Daniel Katz is a Maternal Fetal Medicine Physician working at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Boston. I meet with him on a busy afternoon, which is a tail-end of his overnight shift. He delivered a baby last night. Someone's life was changed forever. For Daniel, though, it is a typical busy day: ultrasounds, staff meetings, and now - this interview.
Daniel speaks in a quiet voice and has a warm, respectful smile which makes me think that in a time of panic, he would be the perfect person to have in the room. He went to college at MIT and then did medical school at SUNY Buffalo, with training at University of Connecticut and Massachusetts General Hospital. He is a big motorcycle enthusiast, with 5 bikes, one for each occasion: dirt, adventure, sport touring, commuting and weekend jaunts. Daniel lives outside of Boston and has three children. His favorite thing about being a dad is the gratification from seeing his kids and spending time with them.
Being a parent helps Daniel relate to patients better, he says. "I think I can understand their concerns. I want my patients to always share their concerns with me. If they read something or are worried/anxious about something they should let me know. I usually try to prompt them, but sometimes they are not forthcoming with information."
I can't help but ask a question that's always been on my mind: is there a physiological reason for childbirth to be so painful?
"Childbirth is painful, but no one knows why. I suspect the release of endorphins and adrenaline is there for a reason, but don't know why. People who have had epidurals tend to have an easier time. As for improving the experience, it is important to set correct expectations. I tell patients upfront how it will be. I tell them that the pain will become terribly intense, but gradually. I tell them they need to reach a threshold of pain before the contractions will start dilating the cervix. A lot of it is about setting realistic expectations".
Appreciating the pain of childbirth probably more than other dads do, what was it like for him to be there when his own children were born? Daniel kept his work and personal experiences separate and was there to support his wife. What did he feel when his children were born? "I did feel a sense of great accomplishment. An accomplishment in life. A sense of gain and excitement - opening a totally new chapter".
Being both a physician and a dad gives Daniel a unique perspective on how we could involve dads into the entire experience. I ask him if he thinks dads should be attending prenatal visits.
"Yes, I think fathers should come to prenatal visits - not all, but most. It is important to support the mothers in the beginning and in the end. The middle tends to be less interesting. :-) Also, fathers will have their own questions for the obstetricians that they may not have shared with the mothers. As for engaging the fathers, I talk about some of the science and technology involved in prenatal care and delivery. There are always some facts that will interest them.
Fathers also need to keep an eye on mothers who become withdrawn from taking care of the baby. They also need to get a sense when the mother needs to take a break - pump and let the dad feed at night once in a while. Dads also need to communicate with the obstetrician if they have any concerns."