by Kristina Mulligan
As a preemie mom, I’ve had the opportunity to be relatively vocal about our family’s experiences in the NICU and beyond, but my husband, DJ, hasn’t necessarily gotten to do the same. I decided to sit down with him and ask some important questions to give him his own voice, and to hopefully allow preemie dads everywhere to do the same.
What were your first thoughts when you first saw your baby?
It was hard to know what to expect but, when I first saw Flynn, I cried of happiness. Being a parent was something my wife and I were working very hard at.
What advice would you give to another dad with a baby currently in the NICU?
My advice would be to stay strong for your little boy/girl. Be positive when you’re around them, even though it’s difficult.
What was the most memorable part of your NICU journey?
The most memorable part of Flynn’s journey was when he got to come out of his incubator. That gave me some assurance that he would be coming home!
What, if anything, was the most meaningful thing that someone did for you while your baby was away from home?
I would have to say my in-laws going to see Flynn when we were not at the hospital was meaningful. Just knowing that he had more family support by his side meant a lot to me.
What is the hardest part about being a preemie dad?
It’s probably seeing your child frustrated while trying to overcome their particular setbacks or delays. While you know that they will likely catch up in their own time, it’s difficult to see them upset.
What has been the biggest challenge since being discharged from the NICU?
The biggest challenge has been kind of letting down my guard. Kids are going to be kids and get dirty and get bumps and bruises; it’s not the end of the world. You can’t help but still picture what your baby looked like and how much they have transformed.
What has being a preemie parent taught you?
It has taught me that reaching milestones are not a competition. Every child is different and every moment is special, no matter when it comes.
What milestone has your child reached that made you the most proud?
I would say him sitting up as it was one of his first major milestones. It showed me that with his determination, he will achieve anything he sets his mind to.
Is there anything that still reminds of you of the NICU?
Driving by the hospital is very often a reminder, as we have to take that route quite regularly. The hospital is currently doing a major renovation so it especially sticks out.
What is something that every preemie parent should know?
Every preemie parent should know that the NICU stay does not define your child. While it will always be a part of them, they are so much more than that.