Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

NICU Husband

Daddy and his girls

I witnessed the scene countless times during Daphne’s five-month stay: a father entering the NICU for the first time. He approaches the incubator alone, tentatively, blue gown over his clothes. Peeking into the acrylic incubator from a few feet away, he is approached by a doctor with a report on his new baby. His precious new son or daughter, wearing the tiny hospital striped hat, scrawny arms and legs connected to tubes and wires. The baby’s mother is in a recovery room on a different floor, desperate to know more details about the child, or better yet, see a picture. Dad hears what the doctor has to say, so much information. Then a nurse introduces herself, asks if he has any questions. “Can I touch him?” or “Is she going to be OK?”, Dad asks. Welcome to fatherhood, NICU style.

I often pictured my own husband’s first visit, heartbroken and scared. My obstetrician accompanied Zev and urged him to snap the first photo for me. He soon returned to my bedside to let me know Daphne was tiny, beautiful, and a fighter.

Throughout those months, I saw my husband rise up to the occasion again and again. A week after she was born, we were told there was nothing they could do to save her kidneys. I was despondent, with no energy to eat, speak, or move. He said to me “we are going to be her parents while she is here,” and gently encouraged me back on my feet. He sat by the baby for as many hours as I did – I took the day shift, he took the night. After I returned to work, whenever he had a few minutes to spare he drove down to see her, and texted photos and updates.  Gregarious and friendly, he got to know every nurse in the unit, and many fellow parents. He transported my pumped breast milk daily in a little orange cooler bag, and got up in the middle of the night to put the expressed milk in the refrigerator and wash the pump parts so I could use them again first thing in the morning.

I don’t know how I could have gotten through the NICU without my husband, his steady presence and his sense of humor. We have approached Daphne’s prematurity and continuing health issues with opposite yet complimentary styles: I research things to death, ask questions, demand information, make sure doctors are on the same page. He sits back and listens, supports, and tries to be consistent. I would be lying if I said our styles have never clashed, especially when we are each running on three hours of sleep. We know our goal is one and the same: that our children are healthy, happy, whole.

Melissa Haber About Melissa Haber

Melissa Haber (NY) is mother to Daphne, a surviving identical twin who was born at 27 weeks 4 days, moments after sister Leah passed away. Daphne was in the NICU for five long months, and had open-heart surgery to repair a congenital heart defect when she was six months old. At three years old, she continues to battle kidney disease and other delays related to her prematurity. Daphne is proud to have the greatest big sister in the world, six-year-old Lucy. The family lives outside of New York City. Melissa blogs regularly about life with a former micropreemie, parenting challenges, and loss and grieving. You can also follow her on Twitter.


  1. since we had private rooms, I never really witnessed the other fathers first moments, and it never occurred to me what Chad went through until you posted this. I only remember his last, scared look at me as he followed the isolette out of my delivery room, then coming back an hour or more later with a picture and a teensy diaper.

    We also had very different styles, and definitely clashed as he was more standoff-ish. I don’t know that he wanted to get too close, having lost a baby the year before. However, when Sam was born it was a different story. I don’t know if it was experience, maturity, or the simple fact that Sam was pretty much guaranteed to survive. He spent the first night in the NICU with Sam and I have to admit some jealousy because for once he knew more about my child’s condition, what the dr’s were saying, etc than I did.

  2. We are currently on week 3 with our 24 weeker. It’s been tough. We knew I would deliver early. I researched everything! My husband hated that I looked up every detail. I visit daily. I think he made his 4th visit today. He never visits with me. We have been fighting constantly.
    How sweet that your husband was willing to do so much. Maybe with time my husband will start to put forth more effort

    • Angela, going through a NICU stay with a micro-preemie is one of the most stressful situations a person can face, and it really tests the relationship. I know people have different styles of coping, and some people are definitely scared of getting attached and then the worst happening… I hope that as your baby improves your husband feels more comfortable, and in the meantime, that he allows you to carry on in your style. For what it’s worth, my daughter is three and I still look everything up! I will be thinking of you, your baby and your family. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need support.

  3. Tyler Ingrum says:

    I have spent half of my workday thus far browsing this website, and found all of these stories both educational, and inspirational. Due to HELLP syndrome, my wife is currently hospitalized with the expectation of giving birth to our 27 week preemie by the end of the week. The baby will then be transfered to a childrens hospital while mom recovers. I plan to stay with my son or daughter (we want a suprise) until my wife is discharged. I know this is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done, particularly with her down and out for a week, but it’s stories like these that give me hope. I may end up dead on my feet within a couple weeks, but I am more that willing to do everything necessary to ensure the best possible care for our little monster.

    • Tyler, I will be thinking of your family this week. Kudos to you for taking on the responsibility of being there while your wife recovers. It is important for NICU personnel to see involved parents, and the early bonding, even if it’s just for you to change a diaper here and there, and for the babe to hear your voice, is really important. Good luck and feel free to reach out if you need support. Best wishes.

  4. Thanks for touching on this subject. We spent 52 days at MSCHONY in NY. I also blog about my experiences to help other dads cope. It was the most difficult time in my life.


  1. […] wrote about Zev in the NICU over at Preemie Babies 101. I hope you will check it […]

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