The saint of the NICU

April 9, 2014 | 148 comments

Today is my youngest child’s first birthday! Those of you who were reading a year ago might recall that that wasn’t the best day.

It was a rough pregnancy, involving bilateral pulmonary embolisms, hospitalization, and getting stabbed in the neck by doctors (UNNECESSARILY). The birth was not a ton of fun either — without going into detail, let’s just say that getting 12 blood draws in the same arm in one day was one of the better parts of the experience.


Then, only minutes after the baby arrived, he was taken away due to a concern about his oxygen levels. A nurse came back to report that he was being transferred to a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in a hospital 30 minutes away, because they suspected bronchopulmonary dysplasia and his condition was deteriorating rapidly.

They brought the baby by my room in the infant transport unit, which looked like a craft for a moon landing. Deep inside a cage of wires and tubes and glass was my son. He was screaming, but I couldn’t pick him up. I was only able to touch the glass briefly before they took him away.

I didn’t get to the new NICU until after my discharge the next day, and I walked in to find my poor little guy hooked up to even more tubes and wires, though he was in an open bed, not an incubator. He was crying again, and I moved toward him, but the nurses informed me that I couldn’t pick him up.

Due to the tubes in his chest, nobody would be able to hold him for days.

He was a full-term baby, and very alert. He was well aware of his surroundings. I think I aged a thousand years every time he cried, his little blue eyes darting around, and had no one to hold him. I promised myself that the second those tubes were removed from his chest, I would see to it that he was held for every single moment possible.

After five days, the tubes were removed and we were allowed to pick him up. One of the nurses scolded me for holding him so much, warning that I would spoil him, but every single ounce of my mother’s intuition was boiling over with the certainty that this baby needed lots and lots of cuddles to make up for his first few days.


His condition was still in question, and we had more than a week to go in the NICU. My prayer life wasn’t great at this point, but I did make one simple request: I asked Joseph, the earthly father of Christ and namesake of our son, to pray that our child would be held whenever he was in pain or scared. Due to some mix of trauma and spiritual immaturity, I didn’t pray for many of the things I should have. But I did make that one request.

We set up shifts to have someone there for all the daytime hours. Joe would spend the mornings with the baby on the way to work, Yaya would watch the kids while I took the afternoon shift, and my mom or Yaya would cover the evenings.

But that left the late night.

My mom left at midnight, and the morning shift change, when only the medical staff could be in the NICU, occurred at 6 AM. That left six hours every day when the baby would be alone. The nurses were sweet about checking in, but they had almost no time to hold the babies. I just couldn’t be there all night, every night, and neither could Joe. And the image of my six-day-old son spending more time crying with no one to pick him up sent me to a place of despair that I have only rarely known.

Though I didn’t see how it could possibly work out, I kept praying. I begged St. Joseph to pray with me for this simple intention, that his little namesake might not be alone when he needed comfort.

Jen and JT2

I arrived one afternoon for my shift to see that the baby had had a new line put in his scalp. The IV in his hand wasn’t working, so they’d had to push a needle into one of the veins in his head. “When did this happen?” I asked the nurse.

“We had to do it around 3:30 AM, ” she said. “He was pretty unhappy about it!”

I picked up the baby and sunk back into my chair, utterly despondent. I began to cry, my tears disappearing into the thin hospital blanket that swaddled my son. Every time I imagined him going through that alone, in the middle of the night, while I was sound asleep, I began to cry harder.

A while later, my phone rang. It was my dad, calling to check in.

I told him about the scalp procedure, and he interrupted me with a sympathetic laugh. “He sure didn’t like that!” he said. “But after I picked him up he settled down and went right to sleep. He slept in my arms all the way until the 6 AM shift change.”

“What?” I gasped. “You were there?”

“Of course I was, ” he said. “I told you I would stay.”

My dad had mentioned that he would come at midnight to walk my mom to her car, and that he’d hang out with the baby after that. I’d brushed it off as a nice offer, but never thought it was something he could really do. He’s normally in bed by 9:00 at night, and the hospital was 45 minutes away from his house.

But he did stay. And I started crying again — this time with tears of relief and joy — as I realized that my prayer had been answered.


My dad took the night shift for the rest of our son’s two-week stay. When I got a flat tire on the way home from a late evening visit, I thought Joe would have to wake up the sleeping little ones to deal with it, but my dad happily came to help. He stood on the side of the highway with me at 11 PM while we waited for the tow truck, and insisted on covering all the charges for the new tire. Then he went straight to the NICU to stay with the baby all night.

I have no doubt that God worked through my dad during those harrowing two weeks. But I’ve always hesitated to say that, because my dad doesn’t believe in God.

I know that, to non-believers’ ears, saying that their actions were the work of God might seem to take the credit away from them. It sounds like we’re saying, “You probably would have been sitting on the couch eating Cheetos if left to your own devices, but luckily God made you do something good!”

But that’s not how we see it.


We believe that God is the source of all goodness and love, and that any time anyone chooses an act rooted in agape — pure, selfless love — its source is always God. It’s kind of like when you get water from your sink: you might think of the water as coming from a spout in your house, but if you follow it to its source, you’ll find that it leads to a great river, far outside the walls of your home. You may not have ever seen it, but if you’ve tasted the water, you know the river.

