Are you a NICU Ninja?
The legend of the ninja is well known. These warrior types were known to lurk in the shadows and watch at a distance, disappear in an instant, and hide behind a mask of mystery. If you challenged a ninja you were sure to be met with trouble.
The Ninja's demeanor was clear, leave them alone and you'll be ok. This is how i seen so many NICU fathers (and some moms). They were Ninjas in one way or another. Some would look on at a distance while the other parent would talk to the neonatologist and nurses, others would go so far as to wash up and take a peek at their child only to go back to the NICU waiting area so mom can have time with the baby while they disappeared.
I was the other kind of Ninja, I would talk to the doctors and nurses but I had a mask of mystery on and it was hard to see my poker face emotions under the mask. But what was I supposed to say? I would ask myself later on. What is the right way to respond to things I had no control over? I felt like I was expected to be upset and I should act accordingly. This upset aggressiveness is what a nicu help staff looks for when flushing out a ninja.
The NICU is a very structured place. You must wash a certain way, walk a certain path to sign in and go straight to your child's bed all while the cameras are on you. At the bedside you're greeted and briefed on the time you were gone. Most of the time the staff wouldn't talk to me anyways. It's like they knew a Ninja was bad news so they left us tough guys out. Maybe my mask wasn't so good after all. Maybe I wasn't the mystery I thought I was.
The little ninja game we play is just a diversion from what our real problem is, our sick kid laying there hooked to all manner of tubes, wires, and monitoring equipment. After a few weeks I got better equip with skills, and was quite comfortable in the NICU.
Then it was time to go home. There is no place for NICU ninjas in the home. I was all dad in our home. I had become a real parent who held his child and cared for her in harmony with my wife. We eventually came up with a schedule of who would get up during feedings. After a few weeks it got easier to go on and so it will be for you preemie parents.