A Father’s Brain

My father loved infants.  He was the most excited person in the family when my mom was pregnant and he always made the announcement.  I must have either missed or forgotten the announcement about an incoming sibling when I was five years old.  My mom disappeared one day and after a week I thought she wasn’t coming back.  I was outside honing my survival skills by lighting matches when my folks drove up.  My mom carried something squirming in a yellow blanket.  My dad told me to put the matches away and come in the house to see the new baby.  I obeyed and put the matches away but the squirming thing looked like trouble so I passed on that.

My father loved girls.  Four of his five children were girls.  One of the few times I saw him cry was when my youngest sister died from leukemia at the age of three. My father had to wait 40 years for another girl to arrive in the family, a great-granddaughter.  She had a close bond with my father and wrote a touching story about him when he died.

My father loved story-telling. He would get a twinkle in his eye and commence telling a humorous story with a straight face while the rest of us roared with laughter.  In his last remaining years, he would ask me to drive him around the farm that has been in our family for 100 years.  He would tell me stories of what had happened during the early days.

Every Father’s Day I recall my father’s stories, his character, and his deep love for his family.  This year I’ve also discovered some interesting research about a father’s brain. Consider the following:

  • A study of expectant fathers showed that midpregnancy ultrasound is a key moment in connecting with the baby. However, while moms think about cuddling the baby, dads think about the child’s future.
  • A father’s brain changes while caring for a baby, similar to brain changes in the mother, to reflect his new care-giving role.
  • According to brain scans, fathers with toddler daughters are more attentive and responsive to their daughters’ needs than fathers with toddler sons are to the needs of sons.

If my father were still here, I would share the brain research findings with him. But I already know how he would respond.  He would just laugh.  Because he already knew that.


NFPN has many resources on father involvement.  For an overview visit http://www.nfpn.org/father-involvement

In honor of Father’s Day, NFPN is offering The Complete Guide to Father Involvement (http://www.nfpn.org/father-involvement/guide-to-father-inv) FREE with purchase of:

Basic Fatherhood Training Curriculum Package: http://www.nfpn.org/father-involvement/basic-training-package

Advanced Fatherhood Training Curriculum Package: http://www.nfpn.org/father-involvement/advanced-training-pack

Pricing begins at $150 per training package for up to 25 workers or $275 for both.  For ordering and more info contact Priscilla Martens, director@nfpn.org.

Posted by Priscilla Martens

NFPN Executive Director


Mother’s Day

In the 25 years of National Family Preservation Network’s (NFPN) existence, there has never been a News Notes about Mother’ Day.  Let’s remedy that now!

I vividly recall Mother’s Day 2013.  At 5:30 a.m. that morning, my sister called.  When you have elderly parents, the phone calls always come between midnight and 6:00 a.m. and they are never good.  She said my mom was on the way to the hospital in an ambulance.  By the time I arrived, my mom was regaining consciousness and was able to give a big smile to her two daughters, perhaps thinking she would be able to spend Mother’s Day with most of her family which turned out to be the case.

The attending doctor was less cheerful and said there were so many things wrong with my mom that he gave her only a 50-50 chance of surviving the day.  After he left the room, we pondered that for a while and then my sister said, “I don’t know—Mom’s color is good now—I think she’ll be okay.”  Since my sister had known my mom for a lot longer time than the doctor, I decided to go with her prognosis.  And she was right!  But that was the beginning of a 17-day hospital odyssey.

During those 17 days I learned every nook and cranny in the hospital, the personalities of all the nursing staff, and the healthy choices menu in the cafeteria.  I had 5 meals of fish in a row!  I also learned the names of every disease that you can get during a hospital stay.  For a while, they thought my mom had “C-diff” and everyone had to wear a gown, mask, and gloves.  Fortunately, that only lasted for a day until the test came back negative…or I would have suffocated wearing the mask!  I had a horrible sore throat the first couple of days but a quick trip to quick care ruled out anything serious or contagious, again sparing me from the mask.

The main thing I noticed during that long period of time was that time stops as soon as you enter the hospital doors.  Sometimes I would be there for 4 hours and it would seem like 15 minutes…or the reverse!  Listening to the machines that my mom was hooked up to gurgle, buzz, and shriek was the only way to gauge the passing of time.  Eventually, the nurses would come and turn off the shrieking and say they didn’t know why the alarm went off.   Mostly you wait. You wait for the blood test to be taken because they can’t find a vein, you wait for the test results, you wait for the doctor to come and make another prognosis, and you wait to find out when your mom can leave.

Meanwhile, your mom is enjoying all the attention and constant care.  Other than the blood-drawing, it was quite pleasant for her.  My mom loved the Care Channel on TV that has an infinite loop of nature scenes accompanied by soft music although she sometimes asked who was in bed with her due to the audio coming through her remote.   She was well-rested by the end of the 17 days while I was completely exhausted.

Then, suddenly, all the waiting and prognoses aligned and my mom was dismissed to enter a nursing home, a four-month odyssey with a sad ending and a story for another time.

My mom loved cats, dogs, small children, pizza, God, family, and nature programs.  If she were here on this Mother’s Day, would I be willing to repeat the 2013 odyssey?  In a heartbeat!  But, I would want to have a more extensive healthy choices menu.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms everywhere.  We’ll never forget you.

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director


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