And that’s what I think of when I remember the tumultuous time that was the birth of our son. As I watch my now-one-year-old child sleep peacefully on the evening of his birthday, I recall with profound gratitude the answered prayer from the NICU, delivered in the form of my father’s presence.

I picture my dad sitting there with my baby cradled in his arms, the only visitor among the beeps and blips of the NICU in the middle of the night, and it’s like seeing a glimpse of Christ. And it makes me choke up a little as I think:Β You might not believe in my God, but you know him. In fact, I’d say you know him very well.



  1. April

    This is so beautiful, Jennifer. God bless you and your sweet baby… and your sweet daddy, too.

  2. Chat

    I was crying the whole time, such a wonderful testament on how Saints really assist us by faithfully praying for us. I was also crying for the kind of love your dad has in his heart and how his love is active (action-based), I hope you don’t mind that I will specifically pray for your dad’s conversion. I’m also a bit envious because i never recall any instance that my Catholic father did anything for us– i hope i am just being overly dramatic but the sad part is, it is the truth πŸ™ Can’t wait to read your book, read some pages from Amazon and I already cried when I read the part wherein you thank God in your acknowledgements. May God bless you and your family. hugs to your sweet dad πŸ™‚

  3. Agnes @ Restless Until I Rest in Thee

    OMG Jennifer…you almost made me cry ….at 2am. What a beautiful reflection …and YES YES YES, there is definitely a reflection of Christ in your dad, and he definitely KNOWS GOD, even if he DOESN’T KNOW HIM. It’s a beautiful paradox. God Bless your family and your dad!

  4. Carmel

    Your mother’s instinct is so right. Our children are adopted and our eldest daughter came home to us at seven weeks old. She’d been left in hospital for two weeks on a busy ward then gone to foster mother who didn’t believe in ‘spoiling’ babies so she was rarely held. She didn’t even hold her close to feed her but but propped her up on pillows. By the time she came to us she held her body rigid most of the time and rarely cried. We ignored all the advice we were given by social workers and some family members about not ‘spoiling’ her and held her as much as possible. She slept in our bed for years as once she got used us being around she hated to be left alone at any time. She’s 15 now and a lovely, loving girl but we think that she is still affected by the early weeks of neglect. Our younger daughter came home to us at nine weeks old but she’d spent that time with a loving foster family and the difference was remarkable; she cried when she needed something and snuggled into us instead of holding away. It still makes me so sad when I think of our eldest’s early weeks and I know that she needed lots of extra closeness to help make up. I’m so glad your little boy had the love he needed in those early days. I think that people under estimate just how important that time is.

  5. Becky

    Jennifer, this is one of my favorite of all your posts. I lost my Daddy suddenly when I was 25, two days before I came into the Church — he never walked me down the aisle or held one of his grandchildren, but I know he would have done something similar with any of his grandkids that your dad did with your baby. I was moved to tears and just had to let you know. What a beautiful tribute. And happy birthday to your little guy. We were pregnant at the same time last year and had our babies within a couple weeks of each other, so I am also celebrating the great gift of a 1-year-old in our house too! Blessings to you and your dad. I think your intuition on whether he knows God or not is right on. God certainly knows him. On another note, I think I would have growled at the nurse who said you’d spoil your baby. What pickle jar did she pop out of? I can’t stand the cry-it-out philosophy!

    • the other Becky

      “What pickle jar..” That is a great comment!

  6. Barbara Bowman

    Thank you for writing this. How frightening it must have been. What a wonderful gift God has given us, that we have the communion of saints! And how much they want to pray for us and our needs. God bless you, Jennifer, your dad, yaya, and your entire family.

  7. Molly

    Beautiful! Thank you!!! Happy Birthday Joseph!!!

  8. Sue

    That made me cry.

  9. Laura Pearl

    This is one of the most touching stories I’ve ever read. God bless your wonderful dad, and happy birthday to that well-loved little boy.

  10. Colleen

    Beautiful. Beautiful story and beautifully written. This one will stay with me. The analogy of the tap not being the original source of the water is inspired. Your father is a good example of St Joseph-like behavior, quietly doing the right thing, without fanfare. (Well, except all your blog readers know now.) He has a beautiful soul! God bless you ALL on this special day. Happy celebrating!

  11. Theresa

    Jen, this post was so beautiful. I often pray for my family members that are away from Christ and the Church, but you have me happily recognizing that they’re probably not “as far” from Him as I think! Thank you for sharing this, and for honoring your father and the power of prayer in such a beautiful way. And happy, happy Birthday to your little guy!

  12. Smoochagator

    Best. Post. Ever. I’m glad I read it at home instead of waiting til I got to work because sitting in my cubicle with tears running down my face is rather embarrassing.

    I think it’s especially poignant that you prayed to Jesus’ earthly father for intercession, and your own earthly father was the answer to the prayer. God was exceptionally good to you in giving you such wonderful parents (and your kids such wonderful grandparents!).

    • Betsy

      I thought the same thing about the connection between Jen’s father and St. Joseph. So beautiful! St. Joseph, pray for us!

    • Bonnie

      Yep, I thought the same thing as I was reading: Yours and St. Joseph’s appeal found an answer in the heart of the man who is your earthly father, to do the hardest shift, because he could, and because you needed him, and because that’s what a man does. And he doesn’t look for pats on the back for it either. I think it is so very awesome your dad was the one there to comfort him when little Joseph went through a particularly painful procedure.
      How good is our God.

