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

Rehashing Old NICU Feelings

Old NICU FeelingsDespite a relatively quiet 25 days in the NICU, I still had a hard time managing the ups and down that come with it. While I was thrilled to be a father for the first time, I was overwhelmed not only by the responsibility of a child, but a frail one who had a scary start to life as well.

When we brought Jayden home from the NICU, I didn’t go out of the way to forget those feelings, to pretend as if the NICU was part of a bad dream. Being the optimist I am, I chose to celebrate the experience as a learning tool for all our little miracles can overcome. Of course I still had worries, uncertainties, and questions as we moved forward with our lives. Post-NICU life isn’t the same as being in the NICU, yet the differences do have a number of similarities.

A daily reminder of having a former preemie is the challenges of working through speech delays. Jayden is making progress every day, but we still have a way to go. We still hold our breath every time he gets a cold. But most of those raw emotions that I felt early on in the NICU have passed.

Recently, after Jayden had a fifth ear infection, and second in a couple months, we consulted an ENT specialist to see what she thought about having tubes put in Jayden’s ears. Despite having normal hearing, the frequency of his infections prompted her to give us the green light.

A couple of weeks ago, as we waited for a sedative to make my son sleepy before the procedure was done, hospital staff asked that put scrubs on to carry him back to the operating room. Much to my surprise, when I got back to the room, I was asked to hold him while they placed the mask on him to put him out.

I’m sorry, what do you need me to do?!?

(Before I go any further it’s important to note the staff at the hospital were amazing, supportive, and in hindsight having me there to comfort him was important.)

As I sat there, holding my son, watching him momentarily struggle to fight off the mask and ultimately succumb, I felt a rush of emotion come over me. All of a sudden a lot of those feelings from the NICU came back. Uncertainty, helplessness, fear, it was all back in an instant. As I walked back to the waiting area my wife knew I was upset, and we talked about it. I felt better after airing my concerns. Luckily the procedure was quick and a success. The doctor was out to share the good news within minutes, and shortly after we were reunited with our little trooper.

Sometimes, when you least expect it, those old NICU feelings may come back. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. For those experiences have molded the parent you have become.

Joel Brens About Joel Brens

As a father, Joel Brens (IL) wants to dispel the idea that dads can't be scared or emotional beings. His wife gave birth to their son via emergency c-section due to complications from diastolic umbilical artery flow at just under 33 weeks. Their son was born in May 2010 at 3lbs. 6oz. and spent 25 days in the NICU while his lungs developed and he learned to eat. Presently, he is undergoing evaluation for developmental and speech therapy but otherwise doing well. Community and support have been essential to Joel and his wife. You can connect with Joel on his Facebook page, via email or on his blog, Papas of Preemies.


  1. I know how he feels about the NICU feelings retuning. My son was born 12 weeks premature but did very well. He spent 2 months in the NICU. At just 3 months (one weeks past his orginal due date) he had hernia surgery. It was such a scary and emotional time for us. He had only been home for 5 weeks when we went back for his surgery. Even just reading other peoples stories and posts bring the memories and feelings flowing back. All NICU share a similar bond even if we don’t actually know each other.

  2. Elizabeth Hepple says:

    i am a parent of a healthy Full term baby girl born May 15th 2011. she was born at 8:06 P.M. 8 lBS 6 oz 21 1/2 long. her mother( myself) was born at 28 weeks at 1 LBS 11 oz 13 3/4 long and having to spend about 10 months there at IOWA Methodist Medical Center, Blank Children’s Hospital. Variety Club NICU. i am still in contact with the nurses and doctors that took care of me from August 1st 1979( the day i was born)- May 30th 1980. if it was not for my will to live, Pope John Paul 2 and God and Jesus Christ and the evasive measures done to keep me alive i would not have my beautiful Healthy and Happy daughter. i love her very much along with all the loving hard working doctor’s and nurses that took care of me. not forgetting my mother who gave me life, all be it 15 weeks early and the father who named me and helped give me life also. i am so very blessed by the staff at the NICU at IOWA METHODIST MEDICAL CENTER. i forgot one thing, I GO BACk To VISIT EVERY YEAR OR SO. ! Thank you, Jessie Lorring, Nancy woestman, Cecelia Kervin. love you guys.

  3. Those feelings come rushing back always. My 3 children (all preemies) are adults now and I still find those same feelings rushing back at times. Last time was when our oldest gave birth. I was in the delivery room after a 4 day complicated induction, when they said that she might need a C-section I found myself thinking about her birth and the 3+ month NICU stay as well as her siblings. Then when my Grandson arrived and I held him I again went back to the first time I held each of my kids. Seemed so odd holding a 8 lb infant when mine all weighed less than that combined! I think of those feelings and memories as ghosts of my past and occasionally come back to haunt me and then leave…

  4. Afton Mower says:

    Thanks for sharing, Joel. It’s been a long time since I’ve browsed this site and thought about my experiences with my preemie in the NICU. My 27-weeker was in the NICU from October to January, and every holiday season since then (It’s been 8 years) I experience a little bit of the emotional trauma that I experienced then. Sometimes it’s nostalgia and thankfulness, and sometimes it’s depression and loneliness. It often makes me want to visit the NICU again and it always reminds me that there are parents and babies in the NICU right now who need love and support. I’m so grateful that this site is still going strong and that so many wonderful people are contributing.

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