Friday, May 16, 2008

Q & A with James di Properzio at Natural Birth and Baby Care

Kristen Burgess at Natural Birth and Baby Care did a Q & A with co-author James di Properzio for her stop on the blog book tour. Here's an excerpt:
Do you think it’s important for fathers-to-be to prepare for fatherhood before the birth of their babies?

I do think that, unless you have had a lot of experience with babies already, you need some information, but mostly you need to get psychologically ready. Everyone, men and women alike, has a variety of things they are going to be anxious about while expecting a first baby, no matter what. Entering a role you aren’t in the habit of filling is stressful, but far more so if you aren’t clear on what’s expected of you, of what to expect of yourself. We paint a picture of a natural role for fathers as primary parents, whether they are the primary caregiver or work long hours out of the house. My dad bonded well with me when I was a baby, even though he only saw me awake first thing in the morning and at bedtime when he got home form work, just by making the most of the time and really wanting to interact with me.

Can the book help dads get ready?

That’s what it all about: getting psychologically ready to greet your baby with open arms, with a picture in mind of the dad you want to be and confidence that you know what to do with a newborn and aren’t making it all up as you go. It gives you the full framework of what to do, and why, and I talk personally about my experiences, too. Plus the pictures of dozens of joyful dads with their babies are a good image to have in your head as fatherhood approaches.

Do you think it would be helpful to fathers already parenting their babies?

I do, though what they get from it will depend on the dad. Most experienced dads will be comfortable already with most of what we talk about, but will still find a few things they might like to add to their bonding repertoire. Dads still feeling apprehension, or like they don’t have the bond with the baby that they want, or the comfort and confidence in their role as a father, will find it helpful and encouraging. And any dad will enjoy the reinforcement of these ideas, as well as the celebration of fathers and babies in the beautiful photographs by Christopher Briscoe. A good gauge of this is that moms whose kids aren’t even babies any more have really been enjoying the book, as a verbal and visual picture of fully-engaged fatherhood.

I think the short format and small sections of the book are easy for busy dads to read - have you found the book is easier for women to get their partners to read than some of the other dad books on the market?

Our idea was that men could read it topic-by-topic as things caught their eye, and each topic can be read in on very brief sitting, a minute or two–even a visit to the bathroom. It’s an eye-catcher and an easy read, and the whole book can be read in one sitting, less than an hour. Already some reviewers have said they got their husbands who wouldn’t willingly read the big, encyclopedic parenting guides to read this book–and even to pass it on to other men who are expectant dads. It’s written to be inviting, and to be enjoyed. That’s our idea to convey about fatherhood, too.

A lot of my site visitors are looking for a more “hands-on” or “attachment” style of parenting - is your book a good way to introduce that to dads?

Our book is aimed at all new dads, but it advocates ‘attachment fathering’ without saying so. In fact, the point of the book is to help men get over the gap our culture traditionally sets up between men and babies–what you might call ‘distance fathering.’ Men today are open to engaged parenting, but that is not how they were raised, for the most part, and so they haven’t absorbed a model for how to do it. I’ve been amazed that even among the people I went to college with there are still guys who never change a diaper! I mention in the book that when Muhammad Ali and his wife were expecting their first child, reporters asked jokingly if the champ was going to change diapers. He said no, adding that it was women’s work. But years later his wife revealed that when the baby was born, Ali, without asking anyone for help, taught himself to change diapers, because he wanted to do it.

We talk about the pleasures of holding your baby, talking to the baby and caring for her and wearing her in front packs and back, about the value of skin-to-skin contact. I want to address even the most apprehensive or old-style dads, and get them more involved. There aren’t any big tricks or volumes of information to cover–it’s as simple as being hands-on and seeing yourself as a primary parent, not a secondary one after the mom.

It was perfectly clear to me that if I followed the well-trodden path and let my wife do most of the baby care and handling, I would stay there, at arm’s length from the baby. I knew I would regret that. This book is all about closing that gap, and bringing the baby from arm’s length right into the father’s arms.
Read the entire post here.

Read her full book review here.

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