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#221 - 👶 BTP - A Father’s Perseverance | Alex’s journey through the NICU with his 25-week daughter




Hello friends 👋

This latest episode of Beyond The Beeps explores the experiences of fathers in the NICU and the challenges they face. It highlights the emotional journey of Alex Dominguez, whose daughter Mahalia was born prematurely at 25 weeks and spent six months in the NICU. The conversation touches on the struggles of infertility, the complications during pregnancy, and the difficult decision to deliver the baby early. It also discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on visitation rights in the NICU. Alex's unwavering dedication to his daughter and his ability to find peace in difficult circumstances is inspiring. Alex Dominguez shares his experience as a father in the NICU and the challenges he faced. He talks about the importance of being physically present and close to his daughter, even if he couldn't be by her side 24/7. Alex also discusses the perception of fathers in the NICU and how he sometimes felt overlooked or disrespected. He emphasizes the need for healthcare professionals to treat both parents equally and provide clear and personalized communication. Alex reflects on the importance of patience and perseverance during the NICU journey.


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Takeaways

More fathers are actively involved in the care of their babies in the NICU.

The journey through the NICU is filled with emotional challenges for both parents.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added additional stress and limitations to NICU visitation. Dedication and love for their child drive fathers to be present and supportive during the NICU journey. Being physically present and close to your baby in the NICU can provide a sense of comfort and support.

Fathers in the NICU may sometimes feel overlooked or disrespected, and it is important for healthcare professionals to treat both parents equally.

Clear and personalized communication with fathers in the NICU is crucial for their involvement and understanding of their baby's care.

Patience is key during the NICU journey, as setbacks and complications may arise even after the baby is discharged.

Perseverance is essential for parents in the NICU, as they need to match their baby's fighting spirit and keep going.


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The transcript of today's episode can be found below 👇


Leah (00:03) It's Father's Day here for ICU baby, and it's Father's Day every day in the NICU. A beautiful evolution that we have been seeing in the NICU is that more and more fathers, dads, and partners are at the bedside. That means more dads changing diapers, more dads feeding babies, more dads doing infant care and baby care. It also means there's more dads at the birth of their babies.


These are intimate, beautiful moments and really tender moments that we know are crucial to the development of babies into children, teens, and then adults. We also know that having a baby and having a baby that goes to the NICU especially is not all roses and balloons and celebration. When a baby is born needing to go to the NICU for prematurity, for a known reason or… definitely for unforeseen reasons, the family is instantly split apart. While the obstetric medical team cares for the mother or birth parent, most often it's the father or the other partner that goes with the baby to be admitted to the NICU. Sometimes it's on command of the mother, as was my case when I told my husband, “do not leave his side”, or just on instinct.


A lot happens in the first few moments and days in the NICU. Dads see a lot. Then they begin the “dad balance”, worrying about their whole family on this NICU journey. Here to share his story with his NICU baby, Mahalia, is Alex Dominguez. Alex is the chief operating officer of South Peninsula Land Surveying Corporation where he oversees operations, ensuring the highest standards of precision and efficiency in land surveying projects. He was born and raised here in Miami, and he has deep roots in the community and a strong commitment to excellence in his field. Alex graduated from St. Thomas University here in South Florida, where he honed his skills and knowledge in business management and operational leadership. His dedication to his profession is matched by his deep commitment to his family. He is married to his amazing high school sweetheart, Shayna, and they have a daughter who bravely overcame the challenges of being born prematurely and spending time in the NICU. Outside of his professional life, Alex enjoys grilling and has a passion for running. In January, he achieved his personal milestone by completing his first half marathon at the Miami Marathon. Incredible.


Alex's blend of professional expertise and personal dedication makes him a valuable leader at South Peninsula Land Surveying Corporation and a respected member of his community. And I will add a really honored member of our ICU baby family. And I'm just so, so grateful to have you here today, Alex. Welcome.


Alex Dominguez Thank you. That was so nice.


Leah Yeah, it was nice. You should hear those lovely things about yourself because you really are wonderful.


Alex Dominguez Yeah, it is nice.


Leah So Alex, yeah, tell me a little bit about maybe your first moments of the pregnancy or getting into the NICU, where you want to start with your story with Mahalia.


