This post is dedicated to all dads, in honor of Father’s Day.

Fatherhood is not supposed to start in a NICU.

When the birth of your baby is unexpectedly early or if your child has medical issues, you may find yourself coping with the stress of having your baby in the hospital. The anxiety and fear about your baby’s special health care needs can be overwhelming. Add to that the emotions your partner may be experiencing, coordinating work, NICU visits, and possibly other children. It can be overwhelming.

But, a NICU dad is strong and resilient.

He spends time in the NICU holding his baby skin-to-skin (also called kangaroo care). He sings and talks to his baby.

He asks questions and makes decisions about his baby’s medical care. All while comforting mom, as she physically and emotionally heals from pregnancy and childbirth. 

He is reassuring and comforting to the mother of his child, as she physically and emotionally heals from pregnancy and childbirth.

As mom copes with fluctuating hormones, a NICU dad encourages her to pump breastmilk, if she can, and reassures her that she is doing the very best she can.

If there are other children at home, dad becomes the coordinator of the home front. He makes lunches, runs kids to school, helps with homework, and reassures the children that mom will be home soon. Dad takes care of pets, cleans, grocery shops and hopefully delegates tasks to family members and friends to help out.

Through it all, it can be hard for a dad to take care of himself. He needs sleep, good food and breaks to exercise and relax. It’s important that he takes the time to re-fuel so that he can be the best champion for his baby that he can be. Relying on friends and family to help may not come naturally at first, but a NICU dad soon learns that it takes an army to get everything done.

Although becoming a dad in the NICU was not the original plan, every path to fatherhood is unique. It has its own rewards and lessons. March of Dimes recognizes every dad’s efforts and dedication. We know that every dad is making a difference in his baby's life. Dads are important, appreciated and very much loved!

Visit shareyourstory.org, to find support and encouragement from other parents with a baby in the NICU.

Do you have a NICU dad you'd like to honor? Please share your story with us.