I talk about my personal experience in NICU, often. However, my husband went through it all too. Therefore, my curiosity has led me here; asking my lovely other half, a bit about what he encountered at the time. There has also been some interest from others, as to how he coped.
When asked how Marv dealt with the ordeal, I always respond with “he was amazing, couldn’t have done it without him”. I then feel guilty, because, actually, I had no real idea of his experience during those months. Mainly because I was struggling to deal with my own feelings and needs each day. From the second we got our boy home, we’ve been so busy trying to get through each day as new parents; we rarely sit and discuss what happened. Well, I thought it was about time.
The following are unedited questions and answers, from our WhatsApp conversation (as if I’d use date night to grill him)…
Did you hide much of how you were really feeling about NICU, from me?
Yes. Probably for my sake more than yours. I feel we truly shared our desperation and anguish together however, I tried to mask the extent of which I was really hurting. I found a coping mechanism in focusing on my supportive role to you.
I struggle entertaining dark thoughts and talking about my feelings due to troubling times in my past. Looking backing on this, I don’t know whether that was always such a good thing for me now.
What was your biggest fear when we had Rex so early?
That he may not make it. It feels bad even saying it and I don’t think we actually discussed at the time what we would do if that had happened. I was really scared for us, and how we would even be able to contemplate moving forward if that had happened. I worried it could be the end of us. I suppose I was just as scared of losing you as I was him.
Luckily though my family were just ridiculously supportive and confident that he was going to be absolutely fine, my brother and my dad in particular kept telling me everything was going to be alright… and I truly believed them.
Did you look at me differently after I’d had him?
It’s a lot more than just looking at you, we are now bound to the universe through another human being… there’s no going back!
But seeing you as a mom couldn’t make more happy, I know this is all you’ve ever wanted and you’ve truly levelled up in my eyes now he is part of our world. I couldn’t ask for a better mother to our son, I know he is always going to be loved and more importantly entertained.
What was your favourite thing to do when we were in NICU all together?
Definitely skin to skin, it’s what felt the most normal. Whether he was on me or you, we were all just chilling as if we were at home. Also your face was always priceless when he was asleep on you.
Was going straight back to work a welcome escape, or did you want to be by our side?
It definitely didn’t feel like a welcome escape, it was somewhat of a distraction but more than anything I felt useful. The hardest thing with NICU is feeling helpless, I found watching him for too long filled me with frustration and lead me to unhappy thoughts. At work I was providing for you guys and doing what bit I could to keep a roof over our heads and more importantly you well fed ;)… although look how that turned out in the end. I was eventually made redundant whilst on paternity leave.
Did you find the nurses and doctors comforting and informative?
You know me, I like to ask a lot of questions. I found it far from comforting when they kept us in the dark or didn’t feel it necessary to give us constant little updates. The doctors were informative once pressed hard enough, I think they felt the less we knew the better we would feel but I believe in knowledge is power. I like to know where I stand at all times and deal with what is real.
I have to admit though some of the nurses were amazing, they were constantly chatty when you wanted to talk and knew when to leave you in peace when you just wanted alone time with Rex. The care they gave him was as if he was their own and it was a real comfort when leaving him, knowing he was in trusted safe hands. I suppose it helped that he was darn so. Who wouldn’t want to love and look after him!?
What advice would you give to new dads who have a baby in NICU?
I know everyone’s experience is different and not everyone is as lucky as we were with the end result, so all I can offer is to prepare for a rough ride. Make every other task in your life as easy and simple as possible, everything is going to feel like a chore. Make sure you look after yourself and more importantly your partner. Ask all the questions, make sure you always know exactly how your baby is doing and make the doctors explain it in a way that you fully understand. That is all.
Who did you talk to the most at the time, about what you were going through?
My mate at work. He would often take me to the pub at lunch because he could tell how much I was suffering, I wasn’t enjoying my job at the time either so everyday was a real struggle. Even though he doesn’t have kids he was unbelievably sensitive and inquisitive which I really appreciated. I don’t think I’ve actually told him how grateful I really was at the time and how much he helped. The fact that he was removed from the situation made it easier for me to open up to him about it. Cheers Jodie, I owe you a million pints!
What words and advice did you find the most helpful / comforting?
In all honesty I really vibed off everyone’s positivity, I didn’t just feel like they were saying the “done” thing but that they actually felt like it was all going to work out for us. As if they felt we deserved for it to be all ok and the universe would do the right thing.
If you could go back, what would you say to yourself?
I would probably just hug myself for a very long time.
If you could go back, what would you say to me?
I’d like to think that I said the right thing at the time. That I love you and everything’s going to be ok. What more can you really say when someone’s going through what you did!? I would also just hug you for a very long time.
Do you wish you’d done anything differently during that time?
It’s hard to actually remember what I did at the time… a lot of it is such a blur. I’m not sure how much we may have bickered and fell out due to the stress. I would like to go back and make sure I never upset you or said the wrong thing.
Now we’re 6 months out of NICU, how do you feel about your experience?
Amazing. Tired, relieved but amazing. I’m sure I’m suffering from some form of PTND (post traumatic NICU disorder) but I can deal with that once he’s left home. Just looking at him now makes it all worth it.
I really am happy. Being a father, nothing else matters. I am truly grateful for what NICU did too, he wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for today’s technology and the amazing care he was given.
Is there anything you miss about NICU?
Do you feel like there’s enough support in NICU for dads?
Not really. Not at a professional level, I feel everyone deserves at least one session with a therapist as it’s the most difficult time in anyone’s life.
You’ve just become a parent and had your baby ripped away from you, watching them through a Perspex box hooked up to a million wires as if they are some kind of cyborg was horrifying, it felt like something straight out of Robocop. I could have really done with speaking to someone who could help me process what was happening.
No. He’s perfect!
Use 3 words to describe your NICU experience:
Unpredictable. Draining. Testing.
What are you most looking forward to, as a dad?
Toys, cartoons and video games ;). But in all seriousness, being a family. Being stupid, making you both laugh and creating the best memories.
A massive thank you to you, Marv. You were honest as always. I love you, Fay x