Alex Dominguez So, I would say before even getting into the NICU, Mahalia's story began with our struggle to get pregnant, to beginning. My wife and I, we had issues just getting to the starting line. So, we definitely went through the whole process of trying to get IVF and all that. But thankfully, we started working with a very good doctor here in South Florida, and she recommended us to an amazing nutritionist. And basically, you know, after six months of working with her, we were able to conceive naturally, which was for us, like, my God, it was like...amazing, you know, we didn't think that that was going to be possible, you know. So going into the pregnancy, we were just like wow, we're like, my god, this is great, you know. So, you know, we obviously started seeing doctors and everyone. And, you know, in the very beginning, we knew that it was probably going to be somewhat of a complicated pregnancy just because my wife always dealt with hypertension.


Leah Yeah. Alex Dominguez She always had high blood pressure throughout her life. So that was going to be a concern. Basically, throughout the very beginning of her pregnancy, everything was okay. And it wasn't until late January that things started to change a little bit.


Leah Okay.


Alex Dominguez So her main OB told us at the time that he wasn't going to be able to continue working with her. He wanted to refer us to a specialist, you know, someone who really knows how to deal with these type of pregnancies because unfortunately her blood pressure at that point was not controlled. Yeah. So, yeah. So he wanted to try to get us like...


Leah Wow, that's very scary.


Alex Dominguez ahead of the game and started, we went to go see a specialist and it was, I think, our second appointment with her, where pretty much our world was just flipped upside down. You know, we went to go get a scan of Mahalia and we remembered that we were there and things just got quiet. You know.


Alex Dominguez It was not a very typical appointment, so to speak. Yeah, exactly. So the nurse told us, okay, I have to go grab the doctor. And said, okay. She came in and it felt like an eternity waiting for the doctor to come back in. So she came in and she was like, okay.


Leah Yeah, yeah, the air gets sucked out of the room.


Alex Dominguez things are not looking right right now with the baby, so we're gonna send you to Jackson. We want you to get a shot, a stairway shot. And so we said, okay. But the way it was kind of described to us, it didn't, it wasn't.


We didn't get the sense that it was anything major. We thought, okay, we're just gonna go to the hospital, get some shot, come home. That's it, we're done with it. We got to Jackson and that's when they broke the news to us that Makadia was gonna have to be born within a week. And that was that. There was no real discussion about it.


It was just more a matter of fact, you know, okay, you know, this is what's going on. You know, your baby is very much underdeveloped, especially her lungs. And that was the primary concern. That's why they wanted her to get a shot just because they needed her lungs to develop a little bit. They wanted to give her some steroids for that. So.


Leah Because right now, Mahalia was 25 weeks, or 24 weeks at this point. Okay, yeah, 24 weeks. That's very premature.


Alex Dominguez 24 weeks, right. She was 24. Yeah, and so, you know, they told us, you know, at the time that they were going to try to keep her in as long as they could because as we all know, you know, the best thing for a baby is to be within the womb, you know. So they told us, you know, we're going to try to keep her in there as long as possible. But the moment that we feel that it's just not viable anymore, then, you know, she's going to have to come out. And they told us realistically that it looked like it would be a week.


Leah And so you told, you said, you know, they kind of gave you this like casual, hey, go get this shot and we'll be all better, you know, it's what you heard or how you felt. And then that moment when they said, okay, no, you're going to be here and we're going to have to take Mahalia in the next week, possibly. Do you remember the shift that happened within you?


Alex Dominguez


Right, that's how it was received.


yeah, it was... I broke down.


Leah Yeah, take your time with it, this is big.


Alex Dominguez So thankfully, we have relatives and family who work at Jackson. So when we told them that we were there, they were like, we'll come hang out with you guys and see what's going on. My wife's cousin, she was a resident at the time there so she came in and peeked in and tried to see what was going on. My sister -in -law, she also works at Jackson on the administrative side so she came and was with us.


I just remember, you know, hearing from the doctor that like, you know, it was going to have to come out.


Leah Yeah, that moment when they say, that's it, we've got to go now.


Alex Dominguez Yeah, like it is sucked the life out of me because immediately, you know, your mind starts thinking about all the negatives, you know, and what could possibly go wrong and you know, that's apparent. You don't want that.


Leah Yeah.


