Avery's journey - part 4
A Cook Children’s employee documents her time in the NICU
Avery’s due date was supposed to be June 20 but because of my high blood pressure, we knew that I would be induced before my due date. So I knew I would have this year’s Father’s Day gift covered; I would have just given birth to a beautiful baby girl making for the best present ever! Well, obviously things didn’t go as planned and Shawn’s Father’s Day gift came three and a half months early.
Since Father’s Day is this Sunday, this blog is dedicated to all the NICU dads out there. I want you to know how important you are. I’ve seen how everyone is always focused on mom and baby, especially if it was mom's health condition that caused the early delivery but dad often gets neglected. Well, I can honestly say that Shawn is the reason people think that I’m handling this situation so well. Of course, every relationship dynamic is different, but for us, Shawn is the glue that holds our family together.
He has truly embraced his new role as Avery’s daddy and shown so much strength throughout this whole experience. He stays positive even in our darkest days and truly is my rock. He can always find something to be positive about, no matter what is going on with Avery at the moment.
Once Avery was brought into this world, Shawn walked with the Cook Children’s transport team across the bridge from Harris downtown to the Cook Children’s NICU with Avery in her isolette and has never looked back. For the first few days of Avery’s life while I was stuck in the hospital, Shawn was the one over in the NICU all the time, meeting her doctors and nurses for the first time, learning the terminology and about what battles Avery would face. He would send me pictures of Avery when he was over there and then come back to my hospital room and give me reports. Never once did he seem scared or intimidated. Never once did it seem like it was too much.
Now that we’ve been in the NICU for a few months, Shawn has really gotten comfortable with Avery and all of her equipment. Some people would be overwhelmed by a baby hooked up to so many different machines but I can tell that when he looks at her, all he sees is his beautiful daughter. In fact, he’s so comfortable that he’s learned how to operate some of the equipment and is always willing to give the nurses a hand. As a joke, I’ve started to call him Nurse Wooley.
In talking to several of my friends who are dads, they’ve talked about feeling somewhat helpless in the first few days and weeks of their child’s life. The most important thing that a baby needs, besides sleep, is something they are unable to give them, milk. As a mom in the NICU, I know that helpless feeling all too well but dads, you should never underestimate the role that you play. The moral support that you provide to your wife and child is priceless. Shawn may not be able to provide Avery with the food she needs right now but he stays up late sometimes with me to pump and always encourages me even when I’d rather hit snooze on the alarm than get out of bed for yet another pumping session.
So, to all the NICU fathers, please don’t feel helpless. You are helping more than you know. Keep pushing the wheelchair because your wife isn’t well enough yet to walk to the NICU; offer to wash her pump parts so she can get an extra 10 minutes of sleep, proudly deliver her milk to the milk bank and most important of all, know that just by being there, you are helping.
To Shawn, happy first Father's Day. You are the best father Avery could have ever asked for. I am in awe of the strength you have shown.
We are off the ventilator! In true Avery fashion, Avery pulled her own tube out on the morning the doctor was already planning to take it out. She definitely does things on her terms! She is 5 pounds, 8 ounces and doing great on continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Our doctor is hoping to have her off CPAP in the next couple weeks. After that, there are a couple more steps to breathing on her own. We are able to hold her so much easier now. Grandparents are taking turns holding her and she's getting used to sitting in our bouncy seat. She loves being out of her bed and is definitely a very social baby. She is in clothes and already very fashionable! She gets many visits throughout the day from the nursing staff so they can see what she's wearing. We are getting that much closer to be able to take our sweet girl home!
Kelly Wooley is a Marketing specialist at Cook Children’s. This is the first of a series of blogs chronicling the birth of her daughter Avery and their time spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.