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Gift of God: A Father's Reflection on the Birth of a Child

This is a post from Michael Yudt, NFI's Director of Program Support Services.

My third son, Nathanael Wayne, was born on February 18th at 8:25am. When my wife (Kelly) and I went to bed on Friday, February 17th, I was thinking we would awake the next morning just like we do on a typical Saturday. However, this was no typical Saturday.

Apparently, Kelly tried to wake me up a couple times at night to let me know she was having contractions. I have no recollection of that whatsoever… I eventually woke up around 4am and had this feeling that I was not going back to sleep. I noticed that I was alone in bed and figured that Kelly must have made her way to the couch, which is typical for her during the last trimester (she finds the couch to be more comfortable).

With my mind racing about a number of things, I made my way close to where I thought Kelly was sleeping to find her wide awake and having contractions. It became clear pretty quickly that this was the “real deal.” As a father and husband, I knew my job at that point was to “spring into action” (a favorite phrase of my near-4-year-old son, Caleb)

Our youngest son at the time (Joshua, nearly 2) is an early riser and this day was no exception. He was awake shortly after 5am and with the excitement of the day we knew he was up for good. When Kelly’s parents arrived at our house, we finished getting everything together, said our goodbyes, and headed for the hospital. Before leaving, I told our oldest son, Caleb, “Today is the day the baby is going to be born.” He responded with a sense of great joy in his voice: “That’s right, today is the day!” Excitement was welling up inside of me knowing that this was the day we would hold our newborn baby.

Upon arriving at the hospital, I knew that Kelly was disappointed when we were taken to the triage room, instead of the labor and delivery room. It’s rather funny, but the unspoken truth at the time was we both were hoping for an even faster labor than the rather quick one we had with Joshua (4 hours). With Kelly looking at the clock, I knew she wanted the baby to be born before 8:30am and she got her wish. Arriving at 8:25am, Nathanael Wayne was 8 lbs 7 oz and 20 ½ inches long. However, that’s not what defined him at that moment. When Nathanael first appeared, my wife and I shared his name with the medical staff that were present. Kristin, one of the nurses, didn’t miss a beat in sharing her knowledge of the name when she remarked that Nathanael means “gift of God.” Indeed, that’s exactly what he is and will always be!

As fathers, our job is to cherish each of our children as a precious gift. And that doesn’t end after the emotional high of the child’s birth. That is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week role that lasts a lifetime. I wonder how our world would be different if we had more fathers that viewed and treated each of their children as a gift from God. Nathanael, just like my other sons, was a gift the day he was born, is a gift the day I am writing this, the day you are reading this, and he will always be a gift - each and every day of his life. My encouragement and challenge to all fathers is to look at each of your children regardless of how old they are (yes, even adult children) with the same sparkle that you did the day they were born. After all, every child needs and wants unconditional love from their father. And that is a gift that we can give our children that is truly priceless…

Lifelong Commitment

Mike Yudt, NFI's Director of Donor Relations, and his wife, Kelly, just welcomed their second child, Joshua. Mike shares his thoughts on his growing family and meeting his little guy:

How quickly things can happen…

Biology Matters

Last night I watched the premiere of the new ABC show, "Find My Family." The show helps people find family members that they have lost contact with, such as adopted children, biological fathers, sisters, etc.

Last night's episode was about a couple who wanted to find their first daughter, who they had given up for adoption when they were teenagers. She is now 29-years-old and the parents had been searching for her for the last 9 years. They were reunited with her at the end of the show.

I grew up with my own two parents, so I don't know what it is like to know that you have close biological relatives out there somewhere that you have never met. But the truth that emerged from the tear-filled show last night is that biology matters.

Here were people who had never met before, yet they all had a powerful, undeniable urge to be connected with others who are a part of them. The daughter wanted to know where she came from; to know "who she was." The parents wanted to know the child they had created together; they wanted to see that part of them that would live on after they are gone.

It is important to note that this is not a criticism of adoption - the daughter had been adopted by two loving parents who cared for her and gave her a good life. Adoption is a wonderful thing. But the fact that she did have such a positive upbringing with her adoptive parents is actually further evidence of the power of biology - she still wanted to know her true parents and have a relationship with them despite her great relationship with her adoptive parents.

From NFI's perspective, the show demonstrated why father absence matters. As Roland Warren, NFI's president is fond of saying, "Children have a hole in their soul in the shape of their father." Again, people want to know where they came from, as it helps them define who they are. Father absence makes that task all the more difficult.

In the previews of upcoming episodes, you hear people saying things like, "A part of me was missing that I needed to fill." Surely, we don't fully understand what is happening here, but clearly, people continue to ask that age old question, "Who am I?" In a culture that would downplay the importance of biology in defining family, this show was a powerful reminder that you can't deny DNA.

Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh...

I received the below note from a friend who just became a father:

“I gotta say I first really felt like a father when I was holding her after she was born...she looked up at me and something inside me turned on, that I'd never felt.”

Powerful stuff indeed… Interestingly, I had a similar experience when the nurse put my first son, Jamin, in my arms. I was just 20 years old and, admittedly, a bit scared. I was clearly more comfortable on a football field than in a delivery room, and more comfortable with a football in my arms than a baby.

But when they handed Jamin to me, something in me just…clicked…like a light switch. When he looked up at me I said to myself, “Wow…this is my son.” Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Fatherhood changes everything.

I also remember feeling that I was grossly unprepared for my new role, especially since I grew up without my dad. Sure, I had attended LaMaze classes and a few prenatal doctor visits, and read selected pages from my wife’s “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book. But none of these things really spoke to me or seemed to be for me. And it seemed that my feeling and experience were not unique. In our Pop's Culture Survey, we found that nearly ½ of the fathers surveyed reported that they were not prepared to be fathers when they first became one.

That’s one of the reasons that when I joined NFI 8 years ago, I championed our efforts to develop resources like “Doctor Dad™,” “When Duct Tape Won’t Work™,” and “Daddy Packs for New Dads™” to equip dads right from the start. Unlike me, fathers need to walk into the delivery room with more than just a bit of anxiety and a checkbook and need to walk out of the delivery room with more than just the bill and the baby.

In any case, got a story about becoming a dad for the first time? I’d love to hear it. Also, if you are about to become a father and want to share about what is going on or if you’re a mom and want to tell about how becoming a dad affected the father of your children, chime in as well.

Dads in the Delivery Room

NFI's Associate VP of National Programming, Ken Gosnell, just appeared on the Dr. Nancy show on MSNBC to debate the question: should dads be banned from the delivery room when their children are being born? Apparently a doctor in London has published a paper that says fathers (even male doctors) should be banned from the delivery room because it is better for mom.

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