Alex Dominguez But, you know, me being me, I tried to make it lighter at the moment. And, you know, I was like, we don't even have the baby room ready. You know, what's going to happen? You know, that kind of broke the tension a little bit, you know. They told us, you know, they reassured us, listen, you're going to have time to fix your baby room. So don't worry about that. But yeah, it was.


Leah Sure.


Alex Dominguez it was very difficult probably, you know, at that up to that point, probably like the most difficult news that you can get as a parent. And I say that up to that point because after that, you know, there was a lot more to come.


Leah Yeah.


Right, yeah.


Yeah, and how was Shayna's health at that time, your wife?


Alex Dominguez So, for the most part, she was fairly good. Unfortunately, her blood pressure just was never controlled. And so for me, that was the other side of it. Now, I'm thinking that only for my daughter, but for my wife, as a father and as a husband.


Alex Dominguez You know, being bedside with her, you know, I refused to leave her side as much as possible. Like I didn't want to leave my wife, you know. So, you know, seeing her blood pressure just always constantly elevated. Even as she's laying there, literally doing nothing. You know, she's in the bed, you know, just laying down, you know. And there was no way that her blood pressure could be controlled.


Leah Yeah.


Yeah.


Right, yeah.


Alex Dominguez You know, I do remember like toward the end of that long week that we had in the hospital that I got frustrated, you know, because, you know, you know that the doctors are trying to do everything that they can for her. But at a certain point, it just feels like, you know, what's really happening here, you know.


Or is it more of a guessing game or what is it? So I had to have a real frank conversation with one of the doctors. And I asked him very straightforward, like, all right, what's the end game here? What are you guys going to do? And he looked at her vitals and everything and he was like, all right.


Leah ( Yeah.


Yeah.


Alex Dominguez You know, we're gonna try one more medicine and realistically if that doesn't do it then That's it. That's that's gonna be you know, our call, you know to move forward with Taking my area, you know Yeah, so it was You know looking back, you know, it was it was hard, you know because You want the best for both? Leah Yeah.


Alex Dominguez you know, you want the best for your daughter and for your wife. But, you know, having to deal with worrying for both entities, both parties, you know, it's a stress that not many people really understand.


Leah It's a really heavy, heavy, heavy load to carry. You know, it's from all angles, right? The one who you would want to lean on to go through something else is not there. So based on that...


Alex Dominguez Yeah.


And especially, you know, because like maybe after two days of being in the hospital, you know, things started to turn a little bit for the better. They moved us to a different floor. You know, it was nice, comfortable, but that lasted for like maybe a day. And then we were like, you know, you want to make more.


Leah Yeah. And then they had to make that decision to take Mahalia. And at that point you said she was 25 weeks and four days?


Alex Dominguez She got some 25 weeks for this.


Leah Wow, okay.


How about the delivery, I know with Shayna being so critically ill as she was, and those folks who work in this world or have experienced this, it's not that she was so sick, but she was critically ill at this point with this high blood pressure. This is a life -threatening situation. How was the delivery for you all?


Alex Dominguez So the delivery went smooth as good as it could be. Unfortunately for us, we didn't get the experience, the traditional experience of being able to see the baby immediately, hold the baby or anything like that. They took Mahalia out, immediately bagged her, got her tubes down her throat, everything. And they took her off. We didn't have a chance to even lay eyes on her for a second. It was nothing like that. One of the nurses, right after they took her out, they told us, all right, she's healthy, she's good, she's here. So that's...


Leah Mm -hmm.


Alex Dominguez That's all I can remember is repeating to Shayna. It was, okay, she's here. Yeah, she's here. You know?


Leah Yeah.


Alex Dominguez It was difficult because I know that for my wife, she struggled with the fact that she wanted to be able to carry her for as long as possible.


Leah Yeah, there's such a...an unfortunate guilt that gets placed on parents and this is not...


This is not something that anybody chooses and it's not something that...any of our parents, our mothers and fathers, would ever want is to do this, but there's that feeling that something's failed you, right? And you guys had already had that trial with (infertility), that you overcame.


Alex Dominguez So, you know, I tried, I just remember trying to, you know, give her some sense of peace, you know, like, letting her know, like, listen, you know, she's here now, so.


It's okay, you know, you don't have to carry that burden. You know, she's here, she's healthy. That's what we have to focus on, you know. And I just...


Leah Mm -hmm.


