While his abrasive behavior in Labor and Delivery embarrassed me, I am certain it saved us precious time when every second counted. While I had the luxury of being put to sleep for my starring role during delivery, my sweet husband was left to watch helplessly as our one pound, eight ounce baby was stripped from my body. For a man who had never seen a birthing video, the experience was horrifying. He told me later that Jackson looked like a limp baby bird with little chance for survival.

Upon arrival at the hospital, my sister recalls finding Mike sitting alone in a hallway with his head buried in his hands softly crying. How could he not be distraught? His son (who was not due for four months) was fighting for his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and his wife was unconscious in the next room as doctors worked to put me back together. Just days before, Mike had finished painting the nursery and assembling the crib. He thought he would have months to prepare for the arrival of his child. We were both ill prepared for instant parenthood, but Mike quickly rose to the occasion.

Mike felt an instant bond with Jackson — spending hours at his bedside, softly singing to him and telling him all the things they would do together when he grew up. It was an exhausting pace, but Mike split his time between the NICU and my hospital room keeping me apprised of Jackson’s fragile condition. He held my hand and pushed the IV pole as I struggled to master the walk to the NICU. He consulted with the doctors, made phone calls to loved ones, assured our family and friends, dealt with the insurance company and encouraged me as I struggled to keep up with the grueling pumping schedule.

Over the past 11 years since Jackson’s early arrival, I have marveled and celebrated the bond between Mike and our children. The road has not been easy, but his unconditional love, support and open affection has ensured that they both know without doubt that they are loved beyond measure and will always have a Dad by their side to protect, encourage and love them unconditionally.

To my amazing husband and dads everywhere – Happy Father’s Day! May it be a day of reflection and celebration as we honor you for all you do!