All of a sudden, the smooth waters we were sailing though turned into an unexpected storm. The SS Parenthood started taking on water. Not just little leaks, but water coming into the ship at an alarming rate. Before we knew it, we were barely keeping the ship afloat while the violent waves were hitting our ship. My wife and I were confused and scared as this unexpected storm churned huge waves that crashed down on the ship that we spent so long building. The event was disheartening, but we held onto each other, determined to survive the storm.
How could this happen? The SS Parenthood wasn’t just a tiny ship that was built during the nine-month pregnancy. The ship was built on years of experiences: babysitting, cooking, prenatal classes, etc. When it came to being prepared for raising a family, we had done everything possible. But even with all of that experience and our great foundation, our ship was in serious trouble.
This is what it felt like when we knew we’d done everything right to prepare, but then our son was rushed to the NICU. The smooth sailing of pregnancy had suddenly turned rough. Our son did get to snuggle with mom for a second or two, but it was nothing like everyone talks about. Our course had changed, and nothing prepared us to see our child in the NICU. So many things were taken from us so quickly. In an instant, all of the things we’d imagined for our child’s future were out the window, and survival was the only thing that mattered. The ship we built was now getting ripped apart from this violent storm.
Once we were in the NICU, even though we were exhausted, it was then time to talk to the doctor and get caught up on what had happened within the past couple of hours. I don’t know what going through childbirth is like, but it had exhausted my wife and I could see it in her eyes. As much as I wanted to breakdown, I knew I couldn’t do that. I had to be that rock and that steady-Eddie. The phrase “suck it up, buttercup” popped into my head, and I had to march on.
Looking back at our NICU stay, I realize it was a bit like camp, but with a more serious undertone. We met with these incredible doctors and nurses who did all they could to fight for us and help our child progress. There was around-the-clock support and a lot of structured times to talk to those doctors and nurses. Just like camp, we developed these pseudo-friendships with them and learned from each other. They taught us how to care for our son now that we were on a different path of parenthood. We may kinda remember some of the doctors and nurses, but we’ll keep those experiences with us forever.
But life always finds its way to you. Just as soon as we got used to being at “camp”, reality kicked in and we had to head home. We could take what we learned from “camp” and apply it to real life, but the safety net was now removed. It was now just me, my wife, and our son- and we were in the real world.
Oh, the real world. The storm was gone now, and our ship was pretty beat up, but the hull was very strong. We had to continue building on it post-NICU, because the overwhelming experiences didn’t let up. New, foreign, and confusing terms were being thrown at us: Cerebral Palsy, First Steps, waivers, support groups, and types of medical specialties, medications, and equipment. These became our new vocabulary words as we began to speak the language of having a child with a disability.
As we kept going, we realized the SS Parenthood had been set on a new course. It wasn’t the course of typical childhood experiences. Instead, we’re traveling the course of raising a child with a disability. On one hand, it’s good to know what course we’re sailing through- we have direction and guidance for our ship. Although the SS Parenthood is a young ship, it’s been through a lot. The ship has some pretty noticeable scars, but they remind us of what we’ve endured. Reflecting on what we’ve learned before, during, and after experiencing those scars makes us so much stronger. We know that whatever lies ahead for us on this journey, our family and the SS Parenthood are ready for whatever comes our way.