What did you tell yourself? Alex Dominguez I think I tried to tell myself the same thing. Basically, she's here with us. That was always the end game. That was always what we strove for, to have her be with us. So we got that. So my next thought process was like, OK, I want to see her. I want to be able to see her.


Leah Yeah.


Mm -hmm.


Yeah.


Alex Dominguez let me put my eyes on her. Especially since I wasn't able to do that immediately in those moments that she came out. So I had to go into the waiting room and wait for what felt like an eternity before I finally was able to go in and see her.


Leah Yeah.


Were you able to go with her right after birth or no?


Alex Dominguez and the NICU and you know and it makes sense you know they have to really they have to have a lot to get done you know they have to connect her to the machines, to everything so you know they want to prep her you know so that you know we can finally go see her but for me you know it was hard I just wanted to see my baby that's all you know.


So, you know, after maybe like, I don't know, maybe 30, 45 minutes, you know, I finally got to go see my baby for the first time, you know, and that moment was surreal, I would say, because, you know, you, you,


You know, you think of a baby and you think the most traditional picture that you can think of, you know, a newborn child. And that was not what we saw. That's not what we had with our daughter. I often would refer to her as our little lab rat because that's essentially what she looked like. Her skin was so translucent. You could see.


Leah Right.


Okay.


Alex Dominguez all of her veins. It was difficult, but at the same time, she was my daughter, and she is my daughter, and she was the most beautiful thing that I've ever set my eyes on. And I was just happy, at the same time scared. But...


Once I got to see her, I was able to find a sense of peace. I was also able to find that sense of...


I don't know how to put it into words. It's just, there's nothing else that I'm going to focus on more than her at this moment in time ever. Yeah, so that's, that was my shift in focus was that, you know, I was going to be here for her no matter what. And so.


Leah Mm -hmm. Dedication. Mm -hmm.


That's pretty, that's really powerful love that you have and… you know, it's such a beautiful thing. I wish everybody who's listening could could sit with you, like I get the opportunity to to really feel that from you, because it's really part of who you are. This was during the, what we didn't share, which was this was actually during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic that she was born and that complicated some things too in the time that you were there, I would say. So Mahalia spent, let's see, six months in the NICU, yeah? Yeah. And just shy. And five of those were in a lockdown situation.


Alex Dominguez Just shy of 6 months, but yeah. 6.


Leah And you said, I'm going to be here for my baby, which is beautiful and courageous. What changed with that lockdown for you?


Alex Dominguez So yeah, she was born 2020. And it was weird because when we were first admitted to the hospital, I remember we kept hearing about some weird disease or something that was floating around. But I guess for us, we didn't. We just didn't put that much mind to it. We didn't really think about it that much. Yeah, exactly. So, yeah. After she was born, and in those weeks, after she was born, it was starting to become a little bit more relevant in our society. So, I remember...


Leah You had a lot going on. It's understandable.


Mm -hmm.


Alex Dominguez the for the month of February, you know, she was born February 10th. We were both able to visit her every day, you know, 24 7 if we wanted to. And that was great. You know, it was funny because I remember I remember they go on her. Actually, it was probably the first night that she was in the DQ. I kind of looked at the nurse.


And I was like, okay, so, you know, where can I sleep? And she's like, she looked at me, she's like, what do you mean? And I'm like, yeah, like, you know, I'm gonna be here. Where am I sleeping? Where am I gonna? Is there like a little pot or something that I can put up next to her? Or, you know, what do you guys have? Like, one of those lounge chairs? What's the setup here? And she's like, no. She's like, you know, we have chairs, you can sit down and.


Leah Yeah, right?


Yeah.


Alex Dominguez You can stand, that's about it. So, you know, in my mind, you know, that's basically where I was, you know, like I was there, you know, I was gonna be there 24 -7, yeah. So...


Leah Yeah.


Yep.


Alex Dominguez It was one of those things that like, I just, I couldn't see it any other way. So toward the end of February, that's when things started to really shift and change. And they told us, you know, I think it was around like, it was probably like the last week of February where one of her doctors was like, all right, you know, we need to kind of discuss, you know, what's going on. So.


you know, that's when they let us know about, you know, well, we already kind of knew about, you know, the coronavirus and all that. And so, you know, they told us, look, you know, if things continue to get worse, you know, we're going to lock down the hospital. And that means that visitation rights are going to be limited. And so we were like, OK, what does that mean for us, though? Because, you know, she's our baby, you know, and.


we pretty much expected to be able to see her no matter what. So they told us, especially for babies in the NICU, they're treated as the most delicate and most important patients in the hospital. And so realistically, they protect those babies the most. So it meant that only parents would be able to visit her. No.


