A Father's Power: Supporting Fathers during Pregnancy and Premature Birth

We don’t see the dads, or partners, as an asset and that is very Fresno. We look at the problems and don’t see the strengths we have. We can change that.

Bob Nelson, Superintendent

Fresno Unified School District

For our June Collaboratory, which was co-hosted by PTBi Fresno and their Dads' Council, we honored Father's Day by focusing on the voices of dads who have experienced a preterm birth. Designed by two fathers on the Dads' Council, Lynell Taylor and David Ochoa, the event's speakers consisted of other fathers from the council, Bakari Graves and James Barrientez, as well as Amber Constantino, the Monitoring, Learning, and Evaluation Specialist at PTBi Fresno, and Bob Nelson, Superintendent of Fresno Unified School District.

The first panelist, Constantino, gave the audience an important overview of Preterm Birth in Fresno County. She explained that Fresno County historically has had higher rates of preterm birth compared to the state of California and the United States. However, Fresno's rates have declined considerably since 2015. She also explained that, when breaking down these rates by race, Black communities in Fresno experience the greatest disparities.

preterm birth by race in fresno county

After Constantino's presentation, the fathers took the stage. Moderated by David Ochoa, the fathers one by one shared their varied experience of preterm birth. Taylor's youngest daughter was born at 32 weeks and spent a month in the NICU. Nelson experienced birth challenges with several of his seven children, including his twins who spent nearly 110 days in the NICU. He explained that, due to being born prematurely, one of his children experiences profound impairments. Nelson stated, "I am here because I have a cosmic debt to pay because all of my premature babies are still alive and still thriving."

The fathers described how social stigma against their involvement in their child's care became apparent in a range of situations. Graves described his experience in the NICU with providers who often dismissed his concerns and left him feeling consistently "shot down". According to Graves, he and his nearly 12 year-old son still encounter disrespectful treatment from providers. Taylor expressed similar frustrations towards being stereotyped as a father. He shared that expectations are for fathers to "just be there" and not actively engaged in their child's case. This can often push fathers away or make them feel their voice is not welcomed. For Taylor, this only further motivates him to support other fathers in his community, empowering them to lean on each other to become the best fathers they can be.

One of the most powerful moments of the event was when Ochoa asked everyone in the audience who had experienced a preterm birth in their family or close community to stand. At that moment, nearly one-fourth of the audience took to their feet, displaying the deep impact the pre-term birth epidemic has upon the Fresno community. In closing David stated, "When we do come together, we do make changes. That is the beautiful thing about us coming together. As soon as we came together, we felt comfortable because we could recognize that passion for the health of our children". 

Fresno County PTBi will be sharing updates regarding research in Fresno, workgroup strategies, successes, and future work on July 23, 2019 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm. You can RSVP here

Bob Nelson Speaking

audience members

Lynell Taylor speaking

Watch the Full Collaboratory

See the video

Learn More about the Dads' Council

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

Fresno County Preterm Birth Initiative Launches Parent Council For Dads