A Conversation with Lynell Taylor: Fathers Supporting Each Other After Preterm Birth

Lynell Taylor has been a member of PTBi Fresno's Dads' Council for the last two years. The Dads' Council is a group of fathers who have experienced preterm birth or may be at risk for preterm birth. The council gives parents in the community an opportunity to come together and discuss their experiences with premature birth and offer insight and dialogue for those who are at-risk of preterm birth. Lynell is married to Claudia Taylor, a member of the PTBi-CA Community Advisory Board. Lynell is the father of three children, one of whom was born at 32 weeks and spent four week in the NICU. Lynell will be speaking as a panelist at the June Collaboratory in Fresno about his experiences. Photo credit: Lynell Taylor

Lynell and Family

Before Jade was born, what did you know about prematurity?

One of my best friends was born prematurely. He was actually born two months early. He has a crazy story, like he was only two pounds and almost died and had to stay at the hospital for the first six months of his life. So, when my wife went into labor, all that was running through my head, all of the fears. I thought my daughter was going to be born really small and with a lot of problems.

What was it like after she was born?

I remember thinking like she's a lot longer and a lot bigger than what I expected. She was born 4 pounds, 12 ounces and was in the NICU for four weeks. I expected her to be as big as my cell phone, but she was probably as big as my bible. That was encouraging to see that.

As a father, what were some of the greatest challenges at that time?

As a father, there was only so much that I could do. I want to be there for my wife. I want to be there for my kids. We’d gone through this with Jordyn, our oldest. She was in the hospital for a week due to complications and Jesiyah was also in the hospital for a week after he was born. So having that experience for the third time, not being able to comfort my child the way that I wanted to was really hard.  Then, my wife, she was obviously taking it really hard, and trying to be there for her as much as I can. It was a hard time. We kind of got used to the hospital life. It was a trying time, but god is good.

Can you tell me a little bit about the Dads’ Council?  

The Dads’ Council is a group of us dads. We've all gone through something similar, having a baby that was born prematurely. So, a lot of things that we talk about are where we fit in this equation of birth. We don’t talk just about premature birth, but pregnancy and birth overall, from day one until the day the baby's born and even afterwards. Some of the things that we talk about have been to know how to decrease the stress that are wives experience as much as possible. What can we do to make sure that they have it as easy as possible because pregnancy is stressful and a lot of stress on their body, mind and emotions. So when my wife told me about this dad's group, I didn't really know what to expect. I thought it was going to be like a support group. I didn't know that we were actually going to be talking about the things that we talk about.  

Dads' Council membersPhoto Credit: Fresno County Preterm Birth Initiative

Why is reducing stress during pregnancy important to you?

Growing up I didn't have my dad around and my mom went through a lot of stress. She had me and my older brothers and she was being abused and everything, so I look at this as something that still goes on in our community today. So, for instance, there's a lot of fathers who aren't really involved in a pregnancy. They kind of take a backseat, like not even driving in the same car. They wait until the baby is born and even after that they're not really involved. We're adding on a lot of stress onto our wives when we're not there emotionally, physically, mentally. I feel it's very important for fathers to be there starting on day one. I’ve worked in the Social Services for the past 15 years and that's definitely something that I've seen; men taking a backseat to pregnancy. When I was a social worker I had a kid who got a girl pregnant. He said ‘I got a girl pregnant but I'm going to man up’ but when kids say I'm going to man up to my responsibilities, what they really mean is once the baby's born I'm going to be there and I’m going to help change diapers, but nothing is ever spoken about what men do during pregnancy. I think it's really important for us to understand that we have to be there from day one, from conception all the way up to when the baby is born and after.

So, we have a collaboratory that you are helping to design on June 25th from 6-8pm at Bitwise in Fresno. What do you hope to accomplish with the collaboratory?

I hope that we can get the word out that there is help and that there are more dads out there that want to make a change in Fresno County to decrease preterm birth in Fresno County. Also, that we as dads, we have a powerful place in this process. We can’t be taking the back seat. We need to be in the front seat, kind of driving the car, when it comes down to it. We can make the change in a decreasing preterm birth. We just need that guidance.

You are hoping to target providers and doulas. What do you hope they will learn from the event?

That fathers are important and we have a big part in this process. So, when our wives are going to speak to the providers, you know the clinic and everything, that they need to give us information on what we can do. Because I went to a lot of appointments when my wife was pregnant, but I still felt powerless because I didn't know exactly what I could do. It'd be really good for our providers to educate us fathers on what exactly we can do to help.

Do you have any last comments that you'd like to share?

I'm really excited about this. I was involved in the Research Prioritization panel last week. It was my first time and it was really cool, so to be able to do it again is a blessing. It's an honor to be able to work with PTBi and to be part of this and I continue to look forward to working together in the future.