Leah Yeah.


Alex Dominguez outside relatives and unfortunately it meant that it went from 24 -7 to first efforts it was three hours every day we had we each had so we could still go every day but it was only for three hours a day Or was it? Yeah, it was actually three hours a day, twice a day. So six hours total that we got this year. Okay. So we're like, okay, that lasted for about a week or two. After that, it went from, okay, you could go three hours a day, a total. So we both could go at the same time, three hours a day. Then it eventually came to being like every other day that week ago. So.


Leah Mm -hmm. Right.


Hmm.


Alex Dominguez Basically, only one parent could go per day for a total of like, in the end it was I believe four to six hours that we had.


Leah Mm -hmm. Wow, so you're now there alone, right? Either you were there or Shayna was there. You didn't have your partner. You didn't have somebody to be the extra set of ears.


Alex Dominguez Right, exactly. No, exactly. No, nothing, nothing. It was just one or the other and that was it. So, it was tough. Yeah. Yeah.


Leah So how, yeah, I mean, how this, it's an interesting thing. And, you know, I think the, that the separation was really forced and it's something that we're definitely looking at and make sure never happens again. But I know that, you know, not being able to be with your baby, like you first were like, okay, I'm gonna sleep here. This is the plan. She's my baby. I'm asleep here. And then you're told, no, you're not gonna sleep here. And then for a lot of like, in this time, it was really extreme. Like you come every other day, which is.


Alex Dominguez Yeah. Right.


Leah ridiculous. And there's a lot of families, right, that they work or that they have other children and so they can't be there and they're in this other position that's happening all the time. How did you cope or calm yourself or talk to yourself or handle those times? Because I imagine not being able to be there can spin us out of control.


Alex Dominguez Yeah, for me, different things, I would say. So first and foremost, like, yeah, when I wasn't, on the days that I wasn't allowed to visit, you know, Mahalia.


I at the very least I drove my wife to the hospital so that we could she could visit her I was just honestly speaking this sounds crazy I was just sitting in a parking lot and just you know for me like it brought me some sense of peace of mind just being at the hospital you know not necessarily even in the hospital just being at the hospital like in that parking lot you know


Leah Mm -hmm. Yep.


Alex Dominguez few hundred feet, whatever it is, away from her. You know, just knowing that I was physically there in that realm, you know, with her. That, I guess, you know, helped me, you know, because at the very least if I could see her, I wanted to be in her vicinity, you know.


Leah Mm -hmm.


Yeah, yeah.


Alex Dominguez And so, yeah, I would just drive there and wait for my wife in the parking lot until she was done and then we would come home. And that would just be our routine. For a while, I would say... Now, it all happened so crazy. For a while, we spent maybe what... maybe about a month or so at a nearby hotel that was literally like a block away from the hospital. And so we're very blessed in the sense that we have a very fast support system around us, family members who were just willing and ready to help in any way that they could.


So, thankfully, they helped us with getting a hotel room for that amount of time. And it made it easier because we live in North Miami Beach, which, if you know South Florida, it's not the closest neighborhood to Jackson Memorial Hospital, Maine. So, it helped with having to travel back and forth.


Leah Mm -hmm.


Yeah.


Alex Dominguez So.


Leah I want to give you that sense which it sounded like was you just wanted to be close. Yeah. As close as possible. Yeah.


Alex Dominguez Be close, yeah, we want to be as close as possible to her, you know, especially since, especially after her first month in the hospital where she had some major complications, you know, life threatening complications. And, you know, we, after that, we just, we couldn't bear being that far away from her anymore, you know.


We just wanted to be there for her as much as possible. So just having that sense of mind of like, all right, we may not be able to see her 24 -7, but we can be hundreds of feet away from her at the very least for any moment that may arise that we need to be there immediately.


Leah Yeah.


Sure. Yeah.


Alex Dominguez sense of closeness was I think very helpful for both of us really. And then on top of that honestly speaking, I think we leaned heavily on some of our favorite shows just to kind of help...