  13. Kelly Kaczmarczyk

    You have me bawling at seven in the morning.

  14. Kathleen Basi

    So beautiful. I am continually reminded how lucky I am, even having had a child in the NICU, and the PICU…we never had a situation as severe as yours. But I know how much experiences like these change you, deepen the way you see the world. And your insight is just beautiful.

  15. Lindsay M

    Like many others, I’m bawling in the early morning, reading this while making the kids breakfasts and school lunches. This is also one of my favourite posts ever by you and like someone posted, its so interesting that St. Joseph responded through your own earthly father. I wish I had something new or insightful to add but I’m barely through my coffee and can barely see through my tears. Happy Birthday sweet boy and God Bless his sweet Mama and thank God for selfless Grandpa’s!

  16. Marisa

    Beautiful, Jen. I found myself tearing up reading this post, and I wanted to thank you for sharing this. You and I were pregnant at the same time last year, and my daughter was born on April 6. I constantly prayed for the safety of you and your son during your very difficult pregnancy. Hugs. Praise God both of you are healthy!

  17. Laura

    That was beautiful. God is certainly working in and through your father and you are truly blessed to have such a great man for a dad. God bless you all.

  18. Tracy Bua Smith

    Oh my, what a heart wrenching and beautiful story all at the same time Jennifer! I just can’t imagine the turmoil you must have felt having to leave your baby and not being able to hold your sweet Joseph. Our heavenly Saints and your earthly saint, your dad, took care of your precious little one sent from Heaven through those quiet, dark nights. What an answered prayer for sure and testimony of the beautiful intercession of the Saints. Your Dad was holding heaven on earth as he cared for your son. Surely this must have planted seeds in your Dad’s soul. His selflessness and sacrifice is inspiring and what a blessing to have such a great Dad in your life. Happy birthday to your sweet Joseph! Enjoy all your blessings!

  19. Nell

    You have me in tears!!! What a beautiful sharing on the anniversary of your son’s birth. And that your dad could play such an integral part. Preggo woman crying over here. Sending you lots of prayers for gratitude for your son’s life!

  20. Mama G

    Good morning and thank you. As many others stated, this brought tears to my eyes. St. Joseph is special to me also. Go St. Joseph! And your dad!

  21. the other Becky

    What I have said a couple of times in a situation where someone who does not believe in God is clearly acting on God’s behalf for my benefit: “You are an answer to prayer!” This seems to give them enough credit that they are not dismayed, while clearly acknowledging God’s part. I would like to tell you the funniest such experience I had, but it is too long for a comment.

  22. Nella

    Oh Jen! I’m crying over here! SO beautiful. This is SO what I needed to hear, because my husband doesn’t believe and this is exactly what I think about him when he pours himself out for us. That must have been a really old crusty nurse to say something like that in the NICU. In our NICU they were all about the babies being held as soon and as often as possible. We were in a Catholic hospital and there was a beautiful elderly nun who would hold the babies when nobody could be there. She held Avery the days I couldn’t go in because of chemo and it brought me so much comfort. Her name was Sr. Francis and she’s in her 80s, if anyone reading this could say a prayer for her that would be awesome. She was the most amazing vision, dressed all in white and just the sight of her walking by would literally stop people in their tracks. How amazing that Jesus’s dad sent your Dad. I can’t even type that without starting to cry all over again. Beautiful.

    • Chat

      Prayers up for Sr. Francis. May God bless her lovely heart. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

      • Laura M


  23. Stephanie

    This made me cry in Starbucks. What a beautiful story. I’m so glad you shared it.

  24. Amy

    Oh, this story is so heart wrenching and so beautiful. Your Dad is amazing and to hear about God working through him is so inspiring.

  25. Kim Taylor

    What a beautiful story and an inspiring way to start the day. A great reminder to be kind and thoughtful to everyone today, starting at home!!!!!

  26. Patty

    Tears are flowing here too! God’s love flows through your dad even if he doesn’t acknowledge the source. Yet. I pray one day he will. Happy birthday to your son, and God bless your whole family!

  27. Amy

    I cried like a baby reading this! So beautiful! Happy Birthday to your precious baby boy!

  28. Kat

    what a beautiful post. thank you for sharing it with us. this one is a favorite. and happy birthday to the birthday boy!

  29. Erin Oswalt

    Oh my goodness I’m sitting here with tears running down my face. Praise The Lord! He is so good. Thank you for sharing Jennifer.

  30. Sara

    I’m crying, too! I had a baby in NICU for 8 tough days, and I don’t know what else you should have been praying for (because God knows what’s in your heart and what you need), but that was a perfect prayer. I didn’t have enough maturity or sensitivity of heart to pray for that, but you did. Not only did your little Joseph benefit from it, but so did your sweet father. I have great hopes for your dad! πŸ˜‰

  31. Julie

    Oh, my… My own little newborn is 5 days old, healthy, and downstairs being held by his daddy while I’m upstairs crying my eyes out over this post. It was so heartbreaking to a new mama, on so many levels, and also so heartwarming. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story and important lesson. Happy birthday to your little Joseph.

  32. Tammy

    That is so sweet…what a blessing your dad was in that moment and he was Gods agent of Grace. Im so sad that my daughter will never know that love as an adult since she was so young when her father died.

    As a former NICU nurse who worked many night shifts its good to read stories written from parent perspectives…it was often hard to contemplate the level of suffering in the parents of our babies but I always tried my best to consider it. You two both went through the wringer with that pregnancy – but you did such a GOOD JOB !

  33. Mary Wilkerson

    This was an incredibly beautiful story of a mother’s love and a father’s love. I am quite moved, thinking of our God, who probably just wants us to know He is holding us in times of despair…and the knowledge that so many of His children don’t know it/feel it.
    Thank you for this.

  34. Erica Saint

    Such a beautiful, touching story! I agree that your father knows God. Happy birthday to Joseph. God bless you, your father, Joseph, and all of your family.

  35. Jessica @ housewifespice

    Thank you for sharing these moments of God’s presence in your life. I’ve been trying to see more of this day-to-day. Thank you.

  36. Jenny

    This post is so beautiful and touching. I’m not easily stirred by emotional stories, but this has to be one of the best posts you have ever written.

    Also, when your cause for sainthood is presented to the Congregation, the fact that you did not claw out the eyes of that NICU nurse will definitely be included.

  37. Jennifer @ Little Silly Goose

    I know they have their reasons for not allowing these new babies to be held in the early days of their lives, but I can’t help but think that they need to find a way around that because without a doubt these new babies desperately need to be held.

    Just like everyone else, I was touched by the story about your dad. My dad is not an atheist, but he’s not exactly a church-goer either. I actually just noticed this weekend that he gave me advice about something that seemed so clearly rooted in faith though he never used the word God. I’m praying in a special way for my dad this Lent. I will pray for your dad too.

    Thanks for sharing your heart with us today.

    • tammy

      I know we normally/intuitively think “being held=good, isolation=bad” but some babies are so sick that sound, light or touch will throw them off of their delicate equilibrium …we literally have to keep them in dark rooms with ear coverings and only touch them when medically necessary. My friends baby had one of these conditions and on her way to the hospital I was warning her to not plan on holding him for days….he was SOOOOO sick (he recovered, thank God!)

      Also micropremies don’t yet have the nerve wiring to process stimulation we would consider normal and they react to stress with physical decompensation. When they get closer to term, their brains start to understand why being held is good and they are soothed by it. Some benefit from kangarooing when they are still little and on vents, but not all.

      Like the hardest things in life, there is no way around this difficult time, there is only going straight through…to a time when a baby will love being touched and held.

      Being home asleep in their own beds recovering from difficult pregnancies & births is not what loving moms want to do but often it is the best place so that they are healed and rested for when the baby is better and stronger and care transitions from nurse to mom. What a wonderful blessing that Jens dad took the night shift to allow her to rest and recover.

      • Tammy

        Thought about this as I was drifting off to sleep and wanted to clarify…SOME babies are so sick they have to be kept in a minimal-stimulation environment – but not all. I hope I didnt traumatize everyone with the idea that no one can be held…some little ones are there for antibiotics or gaining/growing and families hold/feed abut we also have cuddlers.

        The vast majority of babies do really well…my NICU once had a whole year without a death

        I find it really challenging that many folks get everything they ever know of neonatology from the media which doesnt portray it very accurately or well…actually news stories about it make me scream and run from the room – they are all full of needless drama while leaving out all sorts of info that would actually be informative & helpful.

  38. Kathy

    God bless baby Joseph on his birthday! And God bless your dad! I think it took me until my 25th birthday to really appreciate my dad and he would do this exact same thing for my one year old. He loves to her pieces in the way only a grandpa can! What a gift grandparents are!

  39. Paul Forgette

    I am a Dad and this is what Dad’s do. For your Dad it was nothing special, just loving his family.

  40. Sara McD

    Thanks for the therapeutic cry. πŸ™‚

  41. Jena

    Reading this during a middle-of-the-night feeding with my 3-week-old…with tears poring down my face. Such a special story of answered prayers and of that understated love of fathers. I just love this!

  42. Dana Laviano

    Aaaaaand now I’m crying at my desk and people are walking by and I’m noisily blowing my nose.

    Beautiful. and blessed.

    Look what God can do.

  43. Susan

    So much beautiful. I was really tearing up from the very beginning, but when I read the part about your dad coming to help, well, hell, let’s just open the flood gates over the toast. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with all of us. I will keep your words of hope and confidence in our Lord close to my heart as I prepare to meet baby #6!!

  44. Sarah

    Must. Not. Tear. Up. At. Work. (in an office of all men) So beautifully put. I have a Grandpa that could be described the same way.

  45. Shannon

    Crying at the breakfast table with my 4 y/o, thinking about my sleeping 3 month old and can not even imagine going through that with him. I love, love, love your prayer to St. Joseph. Love your daddy. Blessings to him.

  46. Abigail Benjamin

    Such a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing it! I hate the NICU so much when my own kid was stuck inside it. Now looking back, her baby pictures are the ones that make me cry with happiness the most. She got so much love from so many people while she was hanging out on her cross.

  47. Elisa | blissfulE

    Thank you for sharing this. To be able to look back on such a traumatic time and see God’s hand working so clearly. It’s a beautiful gift.

  48. Amy @ Consecrated Housewife

    This sounds like something my dad would do. It also sounds just like a mother’s prayer that God would answer. My oldest child’s birthday is tomorrow and he also was a NICU baby, although not as serious as yours. I couldn’t hold him at first either because of his heart monitors. The nurses always liked it when I was there because they said he would calm down when he heard my voice. So I held his hand and talked to him a lot! Congrats on making the one year mark with your precious son.

  49. Anne

    It was nine long days before I could hold our son. And that was after waiting 12+ hours to get more than the glimpse of him I saw in the OR. Reading this brought all that flooding back. I love that St. Joseph, a father, choose to answer your prayer through your father. Happy Birthday to Baby Joe!

  50. Julie

    So so beautiful! Yes, I am crying!

  51. Emily D.

    April 9 babies are the BEST! πŸ™‚ Happy birthday to your son.
    My beginning in the world wasn’t quite that dramatic, but my mom didn’t get to hold me for a few days, either; I was born on Good Friday and they took me to the “special care” nursery (we didn’t really call it NICU in the 80s, I guess, or something)–and she got to hold me on Easter Sunday.
    My dad has stayed with me through a LOT of long medical nights….so I love your dad, because he’s a kindred spirit to mine. A wonderful story, Jen. Thanks for sharing.

  52. Apparent tales

    I have tears steaming down my face. I wish I had time I comment more, but I wanted to thank you for sharing this! Our sons were born within a week of each other after I had followed you on bed rest (literally and by reading along). I never realized the extent of your NICU heart ache and miracles.

  53. Lisa V.

    I’d say I’ve been reading your posts for a few years now but this is the first one that tears came to my eyes. Answered prayer indeed. God bless and happy birthday to Joseph.

  54. Hattie Heaton

    St. Joseph working through the head of your first family who sat with your little Joseph….poetic

  55. Christy

    Wow, this was the first thing I read this morning and I was crying from the start, then your dad…just more tears. I definitely think your prayers were answered, is there anything more beautiful and loving than holding a baby?

  56. Valerie

    What a sweet blessing and an amazing answer to prayer. How often do we pray for something, and we have no idea how it could possibly happen? No matter how bad you felt like your prayer life was at that point in time, you were faithful in asking for that one thing for your son…And our Amazing God fulfilled that for you all. I was expecting it to be an anonymous angel that came to rock babies or something, but to have it be your own father is so beautiful!

  57. Katie @ NFP and Me

    Oh the tears! I’m going to go ahead and blame it on our recent traumatic pregnancy, extended stay at the hospital, and postpartum hormones though.

    What a beautiful story! God bless your dad!

  58. Liz

    Talk about a tear jerker! Beautiful story that reminds me that god hears us.
    Happy birthday to your sweet one yr/old and I hope for many more blessing to your family!

  59. Catholic Lawyer Mama

    Wow . . . I really didn’t expect to be crying this early into the day! God bless you and your baby and your wonderful father (and Joe and Yaya and everyone else that supported you during that time!). I hope this year with your baby (after those first weeks) has been wonderful and filled with love (and lots of cuddles!). Thank you so much for sharing.

  60. Adam

    There should be a plenary indulgence for all former NICU babies and their families who watched over them around the clock.

  61. Janet

    As everyone else has said, this was beautiful! Never hesitate to suggest that God works through even those who don’t believe in Him. Remember the second part of Isaiah, the story of Cyrus the Persian…Scripture makes it very clear here that God works through even those who don’t believe in Him.

  62. Tammy

    Beautiful! God is so good!

  63. Joan

    Best story ever, Jen. Your Dad is an angel….

    My first born was also whisked to the NICU after birth – I couldn’t hold him either – no one could hold or touch him for almost 4 days! Plus, I gave birth in the middle of a blizzard (up North), so no one could visit us. But taking him to another hospital and seeing a line in his scalp had to be torture for you at the time. Tell your Dad, Mom and Yaya that I think they’re awesome. Supportive, loving Grandparents are priceless and you have some special ones – God Bless you all and Happy Birthday to Joseph!

  64. Amy

    I loved this post Jen! I have a four month old, and I still get told not to “spoil” him by holding him! Who spreads these vicious rumors?? A baby can’t be spoiled by love. I think that you did the right thing, and your Dad showed more saintliness than most of us, in a time of crisis. Goodness and Godliness are very close. I think when he does go to the afterlife, he will recognized God because he knew him by love..;)

  65. Janet

    Crying as I read that beautiful story. Very moving re your father. God bless him and all of you. It touched me deeply.

  66. Mary

    This has to be one of my favorite posts ever – I’m always drawn to the stories of your dad. You are so right: he knows God deeply; how else could he have nurtured a heart and mind like yours? I especially appreciated your analogy of the water and the river; we have a lot of nonbelievers (belligerent non-believers) and they too would bristle if we attributed any of their actions to the work of God. The Cheeto image had me laughing out loud! This was a great, great way to explain that concept without giving offence. Looking forward to the book! Bless you, Jen.

  67. Nicole Stallworth

    How appropriate that your prayer to St Joseph was answered through your father. God bless you all. Thank you for sharing this and so much of your life. And Happy Birthday to the little one.

  68. Jenny

    You made me sob into my coffee. I love saint Joseph.

