fatherhood

Mamas on Bedrest: What’s Dad Got to do With it?

June 18th, 2017

In the birthing world, dad’s often take a very distant third place behind the baby and the mama (and usually in that order!). Many men have told me that they want to support their partners, but are unsure how, and feel left in the dark when its time to make major decisions.  My own experience having my daughter was a prime example. When my daughter was first delivered by c-section, she was having difficulty breathing so they whisked her over to the warming table to clear her airway and check her out. Meanwhile, my uterus would not contract as it should have and I began bleeding. As my obstetrician went to work on me and the neonatal team was working on my daughter, my daughter’s father was standing in the middle of the floor clueless as to what was happening. He says of that day,

“I didn’t know if I was going to come home with one of you, both of you or neither of you!”

Health care providers often neglect to acknowledge and include fathers in the perinatal process. While this oversight is almost always unintentional, health care providers and other birth workers often explain their actions with,

“I’m so focused on the well being of mama and baby, I kind of forget about the needs of the dad.”

This is a horrible oversight on the part of the medical team, and a terrible omission of a very valuable resource.

When a woman is pregnant, and even more notably when she is in labor, she’s very vulnerable. She can’t function at her normal level due to the physical changes going on in her own body, and as her body is developing the fetus. She needs her partner more than ever to help with very practical activities around the house as well as for emotional support. In my time as a doula, as much as I love supporting the women I serve, a wonderfully supportive partner almost always trumps what I can offer a mom. The bond that the couple shares having created the baby is now heightened as that baby makes its way into the world. Whether he is quietly whispering encouragement in her ear, massaging her back during contractions or literally holding her up as she labors dads’ strength and very presence are often the most soothing balm for a laboring mama.

And dads’ presences are critical to the growth and development of their children. Not only do dads give infants a sense of safety and security, as children develop, dads’ influence contributes to a lower rate of behavior problems, delinquency, depression, substance abuse and overall psychological adjustment.(1) Additionally,

“Knowing that kids feel loved by their father is a better predictor of young adults’ sense of well-being, of happiness, of life satisfaction than knowing about the extent to which they feel loved by their mothers,”

says Ronald Rohner, the director of the Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut.(2)

Dads seem to also be responsible for giving their children persistence. Laura Padilla Walker, a researcher from Brigham Young University found that dads who provide loving but firm guidance, and encourage their children to persist-even when it’s hard-endow their children with life long persistence that is closely linked to future success. Additionally, a persistent personality, in turn, was related to less delinquency and more engagement in school over time.

“Our study suggests fathers who are most effective are those who listen to their children, have a close relationship, set appropriate rules, but also grant appropriate freedoms,” study researcher Laura Padilla-Walker.

So none of this is really anything new. We know that dads are important and that their presence and loving interaction have a tremendous positive impact on their children. So today, Father’s Day, show some dads that you know some love-whether it’s your own father, a father figure, or a guy that you know who is really giving his all to be there for his children. And it’s not whether or not a dad is in love with the mother that counts. It is important for children to see their parents treating one another with respect. But parents don’t have to be married to exert their loving positive influences on their children. It’s their presence in their children’s lives that matters most.

Happy Fathers Day to all the dads!!!

Share a story of a great father that you know in our comments section below!!

 

References:

The Huffington PostThe Important Role of Dad, By Dr. Gail Gross. June 12, 2014

LiveScience – The Science of Fatherhood: Why Dad’s Matter. Stephanie Pappas, June 15, 2012

The University of Connecticut, Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance & Rejection

Laura M. Padilla-Walker, Randal D. Day, W. Justin Dyer, Brent C. Black The Journal of Early Adolescence, vol. 33, 4: pp. 433-457., First Published June 18, 2012.
Transnational Relations Between Perceived Parental Acceptance and Personality Dispositions of Children and Adults: A Meta-Analytic Review.A. Khaleque, R. P. Rohner. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2011; 16 (2): 103 DOI: 10.1177/1088868311418986

 

Mamas on Bedrest: Why it’s critical that WE celebrate fathers

June 17th, 2015

Hello Mamas,

Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 21st. How are you planning to celebrate the very special man in you and your baby’s life?

Perhaps you are thinking,

“My baby’s father isn’t in our lives!”

I hear you. I am no longer with my children’s father, yet he is an important part of their lives-and mine as we are co-parenting them. But if you have remarried, or there is a “father figure” in your child’s life who has stepped up and stepped in and is fulfilling the role and duties of father, I invite you to celebrate that man this Sunday (and everyday!!)

I know that this website is Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond, and the whole focus is to provide you with the tools and support that you need to have a fantastic pregnancy and a healthy baby. But I would be remiss, and some may even go so far as to say that my actions would be unethical, if I didn’t highlight the important role of fathers-biologic and otherwise-in the lives of birthing women and their babies.