Leah Yeah.


Sure.


Alex Dominguez take our mind off of things, you know, we're huge fans of The Office and we just kept watching that on repeat, you know, back in the hotel, you know, it was just, all right, you know, let's do this, you know, but yeah, it was, it was, it was difficult, you know, not being able to be there.


Leah Yes.


Yes.


Yeah, that was...


And how were you, since you were so present and so involved, but then without your partner, you know, in all of this, how are you perceived in the NICU as a dad? As I mentioned in the intro, we haven't done great historically as a society at bringing dads in to their infants' lives. And I'm wondering how you felt as a dad especially alone there in the NICU?


Alex Dominguez So, you know, it's funny because I felt a lot of times, you know, as a dad, you know, I was often overlooked. And, you know, it was something where I felt like, you know, I wasn't not necessarily respected, but I wasn't afforded the same type of, what's the word?


Leah Hmm.


Alex Dominguez I wasn't afforded the same type of feedback, I would say, as my wife got. And to be fair, I get it. She's the mother. And at the end of the day, she's the one who carried that baby. I didn't do that. She did. So I can understand. But I remember there was one moment.


Leah Hmm.


Alex Dominguez in the very beginning. It was the first week that we were in the NICU. It was after we were, where my wife was released from the hospital, that we were home. And I remember we were, at the time we were staying with my mother -in -law because we were having some work, on top of everything else going on, we were having some work done at our house. So, you know, we couldn't be in our house at that moment. So we were staying with my mother -in -law.


Leah goodness.


Alex Dominguez And my wife, it was in the morning time, my wife was like, you know, maybe you should call the hospital to check up on Mahalia, you know, so that, you know, we just can see how she's doing, you know, how her night went before, you know, we go to the hospital to visit her and everything. So I was like, all right, cool. And she was getting ready to to pump some some milk. So I was like, yeah, no problem. It was morning. So I called the hospital and they said, OK. They said, okay, what's the baby's name? I said, my name is Dominguez. And they said, okay. And they put me on hold. And they came back and they said, you said the baby's name is Dominguez? I said, yeah. And they said, we don't have a baby here by that name.


Leah Mm -hmm.


my gosh.


Alex Dominguez I said, excuse me? And they said, yeah, we don't have a baby Dominguez here.


Leah Where did your mind go?


Alex Dominguez I hung up the phone. I told Shana, I was like, we gotta go. They said, she just looked at me, she's like, what? I was like, we gotta go. They said they don't have a baby to me at the hospital. We gotta go. And she was like, I'm, she's like, I'm pumping right now. So I can't really, I was like, well, listen, I'm going. You can say I'm going. I bolted out of the house. My mother -in -law lives in Dania Beach.


Leah Okay.


Yeah.


Yeah.


Alex Dominguez If you know the area that you beach to Jackson, which is in Miami, it's a fair drive Maybe 30 40 minutes at least, you know Without traffic I got there in about 15 minutes Okay Yes And the whole time I'm just like my I'm frantic because I just


Leah Mm -hmm.


Yeah, without traffic. Yeah. Yeah.


Alex Dominguez don't know what that means. What do you mean you don't have a baby Dominguez? You need to have a baby Dominguez. And so I got to the hospital and you know, I just, you know, I went through security, did all that and I went and I walked over to her bay and she's obviously there. Okay, much better. So what happens? Her doctor came by and he's like, so I heard it was a little bit of an issue.


Apparently, they don't refer at that moment. They didn't refer to her by her last name. They refer to her by her mother's maiden name.


Leah Yeah.


Okay.


Alex Dominguez So why? You know, and something like that, you know, like I'm her father, she has my last name. Why are you referring to her from her mother's maiden name? Like that doesn't make any sense to me, you know? again, it's that kind of factor of like being overlooked. Like I am her father, she has my last name. Like get it together here, you know, come on, you know. I think since...


Leah And Shayna has your last name too, right? Huh, that's curious. Yeah.


Alex Dominguez She has my last name too, yes. But for whatever reason they refer to her as Cargill, which is my wife's maiden name. I think since then they've changed that policy. Because yeah, why would they do that? You know, that just makes no sense to me. But yeah, it was things like that, you know, that would come up not all the time, very so often.


you know, that just kind of made me feel like, all right, well, I'm secondary here. It's OK. At the end of the day, I know she's my child. I don't care about anything else. You know, she's my baby. So, yeah. But yeah, I would say sometimes it definitely felt like, you know, I was overlooked and maybe slightly disrespected.


