Less Is Sometimes More
Just over 15 months ago I sat in a maternity ward room, gazing into the murky newborn eyes of our daughter Alexis. My wife Leah was downstairs in surgery, getting stitched up after an emergency C-section. Even though I wish the circumstances had been different, it did feel like a privilege to be Alexis's first sustained human contact with the world.
Her toes were tiny versions of mine. The groove between the middle of her nose and upper lip matched mine, too. She whimpered; I rocked her and whispered, and she stopped crying. At one-half hour old, she knew exactly what to do to assuage my new-father fears. I was hooked.
Not too long ago, I once again peered over a sterile green sheet to see the doctor lift another baby, our son Tyler, out of Leah's reopened Cesarean scar. This time Leah wanted to hold the baby skin-to-skin before he and I left the operating room, but the midwife in charge noticed Tyler's nostrils flaring and decided that he needed a few hours in the newborn observation unit.
Soon Tyler's breathing stabilized, and while he and I waited for Leah's spinal block to wear off, one of the attending midwives had me hold my son skin-to-skin and put my finger in his mouth so he'd at least begin sucking on some appendage of someone related to him.
I tell these stories because they illustrate important points about fathers bonding with newborns. First, the initial bonding opportunity between newborns and parents (mom and/or dad) can still happen despite adverse circumstances. Second, bonding is not complicated. In fact, many fathers need to be doing less, not more, when they interact with their child.