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Five Weeks and a Day - A NICU Story - Day 11

Day 11 - August 24, 2014

Sean’s team is losing their baseball game 3-2 when I text him, telling him about LoLa’s newest first: she has tried a pacifier. I wasn’t sure I wanted to use pacifiers but it was already in when I arrived to the NICU. This is another decision which has been made for us, rather than with us, but it is a relatively small one, so I let it go. The nurse explains that developing these muscles and the coordination will eventually help her nurse, something I am desperately looking forward to, which eases the disappointment that it has been implemented without any prior discussion about our preferences.

Sean’s parents join me to visit LoLa today. I let Sean’s mom do LoLa’s afternoon care. I giggle as she accidentally tries to put LoLa’s diaper on backward. “Give me a break!” Lois

pleads. “It’s been a while since I’ve changed a diaper.”

Sean returned to work about a week ago. It is beyond stressful. Running an outpatient physical therapy clinic in Manayunk means a long work day, a 30-minute commute, and a hectic schedule. Patients are very understanding, constantly asking how we are doing. A few days a week, Sean drives from Manayunk to Abington on his lunch break to sit at her bedside for just twenty minutes. The quiet bonding time for the two of them is a peaceful oasis in his busy workday.

Sean sometimes feels the staff at the NICU do not value his role or presence in the same way they do mine.

Adding to the daily stress is a feeling Sean has started to have that he expresses to me after our visit tonight. New dads are sometimes behind the eight ball when it comes to father-baby bonding time, but especially in the NICU. We can only hold LoLa once a day, if that, and he wants me to have the time and space needed to establish my bond with her. He has seen how it comforts me on bad days, how it relaxes me when I feel stressed, and how it overwhelms me, and he’s appreciated all these things, too. That is why I insist that we take turns holding her when we have opportunities. Sean feels this surprises the staff at the NICU. He tells me tonight that he sometimes feels the staff at the NICU do not value his role or presence in the same way they do mine. I’ve heard how they sound surprised (disappointed?) when they find out Sean is going to hold LoLa. “Oh, Dad’s holding tonight?” He feels they check on us more frequently while he is holding her. He will point out comments from nurses that may have otherwise gone unnoticed by me which make him feel as though he is inferior and incompetent. Generalizations and jokes which, while meant to be light, will irritate and demoralize him. It is up to him to thicken his skin, and up to me to keep reminding him that the most important thing is to remember that we are here for a short time, that we need to focus on LoLa and the rest will fall away. He knows that if LoLa can endure all she is, that he can handle anything the NICU has for him as well. She rewards him tonight with her very first smile, and with it, their special bond is solidified.

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