Leah Yeah. At the bedside, you mean? Yeah.


Alex Dominguez You know, yeah, exactly. You know, and sometimes, you know, there would be situations where, you know, they would come, the doctors would come and, you know, they would ask, you know, listen, what are they going to be here or something like that? I mean, I'm like, listen, I'm here. I'm the father. I'm here. Like, you can talk to me, you know, and I don't know what it is, you know.


Leah Yeah.


What did you think was behind that? And like, what did you sense?


Alex Dominguez I want to say it probably comes from this notion where dads or guys in general probably are looked at to be more aloof or not fully adept to be in tune with their kids and stuff like that. Whereas mothers are looked to be more nurturing.


Leah Hmm.


Alex Dominguez involved with their kids and stuff like that, their babies. So I think oftentimes medical professionals probably look to speak to the mother verse because they feel like the mother is probably going to be more understanding or whatever the case may be. But you know.


Leah Involved, yeah. Yeah.


Yeah. What could they have done differently? What could the, you know, knowing, again, you had a long, really complicated, and we're not even talking about, that's a whole nother episode about what you guys, maybe we'll have you and Shane on together, talking about that experience with Mahalia, all of her ups and downs and things. What could they have done better to greet and,


Alex Dominguez Yeah. Yeah. Leah (40:56) support fathers? What could the bedside nurses, the healthcare team, could have done better?


Alex Dominguez You know, it's hard to say because first let me say that for the most part, the nurses that we had at the hospital, they were amazing. Like they, there's no words, there are no words to describe the amazing work that they did. We still even keep in contact with a couple of them. They became like secondary family to us.


Leah Yeah.


Alex Dominguez They were always checking on her and looking after her. Like they were our eyes and ears when we were gone, you know? So I want to preface everything by saying that first. But at the same time, you know, I feel like, you know, maybe in some cases, the medical team could be a little bit more...


Leah Mm -hmm. Mm -hmm.


Of course.


Alex Dominguez Self -aware, I would say. You know, in terms of like understanding the dynamics of the parents with their kids. Sure, I'm not saying that every parent is going to be perfectly in tune with their children or able to understand everything that's going on or anything like that. No, I get that. But at the same time, you should be able to talk to either parent.


Leah Mm -hmm.


Mm -hmm.


Mm -hmm.


Alex Dominguez and feel like you're conveying your message clearly and succinctly to whoever is involved, whether it be the father or the mother. There was one case where finally I felt like, all right, you know.


Leah Mm -hmm.


Mm -hmm.


Alex Dominguez Good. There was a moment where Mahalia was possibly going to need surgery. And I get the feeling that the surgeon saw kind of what I was going through because I was actually the one who was present that particular day when they were going to make the call to move forward with the surgery or not.


Leah Mm -hmm.


Mm -hmm.


Alex Dominguez And he kind of looked at me and he was like, he told me everything that was going on. And, you know, he, I remember feeling like he took the time to just really sit with me and he told me, look, you know, I'm going to treat this child how I would treat my own child. So you can understand that I'm going to make the best call for her, you know.


Leah Mm -hmm.


Alex Dominguez Thank you. That's really, that's all it takes, you know? And that was after, like, he explained everything that was involved, you know? And thankfully, you know, she didn't need the surgery in the end, and she was able to pull through without having to go through, you know, all that. And yeah, but it's something as simple as that, you know? Just taking the time to really know who you're dealing with, you know?


Leah Yeah. Yeah, to be seen. Yeah, I mean, it sounds like you felt, and I think this happens for a lot of our parents and our fathers especially, they feel they have to prove themselves. And, but what I'm hearing you say is like, we need to be looking at the family as an individual family, right? And personalizing their care. When dad's there at the bedside, dad can get that information, you know, that we're not all.


Alex Dominguez I think that can go a long way. Yeah.


Right.


Yeah, exactly.


Leah you know, not all families are the same, which is beautiful. But really sitting with you and seeing you was a powerful experience for you.


Alex Dominguez Yeah.


Leah Wow.


