Submitted by Jay Rooney
I was newly-married and knee-deep in my career when my wife found out she was pregnant with Josie. Like most expectant parents, we were excited, nervous, and bursting with anticipation to welcome the newest member of our family.
Then, just 24 hours after she was born, Josie was diagnosed with an ultra-rare heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia. (Jimmy Kimmel spoke about his son, who had the same illness, right around the same time.) She was whisked away to the cardiovascular ICU at Stanford University Medical Center, where she had open-heart surgery at just 3-days-old. For the next three months, we stood by her side as she recovered. Seeing your child sedated, scarred, and hooked up to so many wires is among the most horrifying sights for a parent. And being immersed in the chaos and isolation of the ICU for such a prolonged time took a huge toll on my wife's and my physical and emotional health, and severely tested our relationship.
So now, we went from being textbook DINKs ("Dual Income, No Kids") to being a household of three, with one breadwinner. To make matters worse, a seasonal gig I had done for years fell through, throwing another wrench into our plans.
But as any parent will tell you, we will move earth and sea to make sure our children are safe and happy. And so I did. Even though I already work full-time, teach part-time, and volunteer (along with caring for Josie), I've started freelancing on the weekends so that Josie will always have a warm room to sleep in, so that she will never run out of food or medicine, so that she'll have nice toys, books, and clothes, and so she can build as many happy memories as she can with her parents.
Is it hard? Yes. It's incredibly challenging. I don't sleep much, or well, these days. But when I come home, hold my baby daughter, and look into her eyes as she smiles and giggles at me, everything else — my worries, my anxieties, my fears, my insecurities — seems so insignificant. She is what is important. She's the one I work so hard for, and she deserves it all (and more). I need her as much as she needs me. She makes it all worth it.
If I were to give advice to other working parents, I'd tell them three things.
Parenting is life's most challenging endeavor. But it's also the most rewarding. My love for Josie knows no bounds, and anytime she falls asleep in my arms, I know that no matter how tough things get, and no matter how many problems I'm facing, everything is fine, and everything will be fine.
If you can relate to that last paragraph, don't worry — chances are, you're doing it right!
More on Josie's story: