Benefits of Paternity Leave: Being There
This Is How You Dad
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They say as a parent, you never stop worrying.
Growing up in Canada, my father always told me that “worrying and crying don’t solve anything.” It was a hard lesson he wanted me to adopt because he knew that as a first-generation immigrant, there were going to be many obstacles that I would have to overcome as I made my way in the world.
It was a mantra that I maintained until funny enough, I had children of my own.
At 1:30am on Wednesday, September 5th, my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our third child, Kavya Vira Nadella. Naturally, we were thrilled upon her arrival, but at the same time, we were concerned—she was undersized due to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). For those unfamiliar with IUGR, she was in essence suffering from a lack of nutrition in utero.
Of course, as a parent, your mind starts racing as to whether or not your baby will be delayed both physically and more importantly, mentally. My wife, a psychiatrist, was acutely aware of the possible developmental issues and as such, so was I. They say that ignorance is bliss, and this was one of those moments I wish I was because sadly, this wasn’t the first time my wife and I have been down this road.
My son, Rohan Krishna Nadella, was born on July 11th, 2014. We weren’t expecting him until two weeks later, but it isn’t uncommon for a child to be born early. What was uncommon was the manner in which he was born. My son came into the world with eyes wide open and full of energy. His was the type of birth that any parents would hope.
But as the minutes passed, his energy dissipated and he crashed hard, falling back to sleep. The nurses told us that his blood glucose had dropped and they needed to take him to the NICU (Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit) to monitor him.
At first, we thought it would be for a short while and he would be returned back to us. What was supposed to be a few hours became a day, a day became two, two became three, three became four, and so on.
“I remember driving home every day from the hospital crying. I remember praying a lot.”
Needless to say, my wife and I were incredibly upset. When she was discharged from the hospital after day three, we didn’t even have the privilege that most parents do—to take our child home with us. It broke my heart to see her so upset.
What had happened was, like many South Asian women, my wife was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes during her pregnancy. Although she was very careful to manage it through diet and exercise, what she couldn’t account for was that two weeks prior to our son’s birth, her placenta, the organ that nourishes the fetus, had given out. With it no longer working, my son was basically starving in utero.
During and after my wife was discharged, we would visit the NICU daily to see how Rohan was doing. He had gone so long without proper nourishment that I worried if any serious damage or trauma had occurred.
To this day, I still remember trying to feed him formula in the NICU and noticing how little he was taking. I remember when the nurse had to insert an NG (nasogastric) tube through his nose, past his throat and into his stomach to ensure he was getting the necessary nutrients. I remember how heartbroken my wife was when she saw him crying, not knowing what was going on. I remember how helpless he looked and I remember how helpless I felt. I remember driving home every day from the hospital crying. I remember praying a lot.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what to do and all the plans I had made as a new father seemed to be up in the air. The worst part was that my paternity leave at the time was only five business days. I couldn’t even spend any quality time with my son at our home.
Time stops for no one, and as such, I prepared to get back to work the following Monday. Physically, I would be there bright and early, but mentally and emotionally, I wasn’t ready in the least. My head and more importantly my heart were spent.
But I had a job to do and I had no desire to let my personal life bleed into my professional one. Recalling my father’s words, I didn’t want to talk about my personal issues at work, and I was trying so hard to be strong for my wife at home.
The honest truth though, is that during the weeks that followed, I was an emotional mess. What I needed was more time.
Helena Morrissey, a well-known gender equality advocate and Head of Personal Investing at Legal and General Investment Management, said it best:
Men say they would be encouraged to use policies to support them with balancing work and care if they were confident that this would not be held against them in their careers – and if there were more visible examples from senior leaders in their organization. Often, they hide the extent of their caring responsibilities, leading to stress and a higher propensity to leave their employer. Organizations that can create environments where both men and women feel genuinely able to combine careers with caring will unlock greater employee engagement, loyalty, productivity and results.
Thankfully, there is a happy ending to this story. It ultimately took my son about eight weeks to catch up in weight, but the majority of that time was spent at home rather than the NICU. And for those of you wondering how he’s been doing in the years since, well I think a picture is worth a thousand words.
Now, at 3am and I’m cradling little Kavya Nadella at home. I look at her knowing that four years ago I would have had to return to work the following day. But this time I don’t. This time, I don’t have to worry about work. This time I don’t have to worry about my team. This time I don’t have to worry about sales targets and performance goals. This time I will mentally be there for my child. This time I will emotionally be there for my child. Most importantly, this time I will physically be there for my child.
I’m so grateful to my company, Bloomberg LP, for this time I get to spend with my daughter and my family. Being a parent is a lifelong job and getting to sufficiently bond with my child in these early days makes an incredible difference. My company believes it will make me a stronger person and in the process, so too will it make my daughter stronger.
So keep eating and growing, little Kavya, and leave the worrying to your mother and I. This time, thankfully, I’m not going anywhere.
Senior Sales Manager, Bloomberg LP
Krishna C. Nadella is a senior sales manager at Bloomberg LP.