Gosh, if you could go back to that NICU time when you were there with Shayna and Mahalia and you could tell yourself, your in NICU Alex self something, what would you want to tell yourself or do differently?


Alex Dominguez So I think the biggest takeaway for me would have been to be more patient. Because I do recall, like at the very end, like I really, really wanted Mahalia to go home. I felt it was time. I felt she was healthy enough. I felt like she was doing great.


Leah Hmm. What do you mean?


Hmm.


Mm -hmm.


Alex Dominguez She was feeding, she was doing pretty much everything that you needed a baby to do, to come home, to graduate. And looking back, I would have told myself, just chill out, just wait a little more, if you can bear it. Because unfortunately, you know.


Leah Yeah.


Alex Dominguez (46:20) I think something that's usually not really discussed a lot is that after the NICU, things are still very much difficult. It doesn't make it any easier just because the baby's home. She did have some complications after effect. And you know.


Alex Dominguez I think that maybe if she would have just stayed a little bit longer than the queue, maybe we wouldn't have to have to deal with some of the issues that came up after the fact. And I think that, yeah, I think just allowing myself to be patient, you know, my wife was very much on the edge. She was like, I don't know.


Leah Hmm. Yeah.


Alex Dominguez But I remember speaking to her doctor and I was like, listen, I don't know, I really feel like she can come home. And her doctor was like, yeah, you probably have a point. And so they obviously, they did everything that they were supposed to do in order to be able to release her. But yeah, it's one of those things that looking back, you probably...


wish you wouldn't have pushed so much, especially just because you don't know what lies on the other side.


Leah Yeah, that NICU, we call it NICU burnout, which happens, it can happen for everybody at different times, but especially long term stay. Those last few weeks and those days, especially if you think you're going to go home one day and then they extended another, those setbacks can really, it makes everybody, and I'm not even going to say most, it's everybody…


Alex Dominguez Yeah.


Yeah. Yeah. Leah really anxious and starting to feel things they never thought they would ever feel and that urgency builds and it's a fear, you know? And it's understandable for you to have felt that because it feels like maybe it'll never happen.


Alex Dominguez Yeah, exactly. You know, and it's one of those things that like, you know, you feel like you've seen the worst of the worst, you know, what more could there possibly be, right? But, you know, unfortunately, there is more that could come up, you know, and we had to learn that the hard way, you know. But thankfully, you know, our little Mahalia, she's so resilient, such a fighter, you know.


Leah Mm -hmm.


Yes.


Alex Dominguez She's just been able to overcome a lot.


Leah Yeah, she is extraordinary. She's four, almost four and a half. Gosh, we'll be celebrating her four years out of the NICU in a couple weeks. And she's a dancer and a sweetheart and gosh, she's wonderful. She's a wonderful little girl. Yeah, yeah.


Alex Dominguez Yes.


Exactly. Yeah.


Yeah, she's our light. She's our world. She's a little firecracker, that's for sure. Yeah.


Leah Mm -hmm.


Yeah, she has a beautiful spirit just like her parents do. So Alex, if you had any, I mean, you've shared so many beautiful stories and so many words of wisdom. If there was anything else that you could leave with a family who might be at their baby's bedside or in the NICU right now with a dad, maybe, what do you think it would be? Alex Dominguez Perseverance. It's one of those things that...


You don't necessarily think about it until you do, you know. And I was thinking about it this week because, like you said, you know, we are coming up on Mahalia's anniversary for her graduating that of you. And she's taught me a lot about it. And personally, I feel like we've learned a lot about what perseverance really means.


Leah Hmm.


Alex Dominguez If you're there and you just understand, you know, every day is a new day, you know, you're going to have to persevere. You're going to have to keep going. You're going to have to just keep fighting because those babies are fighting. And, you know, I think the least that we can do as parents is to match their energy. You know.


They're going to keep going. They're going to keep going. And, you know, why not? Why can't we do the same thing? You know, so just persevere.


Leah Yeah.


It's beautiful. It's so powerful.


Well, thank you so much Alex for being here and if you are listening out there, maybe sitting at your baby's bedside or driving back and forth to the NICU, maybe you're at work and wishing you could be in the NICU or pacing the hall at night or moving milk around the city back and forth. Alex and I want you to know that you are not alone.


you're part of the ICU Baby family and community. Take gentle care.

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