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It’s been almost one month since I welcomed my first child into the world. On October 25th, after what felt like an eternity, my daughter, Cali Jolie Holland Powell was born – nearly 7 weeks ahead of schedule.  As a result of her early ‘grand entrance’ she had to spend the first week of her life in the NICU (Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit). While I wouldn’t wish the NICU on any parent or child because it can be very stressful and overwhelming, for us it was a blessing in disguise.

As they are with all families of babies who are born premature, the doctors were very cautious about giving us a solid timeline to bring Cali Jolie home. The dates were wide-ranging. We heard discharge dates from Halloween to Thanksgiving and everything in between.  To say we were concerned would obviously be an extreme understatement. After a few days, the doctors were comfortable enough with her progress to give us specifics about when she could go home. Then, they gave us a checklist of three things she needed to accomplish before being discharged: 1) She needed to be able to regulate her own body temperature outside of her incubator, 2) She needed to consistently finish 40ml of milk/formula, and 3) She had to pass a car seat test, which required her to sit in her car seat uninterrupted for 90 minutes without any complications.

After a relatively short stay in the NICU (8 days) we were so excited when the doctors told us we could bring Cali Jolie home! Most new parents experience a “now what?!” moment after bringing their newborns home for the first time. But for us, this wasn’t the case.  Working closely with the doctors, nurse practitioners, and nurses in the NICU we established goals, plans, and a routine for her while she was still in the hospital.  So, upon her arrival at home, our new life was less complicated. All we needed to do was follow and execute the plan. We knew her feeding schedule, her sleep schedule, and we had metrics for how much she should be eating and using the bathroom. We also had established a pretty good system of communicating with Cali Jolie and each other.

We had a goal but more importantly we had a plan. For two first time parents that was EVERYTHING! It made a stressful situation much easier to manage. We knew what we were looking for, we knew how to support her, we knew when to ask for help, what to ask for and we knew what milestones to track and celebrate as we were on the road to achieving our goal.

As a consultant and success coach I work with individuals and teams every day to help them achieve their goals. I always emphasize the importance of not just having goals, but to have a plan, metrics, and timelines that support meeting those goals. The birth of our baby girl was a live case study of what happens when a team works together, has a goal and has a plan.

Now don’t get me wrong. Having a goal and a plan doesn’t mean that things will be easy. This situation was still difficult, scary, challenging and full of angst. However, having a goal and a plan did make it more manageable. It helped us manage our energy, our emotions, and our expectations.

We are so thankful for our team. So thankful for our plan. And so thankful that we achieved our goal – getting baby girl home. She is doing great. Growing every day. And thankfully letting Mom and Dad get some rest at night. Just like we planned it. Now the fun begins 😊.