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Fathers Experiences of Having an Infant Born Prematurely

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The overall aim of this licentiate thesis was to describe fathers’ experiences of having an infant born prematurely, with specific focuses on fathers’ experiences from the birth and the experiences of being a father to a prematurely born infant. Qualitative research interviews were conducted with eight fathers of prematurely born infants, and their infant had been cared for at a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Data were analyzed using a thematic content analysis. This study shows that the birth of the premature infant was experienced by fathers as suddenly being in a situation they had never reflected on. The experience was surreal and because the fathers could not comprehend what was happening, they wanted to be informed about everything. Fathers prioritized the mother and the infant, and were guarding for their best, and as a consequence fathers almost neglected their own needs. The birth was stressful and filled with worries about their infant and the outcome. Fathers wanted to be with both the mother and the infant, and from the beginning, fathers became the link between them. Being involved and seen as a natural part in the care of the infant was something they wanted. Although the mother and infant were prioritized, fathers needed attention and needed to share their experiences with someone who could understand them. Despite that it took time to feel like a real father, the preterm birth made it possible to be with and know the infant. Fathers described growing emotions for the infant and by time they also felt more confident as a father. Although it was a stressful situation, gains were experienced; they changed as a person and were strengthened in the relationship to their partner. However, even with all the strain, fathers felt being fortunate. It is important for fathers of prematurely born infants to be met with openness and understanding for what they have gone through and listen to their unique experience of having an infant. These findings will help nurses working with fathers of preterm infants, in terms of providing adequate and ample support to the fathers.
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Content Preview
2007:60
LICENTIATE T H E S I S
Fathers´ Experiences of Having
an Infant Born Prematurely
Birgitta Lindberg
Luleå University of Technology
Department of Health Sciences
Division of Nursing
2007:60|????: ??02-?757|????: ???-??c -- 07 ?60 -- ??


Fathers’ experiences of having an infant born prematurely
Birgitta Lindberg
Division of Nursing
Department of Health Sciences
Luleå University of Technology
Sweden
Luleå 2007

Cover photo: Åsa Engström

To Stig, Ida and Anna


CONTENTS
ABSTRACT
1
ORIGINAL PAPERS
3
CLARIFICATION OF TERMS
5
INTRODUCTION 7
Preterm birth and care
7
Parenthood
8
Fatherhood
8
Parents of prematurely born infants
9

Attachment between parents and the infant
born
prematurely
10
Parental
support
11
RATIONALE FOR THE STUDY
12
THE AIM OF THE LICENTIATE THESIS
12
METHODS 12
Setting
13
Participants and procedure
13
Data
collection
13
Data
analysis
14
Ethical
considerations
15
FINDINGS 16
Paper
I
17


The birth of premature infants: Experiences from the
fathers’
perspective 17
Paper
II
18


Adjusting to being a father to an infant born


prematurely: Experiences from Swedish fathers 18

DISCUSSION 19
METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS
25
CONCLUDING REMARKS
26
SUMMARY IN SWEDISH - SVENSK SAMMANFATTNING
29
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 31
REFERENCES 33
Paper I
Paper II

Fathers’ experiences of having an infant born prematurely
Birgitta Lindberg, Division of Nursing, Department of Health Sciences, Luleå
University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden.
ABSTRACT
The overall aim of this licentiate thesis was to describe fathers’ experiences of
having an infant born prematurely, with specific focuses on fathers’ experiences
from the birth and the experiences of being a father to a prematurely born
infant. Qualitative research interviews were conducted with eight fathers of
prematurely born infants, and their infant had been cared for at a neonatal
intensive care unit (NICU). Data were analyzed using a thematic content
analysis. This study shows that the birth of the premature infant was experienced
by fathers as suddenly being in a situation they had never reflected on. The
experience was surreal and because the fathers could not comprehend what was
happening, they wanted to be informed about everything. Fathers prioritized the
mother and the infant, and were guarding for their best, and as a consequence
fathers almost neglected their own needs. The birth was stressful and filled with
worries about their infant and the outcome. Fathers wanted to be with both the
mother and the infant, and from the beginning, fathers became the link between
them. Being involved and seen as a natural part in the care of the infant was
something they wanted. Although the mother and infant were prioritized,
fathers needed attention and needed to share their experiences with someone
who could understand them. Despite that it took time to feel like a real father,
the preterm birth made it possible to be with and know the infant. Fathers
described growing emotions for the infant and by time they also felt more
confident as a father. Although it was a stressful situation, gains were
experienced; they changed as a person and were strengthened in the relationship
to their partner. However, even with all the strain, fathers felt being fortunate. It
is important for fathers of prematurely born infants to be met with openness and
understanding for what they have gone through and listen to their unique
experience of having an infant. These findings will help nurses working with
fathers of preterm infants, in terms of providing adequate and ample support to
the fathers.
Keywords: preterm born, premature, preterm, infant, fathers’ experiences,
parenthood, fatherhood, birth, neonatal nursing, NICU, adjusting, qualitative
thematic content analysis.
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