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

The Day I Became A NICU Dad

Our 33 week, 3 lbs. 6oz. preemie

My wife had a very normal pregnancy for the first 30 weeks. When she went in for a routine checkup, her blood pressure had skyrocketed. They immediately admitted her and began giving her medicine to get it under control. Unfortunately, I was at work when this happened and was unable to be there for support. She called me at work crying and there was nothing I could do. I felt so guilty and helpless. I just wanted to be there. Luckily, the doctors were able to get her blood pressure under control shortly before I arrived. She spent four days in the hospital and was released on bedrest. Weekly fetal non-stress tests (NST) and biophysicals were a mainstay for the remainder of the pregnancy.  Unfortunately, just under 33 weeks she was readmitted to the hospital because doctors had discovered diastolic umbilical artery flow and planned to induce two days later after rounds of steroid shots to help with lung development.  That Monday evening, she had her best NST to date, so everything seemed set in stone.

I remember Tuesday morning, May 11,2010, like it was yesterday. I was a restaurant manager and worked the morning shift that day. I got a call from my wife just before it was time to get ready for work. Her tone seemed pretty normal but my gut said something was wrong because she wasn’t saying much. Something was definitely wrong. I had to go about my business as usual. As I was walking into work, she called again. My heart sank. On the other line my wife was hysterical. Apparently our son’s heart rate had dropped to 60 BPM for approximately four minutes. The doctors had to make the choice right then to do an emergency c-section. Nobody was there with her because we had expected to have our son Wednesday. She needed me there. Immediately. I was in the building with others and needed someone else to cover for me. While 45 minutes doesn’t seem like much under normal circumstances, it was an eternity for me. I spent the 20-minute drive praying our son was going to be okay, crying and occasionally breaking some speeding laws.

Once I got to the hospital, I burst into a full-out sprint to the labor and delivery unit. I had to have broken some record, despite being completely out of shape. I remember seeing the look of concern from others as I flew past. They clearly knew something was wrong. When I got to the room, it was empty. For about ten seconds I had no idea what was going on. As I turned to ask someone to get me up to speed, a nurse came out of the operating room.  She asked “Are you Mr. Brens?” I nodded yes and held my breath. “You have a happy, healthy boy! Congratulations!” I was so happy and relieved I wept. He was okay. Thank you, Jesus! I was told to wait outside the doors and they would be by with my son shortly to take us down to the NICU. While I was bummed out about missing my child’s birth, complications had led doctors to give my wife general anesthesia. I couldn’t be with her anyway, though I’d give anything to have been there before surgery to let her know I loved her.

There are moments and memories in my life that are at the core of my being. They make up who I was and who I’ve become. But nothing in my life has compared to the love and pride I felt when I laid eyes on my son Jayden Jack. I cried again. He was perfect. My little preemie baby. I was a dad. What an incredible feeling. I knew he, as well as my wife and I, had a journey ahead of us. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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. Joel,
    This story is amazing. My husband and I went through a similar story… I also had preeclampsia but very early on at 28 weeks… I ended up having my son 12 weeks early.. Although my husband was there for my emergency c section he had many of the same feelings as you did…

  2. Joel,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! Jayden Jack is a very lucky young man to have such a loving and caring father! Thank you for blogging for Preemiebabies101!!!


  3. Carlos H. Garcia says:

    My wife and I went through something very similar. I will never forget that army of white-clothed doctors and nurses rushing into the room at the middle of the night to take my wife directly to the delivery room. An hour afterwards and a C section later I got the first glimpse of my daughter Isabella and was taken out into the hall. The wait seemed eternal. 30 minutes passed, it felt like hours, and then he news… an ambulance was in bound to take my kid to another hospital, directly to the NICU. My wife and I only got to hold Isabella for a couple of minutes…. fortunately, everything went ok, not a set back whatsoever despite her fragile condition. I got to see her again next morning as I stepped into the NICU… the nurse handed me a diaper as soon as I stepped close to the incubator -I guessed they are trained to do this as some sort of bonding or shock deference tactic- it worked. And from there, other than some minor minor details, things got better by the hour. My wife got to see Isabella 2 days afterwards, I would send pictures and bring news to her at the other hospital… but once she was released and came to the NICU, she stayed there for one whole month going home only a couple of hours a day for a shower and quick nap. I thank God everything went well and can only sympathize with this and other cases. Needless to say, my life was changed forever.

  4. Joel, your story created the movie in my mind what you went through. The journey of your wife and you was horrible alone. I can imagine when you did see each other emotion would all have been in the eyes.
    Thank-you for being a fellow blogger,

Speak Your Mind