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Dads of the NICU
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Dads of the NICU

Author: Matt Bialkowski

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Instagram & Facebook @dadsofthenicu. A podcast created by Dads, for Dads, that are spending time in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Unit. These episodes will describe raw and authentic experiences of Dads who spent time in the NICU with their precious premature babies. Designed to share stories, compare stories, and provide an insight in to the life of a Dad with a premature baby or sick baby in the NICU. A journey through mental health, emotions, stress, being overwhelmed, feeling helpless and confused.
12 Episodes
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The only thing harder than spending 115 days in the NICU for Brodie James will be his next Ironman race.  Brodie was able to turn to his training regime to keep a clear mind and a positive outlook during his NICU journey, which enabled him to support his wife and new son as best as possible, and be the rock and Ironman in the NICU. We discuss the highs and lows of his time in the NICU, and what life is like now his new little mate is finally at home, and what he is looking forward to the most over the next 12 months. 
Picture this: You get a call from the Hospital in the early hours of the morning saying that your wife has just been rushed to the birthing suite for emergency surgery. You live over 30min away, and you know you wont make it in time to be there to support her.  What would be going through your mind?Today I chat with Luke Bowtell, who opens up about the very traumatic birth of his daughter, and talks through the impacts this had on his family.  Every NICU journey is different, and know two stories are alike!  Opening up and sharing can be so helpful in processing what has happened, and make you feel at ease with everything that is going on.If you are not normally someone who opens up and shows emotion, maybe this is the time to try it out?!
I chat with Will Jackson, a Dad that I met on day two of my NICU journey.  Will opens up on his experiences in the NICU, and we discuss all aspects of his journey, and how it effected him.  NICU life is not the same for every Dad. Different parts of a NICU journey will impact Dads in a myriad of ways, and it is up to the individual to work out how to process what is happening, and deal with it in their own way. Not all Dads will look after their physical health or mental health in the best way.  Not all Dads will know what to do when thrown a challenge or setback, and not all Dads can be the 'rock' that they think is expected of them. Another unexplored aspect is the trauma that NICU life places on parents, and the worry that this could all happen again when trying to expand their family.  Would it put you off trying again?  Have you thought about it?  Do you need to talk to your partner about it?
How many times have you walked in to your baby's room in the NICU and checked the monitors or the medical chart before actually checking on your baby?I did this so many times on my NICU journey that I became so fixated on the data even though I didn't really know exactly what I was looking for. I needed to just try and forget about the numbers, and focus purely on my daughters physical developments. I am joined again by Scott Merrick for a chat about NICU Dads becoming "Data analysts", and we discuss what the data meant to us, and how it impacted our bond and relationships with our NICU babies. 
Living away from home to spend time with your family in a NICU can be a really tough adjustment.  The further away from your family and friends you are, the harder the whole journey can be for you.In this Episode, I am joined by Scott Merrick, a father that I met on my NICU journey.  Scott will take us through what it was like to be so far from home, and how he adjusted to his new life living away from home. There are some fantastic organisations our there that help families in need, and the following story shared by Scott will dive in to the life of a family residing at a Ronald McDonald house. For more information about Ronald McDonald House Charities please visit http://www.rmhc.org.au/ 
The NICU Shuffle

The NICU Shuffle

2020-03-1510:54

The NICU Shuffle is a dance that we will all perform on our journey. It will look different for everyone, and the steps will vary.  We wont always be dancing to the same beat, and sometimes the music will speed up, and sometimes the music will slow down.  Your NICU Shuffle will need to adapt to the music and pace of your NICU journey. The way you shuffle it is up to you.  So don't be shy - grab your partners hand, and get on that dance floor!!! 
Initially, many Dads struggle to come to terms with what is happening in the NICU, and are not quite sure what they are required to do to help their partner, their baby, or themselves. This episode discusses some of the roles that I found to be really important during the early phases of our Journey, in and out of the NICU. There are so many awesome organisations that provided information packs for new parents in the NICU to help you along your way, including:- PANDA - Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia - https://www.panda.org.au/- Life's Little Treasures Foundation - https://lifeslittletreasures.org.au/ - Miracle Babies Foundation - https://www.miraclebabies.org.au/
I had visited a friend that had twins in the NICU many years ago, but didn't think much of it at the time as I thought that I would never find myself in this situation. As soon as my NICU journey started, I instantly wished I knew a lot more about it all.  This episode will discuss 10 things that I wish I knew at the start of my NICU adventure. It is not an exhaustive list, as there are many more things that I wish I knew, but this is a pretty good start that might help you on your journey! 
The first few days in the NICU are absolutely critical for your baby, and also for you.  The first few days will seem like they go on for ever, and you will struggle to process everything that is happening.  You will feel like your whole world has stopped, and all your attention is now purely focused on your new little addition.There are so many things to get your head around now that you are a NICU Dad, and you will feel so confused, scared, helpless, sad and anxious.All of these feelings and emotions are completely normal, as the situation you now find yourself in is not 'normal'.This episode will discuss what worked for me, and what i should have done differently to help me navigate the first few days. 
Home Alone...

Home Alone...

2020-02-2908:41

Early on, the most difficult part of my NICU journey was having to go home alone. This was either going home alone whilst my wife was still admitted to hospital pre and post birth, but also when we had to go home and leave our little premature baby in the NICU each and every day, for 98 days straight!I went through some pretty dark moments while at home by my self, and thought of things that I have never had to think of before, and never want to think about again. I didn't quite know how to deal with the mental anguish I was facing. 
I discuss the lead in to, and my first of 98 days inside the NICU with my new daughter.My wife and I were destined for IVF after failing to fall pregnant for well over a year.  We started all of the IVF testing, and we were able to identify what was stopping us from falling pregnant. Just before we were about to commence the first round, we fell pregnant!  But as it would play out, our special little girl wanted to make up for all of that lost time!Our daughter arrived at 25+5 weeks, and was on life support in the NICU for the first 6 days. This place felt so foreign to me, and I was quite scared to be in here.  I was so worried that my daughter would not survive, and I had no idea what I was supposed to do. My wife and I were certainly not expecting to be in the NICU, let alone at 25 weeks gestation!  But this was our path now, and we had to walk it together!
A snapshot into the life and times of a Dad with a Premature baby or sick baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).   We will discuss what Dad's go through mentally and emotionally with their little preemy/premmie delight!
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