isupportredfridays_edited-1 Join me by wearing red on red shirt Friday! Pray for my brother-in-law's safe return as well as the rest of our troops!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Iron Baby": When Dads Have Preemies

So often we talk about the mommies when we talk about babies and pregancy and delivery.

And when a baby's born prematurely, we talk about how the mom feels; the feelings of guilt and failure that our body didn't do its job of carrying our baby safely to term, the feelings of sadness and guilt for a pregnancy ended too soon, the pangs we have when we see another hugely pregnant woman who made it further than we did, the fear of the safety of our baby lying in the NICU isolette. All.those.feelings.

And that's just barely scratching the surface. Not to mention the post traumatic stress of a traumatic pregnancy and delivery, dealing with the baby's surgeries, complications and beyond.

But usually there is a daddy standing by, drying our tears, trying to ease our pain and our worry and being our rock while we grieve and walk around like zombies day to day. I mean, someone's gotta keep it together, right? And usually it is them.

But when do they grieve?

Do daddies grieve?

A few months ago I read the story about the man behind "IronBaby."

I was following @ZenTriathlon on Twitter. He had really interesting podcasts that I'd download and listen to on my runs and one day I ventured over onto his site and stumbled upon "IronBaby."

It sounded like Ironman. But really it was IronBaby and I wanted to know more.

It turns out he's a triathlete. A daddy.

And a daddy of a preemie.

And that's how IronBaby was born.

At the time I found his story, my preemie mom's group, "Mommies Little Miracles," was in the middle of doing our NICU Baby Showers. Here we were supporting moms with babies in the local NICUs and it occurred to me that the dads sort of get left out in the cold. I realize that instinctively men and women grieve differently, but sometimes it's even worse because they're not even allowed to crumble. They're the ones that need to be strong while we crumble, right?

Wrong. Even tough guys like Brett have a hard time with prematurity.
 Brett Blankner, the founder of Zen and the Art of Triathlon, started out as a competitive swimmer, eventually getting into cycling, running and triathlon. Triathlon for him is a lifestyle with constant and ever-changing training that requires, above all things, balance.

Some of my favorite points of his Zentri Philosophy are:
"Tri training is not only for tri racing. The fitness gained improves your whole life, work, and family relationships."
"What you learn about yourself during the grueling training will change your life."
"You can easily train for triathlons during the time most people waste watching TV."
He has podcasts; he trains triathletes, he lives triathlon. I was so touched by Brett's story of IronBaby that I had to get the whole story from him, so I got a chance to catch up with him on the phone.

A few years ago, Brett was training for his first Ironman while his wife was pregnant and their baby was due in December.

He signed up for an Ironman that was in late October, but as the story of prematurity often goes, baby had other plans.

His son was born 2 1/2 months early.

Instead of standing at the starting line of his Ironman in October, Brett found himself at the starting line of a very different, very scary journey. "The dad can feel kind of powerless. As a dad you just kind of sit there; I wanted to do something," Brett told me.

And he didn't make it to the race. Instead he spent countless days and hours in the NICU at his son's side, all trained up and nowhere to go. "I felt really powerless and to get all trained for something and not do it, it drives you crazy," said Brett. So one day, he decided he'd take off on the 140.6 miles on his own.

He planned his route and he ran his own race.

Brett traveled the 140.6 miles through a pool, on bike and on foot, through the streets of College Station, Texas.

"There's no crowds to motivate you," Brett says on his website, "you have to totally support yourself, and quitting is very tempting when you keep passing your own house multiple times. I've done both and it actually feels harder."

The first time he did Ironbaby, it took him 17 hours.

Along the way, he mobile posted on his blog and was encouraged by his readers. "That was neat to see people responding as I was doing it," said Brett.

And it fueled him to do Ironbaby three more times, each time getting faster, each time getting better, each time with more support, virtually and in real life. And each time watching as his son grew older and was able to support him too. "Last year he leaned out the car and said, 'Why are you going so slow daddy?'” Brett laughed.

Through Ironbaby, Brett has raised thousands of dollars for the March of Dimes and the Ronald McDonald House, among some of the other charities.

Because like me, maybe you, and millions of other people, his family was blindsided by prematurity. "People have kids left and right, people just assume that’s what’s gonna happen until they run into a situation when it’s not," says Brett.

Even still, Brett remembers the sounds of the NICU so clearly. "I hear anything that sounds like it, it sends me into a flashback," says Brett, "Anything we can do to keep people from having to hear those beeps is worth it."

Brett raises money for the March of Dimes and the Ronald McDonald House, along with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's, which his dad is currently fighting. (Maybe I'll even join Brett in his IronBaby race one year!)

I'm pretty sure that Brett wears a cape in this scenario, since we're all about capes up in here. But Brett says his little man is the real superhero. "He toughed it out and showed me what a real Ironman truly is," says Brett.

Today that tiny IronBaby is a super-healthy, amazing six-year-old.

*  * *
Thanks Brett, for sharing your story with me!
Find Brett Blankner at Zen and the Art of Triathlon ( and on Twitter at @zentriathlon.
As you know, I am walking in the March for Babies this weekend. You can donate to the March of Dimes and help me reach my goal by clicking here. I'm also selling Bondi Bands with the proceeds going to the March of Dimes and for that, you can click HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Talk to me goose!

(ps. I love responding and if you have your email set on your blogger profile I can!)

My Favorite Quotes

"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it." - Bill Cosby

I tri because one day I didn't believe in myself. And then one day I did.

"I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of a man is to live, not to exist." - Jack London

Some people think it's holding on that makes one strong- sometimes it's letting go.

"Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History."- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Live life PASSIONATELY, laugh OUT LOUD, love UNCONDITIONALLY. - from my spoon rest.

"The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire." - Ferdinand Foch