  69. Corinne

    What a beautiful blog post! It made me tear up! I also have a father who doesn’t believe but who often is an (unknowing) witness of God’s love, usually a better witness than me. As hard as it was, I’m sure that was a special time of bonding between grandfather and grandson. Happy birthday to your little boy. Thank you for sharing your life so openly for the benefit of your readers! <3

  70. Amanda

    Your dad reminds me of the young Calormen in The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. If you father wants truth, and has love…well, he’s doing very well. What a blessing to have such a good father.

  71. Lauren

    oh ALL THE TEARS!! This is so beautiful in so many ways. Thank you. Thank you to our all-powerful, all-loving God, who comes to us in the dark night, in the small child, in the quiet man who doesn’t even know. yet.

  72. Carrie

    Thank you so much for sharing this story, Jen. Just made me cry. I can totally imagine that feeling of despair and am so grateful that that prayer was answered in such a beautiful way through your dad. So grateful for your dad – whenever I hear of or know of a baby alone like that I almost can’t handle it and for him to do that for your baby is like a gift to me knowing that a baby was cared for with love.

  73. Tori

    Talk about a tear-jerker! God bless your Dad.

  74. Emily @ Em's Estuary

    It’s great how Dads all work together.
    God has truly blessed you!
    And thank you for blessing us.

  75. Erin B

    This made me cry for so many reasons… and go grab my unsuspecting, very-independent, just-turned-one NICU baby and hold her and rock her until she squirmed away, and say a prayer of thanksgiving for all our NICU saints and for yours. What a beautiful piece!!

  76. Maia

    This is an incredible testament to the love of a father.

  77. Melody

    Nothing like a beautiful story to get the tears going in the lunchroom! πŸ™‚

  78. Amber Collier

    Hi! What a beautiful and Spirit filled post! Thank you so much for sharing your experience today. The Lord will touch many people through your words. God Bless you!! I don’t know where you are but please take a minute to look at We are a Christian based preemie and NICU support ministry. We have lots of programs for NICU families including prayer support and the gift of NICU and NICU graduate photography for families. I will direct families to read this wonderful post. THank you again ~Amber

  79. Rosemary

    This touched me so deeply. Thank you for sharing this story.

  80. Erika

    This is a beautiful post. And your description of God’s love working through people is like an unseen river is wonderful!

  81. Lara

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. It spoke to my heart and reminded me of my now 6 year old son when he was in the NICU, born at 29 weeks. His early arrival and stay in the NICU for six weeks was an answered prayer of my husband’s. While discerning the Catholic Faith, he was doubtful and asked God to make himself real. Trusting Christ and seeking the Faith while our son was in the NICU led us to come home at Easter 2010 and I consider a great privilege to have witnessed His hand on our son and our realization of what all we had been missing without the Catholic Church. Happy 1st birthday Joseph!

  82. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    Should not have read this right before our Skype call. Fixing mascara now…

  83. Emily B

    I cried. How beautiful. What a gift.

  84. Kathryn

    You know, Jen, isn’t it awesome how God answers our prayer in ways we are completely unable to imagine? The NICU is no place – for anyone. I’m so grateful (and happy!) you’ve made it to the one-year mark. And, while forgetting your time there is impossible, I pray that today brings you joy as you celebrate Joseph’s life and your faithful spirit. Happy birthday to both of you. ~K

  85. Stefani

    I cried through this whole post. Poor little guy! I have a 5-month-old daughter (she’s my first) and I have nightmares about things like this. Heavenly Father certainly sends angels to care for His little children. I’m so glad he was/is ok. Happy birthday, Joseph! You are so blessed to have such a wonderful family πŸ™‚

  86. Sarah

    So So beautiful! I cried reading this….
    As a person who has taken care of premies and other babies in the NICU, I end up distancing myself from the emotions and avoid distractions as I take care of them. but yes, our babies there are alone sometimes…. not that parents do not love and do not want to bethere. But life has to go on…. and we are glad that our babies have guardian angels (both spiritual ones and ones like your father!)
    Such a beautiful story! God listens. St. Joseph prayed for your little joseph.

    Happy birthday little one.

    • Maria

      I just have to say this is probably my fAvorite post I have read by you to date. Thanks for sharing this piece.

  87. Celeste

    So beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.

  88. Roxane B. Salonen

    So beautiful, so profound. The one thing I would have wanted, and expected, was a photo of him today! πŸ™‚ Joseph is a strong, good name. It flows throughout our family too. Thanks so much for bearing your soul, Jen!

  89. Bill

    Happy birthday to Joseph!

    My wife just retired last week after 43 years as an RN, 26 as a NICU nurse in Level 2 and 3 NICUs. I can’t tell you how often I have heard stories like yours from her, especially after tough shifts. RNs have to function outside their emotions in order to do their job, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have those emotions. Practically all of them are also mothers and fathers, and it tears at them to have to park their feelings during the shift about what the babies and their parents are going through. If it will help anyone reading this post and these comments, St. (Padre) Pio is also a wonderful intercessor for babies in the NICU.

    Anyway, well done Jennifer!

  90. Lisa

    Excellent! You are absolutely right about your father!

  91. Amelia

    Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. Happy birthday Joseph!

  92. Francine

    Oh Jen. I’m typing this through tears. What a blessing your dad is. I love seeing the ways that prayers are answered, especially when we don’t know how the answer will come, but it’s still exactly what we prayed for.