So let’s start with mamas. Fathers/partners provide emotional support throughout the pregnancy. Yeah, sometimes they just don’t get us, but hey, there are times when we don’t get us either! Those who are present are taken on the rollercoaster ride that is pregnancy; full of ups, downs, mood swings, close calls and the joys of labor, delivery and-the baby! As overwhelming as childbearing is for us, imaging how colossal it must be for men?  They have to watch the woman that they love (hopefully) grow, change, be uncomfortable (often times sick!!), be on bed rest, endure the endless tests and treatments and then the grand finale-labor and delivery (or a c-section, major surgery) and be able to do very little to make the situation better for her. For many guys, this is this side of insanity! Guys inherently want to fix things and when it comes to childbearing, after insemination, there really isn’t much for them to do but watch and wait. And yes, for some men, this is too much and they leave. So kudos to those who stay, stick it out and hang in when the going is tough and are a solid rock for their women to lean on and rest upon.

The influence of a father, a daddy (a man who provides more than mere sperm donation!) in the lives of children is priceless. According to the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, 

“When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, especially their education, their children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior.”

In 2006, Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox, PhD co-authored a manual on fatherhood through the US Department of Health and Human Services, through the Administration for Children and Families,  the Administration on Children, Youth and Families and the Children’s Bureau Office on Child Abuse and Neglect called, “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children.” In this publication Rosenberg and Wilcox note that children raised by loving, married parents learn how a man is to treat a woman in the context of a healthy relationship. They also note that even when the parents aren’t married and don’t live together, children who see their fathers speaking to and treating their mothers with respect and courtesy learn that men are supposed to treat women with respect and courtesy (boys) and they learn that behavior that is not respectful and courteous is not acceptable (girls). In summary, Rosenberg and Wilcox found the following characteristics in children who had active fathers in their lives (regardless of the parental relationships)

  • Children with involved, caring fathers have better education outcomes that start in preschool and continue throughout their school careers.
  • Children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighborhood.
  • Fathers spend a much higher percentage of their one-on-one interaction with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. As such, children whose fathers engage in rough housing are more likely to learn to cope with aggressive behaviors and learn its okay to strike out and explore without being anxious.
  • Children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie and were more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior.
  • Boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems
  • Girls had stronger self­ esteem.
  • Children who live with their fathers are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, and to avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior.

What this study also found and what was also confirmed by a study done by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention is that lower income fathers are no less involved in their children’s lives than higher earning dads. In fact, many lower income fathers are more “hands on” with their children, especially those who didn’t live with their children all the time; caring for their children on weekends and for other extended periods of time and providing all the care and nurturing that mothers provide in addition to financial support.

I think that fathers are the unsung heroes of families. Yes, we mamas do much to keep that family moving and shaking, but a good dad really holds the family together. So this Sunday, do a little something special for the dads in you and your children’s lives. And Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!!

 

 

Dad and Me

Me and My Dad, circa 1968.

 

References

The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2006). “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children”. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. Written By Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox, PhD.

20 Reasons Why Your Child Needs You to Be an Active Father Prepared by Stephen D. Green, Ph.D., Child Development Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, October 2000.

The Effects of Father Involvement: An Updated Research Summary of the Evidence Sarah Allen, PhD and Kerry Daly, PhD. Centre for Families, Work & Well-Being, University of Guelph 2007

Mamas on Bedrest: The Myth of the Missing Black Father Debunked

May 19th, 2015

Greetings Mamas!!

Seldom do I revert to childish gloating, but occasionally I just have to go there. Such is the case as I am gleefully reading the report put out by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention utilizing data from the National Center for Health Statistics which shows that Black fathers are just as engaged-if not more so-in the rearing and support of their children than fathers of other races. 

Excuse me while I take a moment to gloat.

Yeeeeeeeee haw!!!!!

Yaaaaaaaahoooooo!!!

“Ha! Told yaaaaaaa!!”

“Na na na na na, you were wrong!!!!!”

Now you may be wondering why I am so over the moon about this research? Well, there are several reasons.

1. I am sick to death of hearing how black men are no good, they “hit it and quit it” and don’t take responsibility for the children that they help create.

2. I am sick and tired of hearing that all the ills of the world are because of black men.

3. I am thoroughly done with the portrayal of black men-black people actually-as uncivilized and bringing down the status of US culture globally.

4. And I am beyond through with this nation feeling that it is okay to kill a black male simply because he is present in time and space!

Now you all may be wondering, “What in God’s name does any of this have to do with high risk pregnancy and bed rest??” Well, it has everything to do with it. As I have often reported, African American women and infants have the worst birth outcomes of any other race or ethnicity in the US, with 2-4 times the morbidity and mortality of women and infants of other races and ethnicities. An African American infant is more than twice as likely to die before its first birthday than infants of other races and ethnicities and this is due primarily to preterm birth!!!

Are you following me yet?

