Engrossment is the term researchers use to describe the father's total absorption and preoccupation with the presence of a newborn. This term could be expanded to describe the early weeks of family life. The first few hours after the delivery are a very important time for the "new family" to be together. The bonding triangle of mother, father, and baby is facilitated by both parents talking to the baby. The most important aspect to family bonding and new fathers is the aspect of "time." If the new father can have the time to be with his partner and child, the natural process of bonding will take place. There is nothing the father needs to do but spend the time with his new family. As fathers get to know their newborns, they often find a new level of feeling is awakened in them.
This too is an especially important time to be with and talk to other fathers about your experience. It can deepen your own experience, as well as validate your growing sense of what "being a father" is all about. Not being isolated as a new father and having other resources than your partner to share the many changes new fathers go through is important. Being in a father's group is one way to find affiliation with a group of men/fathers.
Fathers are looking for a psychologically satisfying place within their families. There are many benefits to the father's involvement in pregnancy, birth, and the early years of his child/children's lives. These benefits are not only for his child and wife/partner but for his own understanding of what it is to be man and a father. What I have seen in my work with fathers is that we, as fathers, need to share our experience and support each other. Our dialog as a community of men/fathers helps us understand and appreciate the most important and dynamic life transition: becoming a father.
Bruce Linton, Ph.D. is founder and director of the Fathers' Forum programs for expectant and new fathers. He is a former contributing editor to "Full-Time-Dads" magazines, and columnist for Parents' News in San Francisco, California. He is the author of Finding Time for Fatherhood (Berkeley Hills Books, 2000). Bruce is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and received his doctorate for his research on men's development as fathers.
Copyright © Bruce Linton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.