  93. Kristen Bright

    I had a son in the NICU (my firstborn) and some of this sounds familiar. What a beautiful story, I cried the whole time reading.

  94. Christina

    Jen, this is why we all love coming back to your blog time and time again. This is why your book will be wonderful and we’d all be crazy not to buy old VW wagons and road trip across the country to follow you during the book tour. Thank you, so much. This was lovely– you are a wonderful example and so is your father. God bless.

  95. Julia

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post. I still have tears in my eyes. I can’t imagine how trying that whole ordeal must have been for you and your family. My first born was moved to the NICU at 2 days old and spent 3 nights there. I will never forget how awful I felt when I came in to be with him and was told that they did a spinal tap on him (before I got there). Thank God for your healthy little guy and Happy Birthday to him!

  96. Claire

    Wonderful story. I am so happy you responded to your instincts and prayed and persevered. I’m with you; it breaks my heart to hear babies cry and not be picked up. The Lord used you and your dad to show His love for your son. Thanks for sharing this.

  97. Anna

    Beautiful post Jen. I definitely sat here crying, my heart breaking with yours over the thought of your baby crying alone. I think that one day, in Heaven, St. Joseph will talk with your dad about the night they spent an evening together, even if your dad didn’t know it at the time. πŸ™‚

  98. Cynthia

    How beautiful. Happy birthday baby boy !!! My son spent sometime in the NICU after a premature birth. Several times each day, the families had to step out of the nursery, a staff briefing I think. Anyway, one day I was waiting outside having a real pity party for myself, wallowing in how no one could understand what they were asking of me when they told me to leave my son. I looked up and on the wall was a large mosaic of Our Blessed Mother. The hospital was called Our Lady of Mercy and I should have known that neither my son or I were ever really alone

  99. Bonnie

    Jen said, “And it makes me choke up a little as I think: You might not believe in my God, but you know him. In fact, I’d say you know him very well.”
    More importantly, God knows your dad, and knows him very well. I hope God breaks into your dad’s life like He did into yours, and suddenly, unexpectedly, your dad finds there is nothing he does not agree with when it comes to God. Because it would be a shame for such a fine, good gentleman such as your father to not wish to enter the Kingdom of God, because he does not believe in Him. That would be a loss for all of us.

  100. Meghan

    I read this twice and cried both times! What a fantastic father! Happy Birthday to your sweet boy!

  101. Karissa

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m not much of a commentor but had to here because this was such a good reminder to me to how God works. He does provide and sometimes it’s not the way we expect and that can be such a beautiful thing. This is a lovely story.

  102. Kay

    Dear Jennifer, Gorgeous post. Amazing what God will do to show us His Love. Saint Joseph is truly glorious and model of all those devoted to labor, of any kind! He is my son’s namesake too. God love you.

  103. Jesabes

    That was a year ago already?? Wow! Such a sweet story.

  104. Laura M

    Probably your best post to date(and that’s saying something). Happy birthday to Joseph!

  105. Catherine

    This is so beautiful–made me cry, and my husband too! Happy Birthday to your little Joseph and many blessings to your family and especially your dad!

  106. Lynn

    This is one of my all time favorite posts. St. Joseph is the best. Your dad is closer to God than he understands, and God to he.

    I understand your prayer perfectly – my youngest two children, twins, were in NICU for 10 days and it was heartbreaking for me to have to leave them at night.

  107. David


    This is one of the best articles I have ever read. I thank God for this article. I wept and prayed. Thank you so much for sharing it! God bless you and your family.

  108. Emily W

    I’m crying. (Not a usual thing) Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  109. Sharon

    Thank you so much for the PERSPECIVE in this post, Jen! It hit close to home because I have two adult daughters who have actively left the church after what I thought was a solid Catholic upbringing. It’s been 5 years of prayer and really learning to trust in God’s timing for me! Now, one daughter is recently married and her husband is interested in RCIA. The other is engaged to an athiest. My spiritual director posed the question: “Who is the God he doesn’t believe in?” That alone has been food for much thought. Sharing the story of your Dad’s love and kindness gives me SO. MUCH. HOPE. I loved the comments from the post-partum moms, as it brought back so many memories of more innocent times. I cried too! God Bless you and your famiy as you celebrate Joseph’s first year.

  110. Beth Anne

    Beautiful story of your Dad…and how has it already been a year? I feel like he was just born?!!? Crazy how time flies!

  111. Erin

    Beautiful, beautiful story!

  112. Bonnie Doherty

    God blesses us in so many ways and His ways are not ours!! May he bless you and your family in abundance!!

  113. Jamie

    Oh I loved this! My 4th was in the NICU unexpectedly, scalp IV and all, and while my OB was gracious to transfer me to the same hospital (I Had a c-section) and keep me in the hospital as LONG as he could, I still had almost two weeks with her there without me. My heart broke every time I left. Fortunately, the NICU was 1 nurse per 2 babies, so at least I felt they could respond to her needs, but it was terrible! What a blessing your father was!

  114. Leslie

    What a beautiful story of agape love,
    from all around…Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  115. Mindy

    This is such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

  116. Gina

    Oh, Jen, what a lovely story. I’m sitting here tearing up. God bless your wonderful dad!

