Whether it’s Facebook, blogs, Twitter, or spokespeople for preemies in general, mothers are at the forefront of sharing their stories about premature children and helping families who are going through the preemie experience. While there are some examples of male voices in this arena, they are certainly a miniscule minority (to put it nicely).
So where are all the dads?
To answer this question, let’s rule out some of the obvious myths.
- Dads don’t have preemies – clearly not the case;
- Dads don’t care about their preemies – not true at all;
- Dads don’t have time to tell their stories – implies that women have more time, which is also totally bunk;
- Dads don’t know how to share their stories – could be some truth to that, but not THE reason; and
- Dads don’t want to hear from other dads – completely bogus. Men want to hear the experiences of other preemie fathers. And guess what? Women want to hear from fathers as well.
Much of what can and should be shared about the preemie experience requires a person to express a vulnerability that many men are reluctant to reveal. If someone is honestly voicing their story about a deeply personal, family matter that may be tied to feelings such as disappointment, fear, anger, self-pity, guilt, denial as well as positive feelings, it leaves the writer/speaker very vulnerable. This may be over-generalizing males, but feelings of vulnerability tend to be a place men would rather not go.
The NICU was the most concentrated period of emotion, both good and bad, that I have ever felt in my life. I never expected to spend four months waiting to bring home my son, Jack, who was born at 23-weeks gestation. Those feelings were ones I had felt before, but not in such an intense, whirlwind context that left me emotionally and physically drained. Both moms and dads of preemies feel those same things, but it’s the moms that have truly seized the opportunity to reach out to other parents. They only have a near monopoly because we don’t share more of our stories.
As a new contributor to Papas of Preemies, I plan to use my next few posts to explore some of those feelings that new parents, including new dads, often feel as they find themselves in the foreign world of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I hope more fathers take a moment to share their experiences so that others may benefit from them.