Let me continue. Ever since I can remember and at least for my adult professional life “the party line” regarding the black family has been,

“It’s the breakdown of the black family, and the absence of black fathers in particular, that is the cause of the high maternal and infant morbidity and mortality that exists amongst African Americans.”

As an African American, and now as a divorced single mama, I knew that isn’t at all the case but had no way of substantiating what I knew to be true. Now there is concrete data obtained by one of the most reputable scientific bodies in the United States that has shown what many of us African Americans already knew. Yes, many more African American children are born to  and/or raised by “single” mothers, but what this study has shown is that while the parents of a child may not be married, they may in fact be together (co-habitating) and even if they are not living together, African American fathers are intricately involved in the rearing of and support (and here I do mean financially) of their children, in many cases more than White or Latino fathers.

IMG_0200

My son and his dad reading at the library.

 

So again you may be asking, “What does this have to do with preterm labor and infant mortality?” Stay with me.

There is a lot going on in the United States as regards race and quite frankly none of it is good. We have all seen and heard the news reports of police shooting unarmed African American men, racial profiling of both African American men and women, disparities in discipline for African American School Children and so on and so on and so on. These are daily facts of life, daily stressors for African American women, and daily stressors for the infants they are carrying. Additionally, poverty for all families is reaching heights not seen since the great depression and other times in our history. The unemployment rate is still teetering on the high side and looms highest amongst African American men. More depressing is the fact that people of any race with higher educations are now just as likely as those with little to no education to endure a prolonged time of unemployment, and those numbers are again higher for African American men. This amounts to markedly elevated stress for African American men and African American women, their partners. Stress, as well as poverty, is not good for anyone, but particularly not good for pregnant African American women and the infants that they are carrying. We know that stress is an independent risk factor for preterm labor, prematurity and low birth weight all areas in which African Americans have the highest rates. So I think that it is safe to say that poverty, unemployment and racism are far strong predictors and stressors on maternal and infant morbidity and mortality in African Americans than “absentee dads”.

Now I know that many of you are going to come right back at me and say, “But what about black on black violence? What about the crime rates in predominantly black neighborhoods? And we know that many African American men abandon their family responsibilities.” Agreed. But the data from this study, which was broad and the study well constructed, shows that despite all these negative influences, African American men continue to be hands on fathers, and at greater rates than white or Latino fathers.

I wholeheartedly admit that there is much that needs to be done within my culture to heal it. But let’s not look astray too much to lay blame. Much of what we see in these urban, depressed areas is poverty; boarded up buildings, non-existent stores and services, poorer schools and no revenue coming into these areas. Add to that no jobs, no way for people in these areas to support themselves and their families, no money, leads to crime and yes, homicides. Is it okay? No. Is it an excuse? Of course not. But let’s consider the fact that if people in these areas had jobs, income and ways in which to support and sustain their families, then, according to data from the CDC again, crime rates would in fact go down and quality of life would go up.

But I myself have veered a bit off topic. The bottom line is this-even in depressed economic times, even in economically depressed communities, even when jobless, even with the threats to their lives black men are taking care of their children. Contrary to the sensationalized news reports and the stereotypic depictions on television and in movies, black men are taking care of their children-their families. The question now becomes, how can we as a culture, as a nation give them a hand so that this can continue? What are we as a nation, as a culture doing to reduce poverty, increase jobs, increase opportunities for education so that not just black men, but all men, can have the means to raise and support their children?

Finally, we have to ask the question, “Have we too narrowly defined “family”? We know from this work that there are men and women living together and raising their children but not married, or married and helping to raise their spouse’s children. Aren’t they still a family? What about blended families? Large extended families? This is all data that is yet to be analyzed-or even obtained. We know that African Americans being of the African diaspora are a “tribal” people. Migration and dispersion-both voluntary and involuntary-has also played a role in the depressed socioeconomic status of African Americans resulting in decreased community support for families. How are we as African Americans going to re-establish our communities and our families going forward?

There are many unanswered questions and I am sure that many more studies will come about, but what we do know is this: African American men are supporting their children and its time to toss out the stereotypes of them as “absentee fathers” and do what we can to support their efforts and the efforts of all men who want to be active parents to their children.

References:

Jo Jones, Ph.D., and William D. Mosher, Ph.D., “Father’s Involvement With Their Children: United States, 2006–2010”. National Health Statistics Report, Number 71, December 20, 2013

The Causes of Infant Mortality-The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

African-American Women and Their Babies at a Higher Risk for Pregnancy and Birth ComplicationsThe US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Black Unemployment Rate 2015: In Better Economy, African-Americans See Minimal GainsInternational Business Times.

Murry, V. M., Brown, P. A., Brody, G. H., Cutrona, C. E. and Simons, R. L. (2001), “Racial Discrimination as a Moderator of the Links Among Stress, Maternal Psychological Functioning, and Family Relationships.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 63: 915–926. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00915. x

The Absent Black Father Myth Debunked-by CDCThe Daily Kos