  117. Elise

    What a beautifully written post, Jen. And what an incredible story of our God’s amazing ways. Thank you so much for sharing this. It touched my heart.

  118. Jen Das

    Very moving story of your little Joseph and your dad. I just finished listening to your cd from Lighthouse and so I feel like I know your dad, the kind of principled goodness he lives, always searching for the truth no matter how much it might hurt. He can not be an atheist, not at least the kind who follows it out to its logical conclusion. He knows right from wrong, it’s the natural law written on his heart, on every human heart. I think your special ministry (okay, one of your many special ministries) has to be touching the hearts of atheists. You have already given me so many things to think about when loving and praying for the atheists in my life.

  119. Heidi

    I love this. What a kind Dad and an answer to prayer. Our son was hospitalized shortly after he was born and I was unable to be there for some of the procedures (they didn’t let me). Every time I thought about him going through them I’d get hot, dizzy, nauseated…ugh. Makes me sick still to think of him alone and scared. I’m so glad your Dad was there. What a gift of peace.

  120. Kara

    OMGosh, crying like a baby over here. How beautiful. <3 <3

  121. Heidi

    I just tried to retell this story to my husband (should just read it – you say it so much better than I do) and cried through my whole summary. I did not do it justice. I just love it. I feel like what your Dad did is love. And God is love.

  122. Kelle Smith

    Tears. So wonderful!

  123. Sarah

    Thank you for sharing. What a wonderful testimony.

  124. Nicole

    This was such a great story. I connected on so many levels. I my son who is now 8 yrs old was born 10 weeks premature and spent 7 weeks in the Special Care nursery. I know the feelings of despair when you have to leave the hospital w/o your child and then you have to get the rest of the family back to “normal routines” when things are not normal at all. What I loved most about your story is that you actually recognized that God answered your prayers using someone you “least” expected to fill the role of angel. Not that you wouldn’t expect your dad to do such a loving wonderful thing but like you said he’s usually in bed by 9!! I know the Holy Spirit gave him all he needed those 2 weeks even if he doesn’t know it himself. You can see He has so much love for his family. Beautiful…..way to go Grand Pa!

  125. Aileen

    I love your dad. And I don’t even know him. He is an angel sent by St. Joseph! My heart broke with yours as you told of your poor baby and your despair. How could those nurses!! What a lovely tribute, Jen. God bless you, your wonderful dad and your family!!

  126. Jess

    Thank you so much for writing this – what a beautiful witness. AMEN! And happy (belated) Birthday, Joseph.

  127. Andrea Parunak

    This post made me sob. What an incredible story. And what a beautiful application.

  128. Anna

    Hi Jen. I am new to following your blog. I came across it a few months ago from seeing other friends “Quick Takes.”

    My first baby will be one next month and he also spent the first several days of his life in the NICU, so I can relate to many of the things you had to go through. Praise the Lord that our boys are doing well now!

    I have started a series on my blog called NICI Diaries for mothers of NICU babies to share their stories. If you or anyone else reading would like to check it out!

  129. Bethany


  130. Kathleen

    First time commenting…I’m crying my eyes out. This is so beautiful. God bless you & your family!!

  131. Erika

    I’m sitting here, 36 weeks pregnant, with tears streaming down my face. The tears started when you talked about not being able to hold your baby as he cried in the incubator right after birth and continued when you talked about your dad being there for his IV. I really love how you talked about God working through your dad, whether he believed in Him or not. What a beautiful post, thank you for sharing.

  132. Rachel

    Buried in over 100 comments I do not think you will ever see this but thank you for this story, and for reminding me of Agape. Of how simple an act in can be. It been a struggle lately. So thank you!

  133. Lauren M.

    AHH! I’m so choked up! What a beautiful story…thanks for sharing.

  134. Kathryn Jones

    Thank you! I needed to read this today. Currently struggling with a Dad in the same spot.

  135. Caroline M.

    I should have known this would be a tear-jerker. What stands out to me is the nonchalance of your father – “well of course I stayed, I told you I would.” Jennifer, I am so happy that you are able to see the tremendous love in your father. One of the saddest things to me is when Christians try to downplay the love and goodness of atheists. If God is love, then He’s not going to demand to see a theological statement from someone exhibiting this kind of love. It’s so wonderful that your children have wonderful, loving grandparents so close by!

  136. Mare

    Love this! God uses people all the time who don’t acknowledge him. He’s sneaky that way. Just coming to your blog through Melanie, Sparkly Green Earrings. Love your conversion story. I was raised Catholic, but left for awhile. Once I had kids, I realized I didn’t know anything, and returned to the church. I need a foundation, and I want to live in TRUTH. I write about faith on my blog (Adventures in the Ballpark) but not exclusively. I’m a caretaker for my folks, so I write about that too. I’m working on a book about a Christmas giving project for families – something we’ve been doing for 21 years. So nice to find you! Come visit me, if you’d like. You look like you have many fans! I will definitely follow your blog!

  137. Beth Turner

    So many tears! I’m all choked up! My dad is not a Christian, either, but definitely one of the most selfless, loving men I have ever known.

Connect With Me On Social Media or Explore My Site



The "THIS IS JEN" podcast is on Facebook & all podcast apps


- SubscribeΒ on iTunes or Google Play (audio)

- Get weekly bonus episodes on Patreon

- Sign up for my email list to be the first
to know about new tour dates