Thailand: "Men Who Change Diapers Change the World!"



Staffing the HUG Your Baby table at ILCA 2013
This blog was written by Jan's husband, Jim Henderson, Ph.D.

Two days after I retired from Carolina Friends School, Jan and I left Durham on our current year of international travel and service. Her HUG Your Baby presentations in Asia Pacific have been better received than we dared to hope. In the process we have met many remarkable people (some of them newborns!) and have made new friends who are mostly midwives, nurses, and lactation consultants.

As we travel I’m finding more ways to be involved with HUG Your Baby work. Besides serving as Jan’s editor, researcher, videographer, roadie, cheerleader and confidante—as I’ve done for years—other avenues are opening up for me in and through the HUG world.

Trying to coax a Thai gong to sing
Music and learning, seasoned by a dash of sports and exercise, are the enduring interests of my adult life. Becoming a good husband and father remains the major source of my adult identity. My growing involvement with HUG Your Baby builds on all these passions.

As I think about the possibilities of “retired” life, I’m excited about devoting more time to music. Of course I will continue refining and marketing Ariel’s Way ; I believe in the value of this show. 

"Dad's Got The HUG": Teaching about the role of fathers.
But when I get back home I also plan to play more saxophone than ever before. Musical collaborations with friends will become easier to schedule and prioritize in “retirement” (which Don Wells suggests is best understood as “rewirement”). On our current trip, working on the HUGs Around the World Lullabies project has been great fun for Jan and me, and that work is going to take some time to complete when we get home. 

The musical styles of the lullabies that Jan and I conceive reflect our experience of the cultures we visit, and the lyrics we write clothe HUG concepts in the imagery of places we’ve come to know. With Tony Bowman’s capable help, this first lullaby is NOW ready to share. (Click Here to hear and see images of The HUG Hawaiian Lullaby.) The second one—the Australian Lullaby—is gearing up for production. Japanese, Korean, Balinese, and Malay lullabies are sketched out, and Jan and I have a good approach in mind for a Thai lullaby.

Unexpected experiences at a Japanese midwifery school's lab
Music is my life’s chief creative outlet, but education has been my primary professional focus. Reflecting on my life as an educator during our travels, I’ve become increasingly interested in helping men prepare for fatherhood. The birth of our two sons—and the ways I grew as a person through my years as a parent—stand out as the most defining experiences of my entire life. I want to help other fathers (and fathers-to-be) negotiate the passage to parenthood that has meant so much to me.

“Dad’s Got The HUG” is the rubric under which I’ve begun to collect and present ideas about fathering. Recently I’ve been teaching a piece of The HUG’s all-day trainings, highlighting the role of fathers.  

Giving a HUG on a Malaysian city bus
Reviewing fatherhood research as we travel, I’ve discovered some great resources and programs in the English-speaking world. In America, the National Fatherhood Initiative is one.

Among the many books I’ve seen, one of the best is TheBaby Owner’s Manual. Written by father-and-son team, Dr. Louis Borgenicht and Joe Borgenicht, it elaborates a humorous comparison between babies and cars. Another good book, practical in a different sort of way, is The Fathers-To-Be Handbook by Patrick Houser, an American living in the UK. Pat cites interesting research showing that simply giving future fathers time to reflect on what kind of dad they want to be increases both their satisfaction with fatherhood and their skills as parents.

A bloke with a "bub" enjoys a beer and a good book in Australia.
In Australia I’ve gotten some great ideas from Lucy Perry’s entertaining “Beer + Bubs” program. Lucy’s model has midwives meet in a pub with small groups of men who are getting ready to become dads. Her book, Cheers to Childbirth (available through the Beer + Bubs website) is another excellent resource.  

CLICK HERE to see an interview I recently did with Ron Hastie, the male midwife who teaches the Beer + Bubs sessions in Hobart, Tasmania. Ron worked for years as a brick mason and a bartender before becoming a “delivery man” for babies later in his adult life.

Teaching in Thailand
In addition to “Beer and Bubs,” other outstanding Australian programs for fathers include Western Australia's Ngala, the Fathering Project  based at the University of Western Australia, and the University of Newcastle’s Family Action Centre.  CLICK HERE for the Engaging Fathers report recently commissioned by the government of South Australia.
Doing a voiceover for the UNC Family
Medicine Resident Physician HUG training
Dawson and Sharon Cooke’s FamilyWorks in Perth, Australia, is an excellent model of how to apply research on fathering in hands-on sessions with parents.


Jan has a very funny photo of her mentor, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, holding up a bumper sticker that says, “Men who change diapers change the world.” If I can play a small part in changing the world—one dad, one green or yellow or brown poop at a time—I’m hoping to find, in years to come, a meaningful way to “rewire” (rather than “retire”) my skills as an educator.
Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, Jan's greatest teacher and mentor
about newborns, also advocates for social change.