Nothing can prepare someone for the moment they realize their baby will be born sick or premature (or in many cases, both). A parent is never more vulnerable than when they physically cannot help their child. The jubilation of their child’s birth quickly takes a backseat to it’s less welcomed friends, like anxiety, fear, and depression. But, while there really isn’t much a parent can do for their newborn, there are certain things a parent can do for their partner, and this is what separates the newbies from the pros, if you will. In fact, there are many things grown-ass men do when their baby is in NICU.
Make no mistake, having a baby in the NICU is difficult on both parents. Fathers aren't exempt from feeling the fear and the depression and the anxiety that mothers feel when their baby is born early or sick. However, because a father (especially fathers who are cisgender males) cannot physically experience pregnancy and childbirth, they don't know what it's like to birth a baby, only to have that baby immediately rushed to the NICU because they need help. They don't know what it's like to miss out on the first touch and the instant breastfeeding (if a mom chooses to do so) and the moment a mother fixates on, to get her through pregnancy, labor and delivery. Her hormones are raging and her body is sore and/or still in pain and the emotional exhaustion she is experiencing only makes the fear she has for her baby, worse. This is why grown-ass men, while also scared and worried, can and do step up and help their partner.
But first, some of the things they don’t do. They don’t retreat into themselves, leaving their partner high and dry to do everything themselves. Parents in the NICU need each other. There’s a reason so many couples feel disconnected during their NICU experience. It is hard work being there in such a time of crises. Grown-ass men also don’t complicate the NICU experience any more than it needs to be. That means they need to stay calm and not become argumentative with doctors and nurses (unless absolutely necessary) or with their partner. They also don’t leave it up to the nurses to be there for their partner in the NICU. As a former NICU mom, I am grateful for the NICU nurses who cared for me as well as my baby, but I know that these nurses are already overworked and emotionally taxed, and to have them be my only form of support when I have a spouse and family and friends feels unfair.
Which is why I was, and still am, so thankful that my partner was a grown-ass man, willing to do the things that helped me get through having our baby in the NICU. Here are just a few of the things every grown-ass man will do for his partner when their baby is in the NICU. Whether you're having a healthy pregnancy or you already know what lies ahead, it's worthwhile to think about the unthinkable, and be as prepared as possible.