"The Movies Have This Experience All Wrong"
Jonathan became a father when he was only nineteen years old to his son
Sebastian. Although Jonathan is twenty-one years old, he has gone through many life obstacles. He has experienced his son going to the NICU, the neonatal intensive care unit, from the moment he was born. Even through some of the hardships he has gone through, he still enjoys finding the strength to encourage and uplift others.
My Feelings On Fatherhood
“When I found out I was going to be a father for the first time, I was scared, a little nervous, but mostly happy. The biggest feeling was joy, but it’s hard to be happy for someone you’ve never met before. I think my biggest feeling was joy because the thought of being a father, having a family, and children that look up to you the way no one else would was very important to me. It makes you feel more than you thought you ever could feel, even though my first thought was, ‘Holy crap, I’m going to be a dad!’.
"I don’t think any dad who’s ever gotten the news that he’s going to be a dad has ever had any thoughts running through his head at that moment. It’s like a blank slate and a moment of surreal shock that strikes you because it’s no longer something that we think of in the future; it’s happening right now."
The Day My Son Was Born
“When I was witnessing the labor of my child, it was the scariest moment of my life because I’ve never had so many doctors in one room. For one, I am terrified of doctors and now I’m watching two people I love struggle to fight for life. When all I could do is stand there, it’s humbling because for a long time, I thought I could do anything and everything, but there came a time when I couldn’t do anything to help. All I could do was stand there and watch, so I felt helpless, especially when he was born because he couldn’t breathe properly.
“I think as a parent, I have a lot of moments when I’m just shocked and there are no real words to describe what happens because there’s this instant connection. It all starts when you find out you’re going to be a parent and then again when your precious baby is born.
"When Sebastian was born, there were slight complications: he couldn’t breathe too well because his lungs were underdeveloped and filled with liquid. Meanwhile, the nurses were trying to get him to cry, his mother was bleeding more than the doctor initially expected. She was losing a ton of blood and was really weak, going unconscious. I only got to see him for what felt like ten seconds before the nurses had to put him in an incubator and ran him to the NICU. I was very sad and concerned when I found out my newborn had to go to the NICU because I loved my tiny being from the instant he came out. It was unfortunate seeing my baby with all these tubes and monitors and an IV injected into his head.
"During the first couple of hours after the birth, I was going back and forth because I was torn. My child’s mother was in a bad spot, and he was as well, but the nurses said my child would recover faster if I let him rest. I decided to rest myself because I had been up all night. He had to go to the NICU because he couldn’t breathe correctly.
"A couple days later, he got jaundice, which is a condition where the skin and eyes appear yellow due to the liver
ineffectively producing red blood cells. Then, he overcame jaundice, but his breathing was still an issue. At this point, his mother was recovered and we were emitted from the hospital, but every day, for most of the day, we were with him. I believe he was in the NICU for about three weeks.
"We were continually hoping with hearing our voice, he would find the strength to surpass this and be able to breathe without a tube running down his nose. It felt like an eternity. Now, three weeks go by so fast. It was terrifying to observe this happening; the movies have this experience all wrong."
Sebastian’s Current Health
“Eventually, he was able to recover and breathe without the assistance of tubes. It’s definitely different looking at him now than back then. Now, he’s pretty healthy, although he turned out to be a picky eater. It’s hard to know what they want at this stage because they can’t speak, so all they can do to express themselves is cry. I’ve learned not to take any moment with your child for granted, even if it’s spent crying."
To Expecting Dads
“With all that being said, I would like to give a piece of advice to the fathers who are experiencing what I once did: don’t stress because no matter how much you stress, you can’t change fate.
"If your baby goes to the NICU, you just have to be there, as hard as it is. You’ll see that when your kid starts growing up, time starts flying by really fast. It seems like yesterday I was visiting him in the NICU, and now he’s running around, telling me no, laughing at me, crying, and doing all these things I never thought he could do.
"It’s astonishing to think that someone so perfect can be a part of you. Not many people realize and tell you how much you’re going to love your kid and that you’ll always love them more than how much they love you; that’s just a fact. Don’t try to be the perfect dad, just be you.”
This oral history was completed in Professor Melanie James' English class in 2020-2021. The oral history is shared with the narrator's permission and has been edited for length and clarity, as well as to protect the narrator's privacy.