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Ask a Man Who Owns One : Fresh Infants Challenge Even the Veteran Daddies

June 18, 1988|JOHN NEEDHAM | Times Staff Writer

The men get beepers--for the wives' peace of mind, they said. They got "new owners manuals," with pointers on seat covers (diapers), the fuel system (feeding), and the air intake and outlet (the mouth).

The beepers and the booklet are part of a "dads class" begun in February by St. Jude Hospital Yorba Linda and given once a month for men about to become fathers--most of them for the first time.

The class, supervised by a doctor who is also a father, gives the men a chance to sit around with the guys and talk about what is on their minds.

Sex, for instance.

"At first there were a couple of women there (when his class began)," Daryl Deliman remembered. "Then we started talking about sex, and they left. As well they should have."

In Lamaze classes that Deliman had attended, the incipient fathers worked on "coaching and breathing techniques" that their wives would use during childbirth.

"Everything taught in the fathers' class was completely different," he said. "It was on (men's) roles and a little bit on parenting. . . . We were a good deal more open because the wives weren't there. Some of the guys were scared their wives would be scarred by the Caesarean section and how they would respond to that sexually, things you wouldn't dream of bringing up in the presence of your pregnant wife."

Deliman, 38, a sales representative now about to celebrate his first Father's Day as the honoree, said the main lesson he got from the class was "a little better appreciation of what your wife is going through and how she is going to feel" after childbirth.

Scott Pate, who works for Southern Pacific's police force, left the class after receiving a clutch of predictions--all of which came true.

As predicted, his wife is "up all night with the kid." As predicted, they don't get to see each other as much as they would like. As predicted, the first time they left their son, Thomas John, born March 8, they missed him badly, worried about the care he was getting and cut short their time away to rush home and check on him.

Even Ken Waday, who had been through this fatherhood thing not just once, but twice before, thought he needed the class. Well, actually his wife recommended that he take it.

Waday and his wife's first daughter was born 19 years ago. The second was born 15 years ago--when Richard Nixon was President, Japanese cars were novelties in America and the delivery room was off limits to husbands.

The major change in hospitals in the last 15 years "is the liberalization of letting the father come into the birthing room with the mother, involving both parents during delivery," said Waday, an admirer of the new procedures.

A Yorba Linda resident who is production control administrator for Hughes Aircraft in Fullerton, Waday said the class "gave me an idea what to look forward to."

"It kind of prepares you to know what you should do around the house, mainly," Waday said.

The class suggested that men help out around the house, relieving exhausted wives. Waday took two weeks off to "wait on" Kristine, his wife, and his new daughter, Alyssa.

Sue McInerny, community relations director for the hospital, said the purpose of the class is not necessarily to prepare fathers for what to do when the baby comes home. "We try to make them aware of the long-term role (of fathers)," she said.

But Dr. Gregg DeNicola, a pediatrician-obstetrician who teaches the class, said "it actually is more of a dads support class."

DeNicola said the men share concerns about the sexual needs of their wives and themselves, about eventually paying for a college education, stretching the budget to feed another mouth and, if there is already a child or two in the family, how not to neglect the other kids.

The men "find they're not the only ones thinking about these things," DeNicola said.

McInerny said that St. Jude Fullerton, the Yorba Linda institution's sister hospital, has begun a similar program but that the Fullerton hospital uses a social worker, not a doctor, to teach the class--and doesn't loan beepers.

She said the loan of beepers to expectant fathers is primarily "a comfort system" for both parents-to-be. "We're such a mobile society" that it helps the man and the woman to know the man will be available when labor begins, she said.

The beeper came in handy for Deliman. He was playing tennis when it went off. He drove straight to the hospital, meeting his wife there as she began labor.

Pate was at home when his wife's labor began. She set off his beeper anyway, waking him up.

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