(Sound of a baby laughing)
John Fuller: Oh, is there any sweeter than that? The laughter of a baby and today on Focus on the Family, we’re going to hear about God’s amazing, perfect design for babies and for parenthood. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, having kids has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. And I tell my boys, my only regret is not having more children. It always makes them smile when I tell them that. And, uh, I want to encourage young couples today – start your families. Even though the world seems so uncertain right now, it’s always going to be that way and kids bring you so much joy and hope.
John: I would agree, Jim. And of course, as the pandemic continues, researchers are really interested in seeing what effect these stay-at-home orders are having and all of the, uh, uncertainty on birth rates in the coming days.
Jim: Yeah and some say that there will be a baby “boom”, because of all the stay-at-home orders, which makes some sense. While others are saying fewer people will have children, because of all the stress and the economic recession we’re experiencing. Either way, the idea of being responsible for a human life can be overwhelming. So, today, we wanted to share a conversation we had before the pandemic with a pediatrician to give some inspiration and practical help for parents, especially the first-time parents.
John: And our guest is Dr. Robert Hamilton. Bob has been for over three decades a pediatrician. He has even more experience as a dad of six kids and the grandfather to nine kids. And you may have heard of him because, uh, of the “Hamilton Hold.” He’s created this approach to holding a baby to soothe that crying baby and made of video of that. It went viral on YouTube.
Jim: Yeah. Millions have seen it. And, John, Dr. Bob actually taught that hold to one of our staff members who, at the time, had just become a dad. And it was a sweet moment to watch that.
John: We go that on video…
Jim: (Laughter) Good.
John: …And we we’re going to have that on the website and we’ll also have there at the site Dr. Bob’s book, 7 Secrets of the Newborn: Secrets and (Happy) Surprises of the First Year. The video and the book are at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and listen in now to the conversation with Dr. Robert Hamilton on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.
Jim: And I want to say welcome, Dr. Bob, to Focus on the Family.
Dr. Robert Hamilton: I am totally delighted to be here. Jim and John, it’s a pleasure.
Jim: I’m so intrigued by, uh, kind of the opening here, that when you and your wife – your wife’s name is…
Jim: Leslie. When you and Leslie had your first baby, uh, you were still a student. Is that right?
Robert: I – I was an undergraduate at UC Davis, and…
Jim: Medical student.
Robert: I was actually an undergraduate.
Jim: Yeah, studying biology or…?
Jim: Okay. So, there you were. And you have this baby, you and Leslie, and you’re nervous bringing this child home. Of all the people in the world, I’m thinking, this guy should be the least-nervous person.
Robert: You know, I’m not sure I was nervous. I think I was clueless.
Robert: And it was a difference. Uh, but, yeah, my son Josh – he did survive, by the way.
Robert: But we were young. (Laughter) We were 22. And I think that you probably – you guys know this, that, you know, the frontal cortex of men is not completely mature until they’re about 24, 25. I raise my hand and say, “I was one of those, uh, unformed individuals.” But God gave us a kid at 22. And, uh, you know, listen, fortunately, I have a delightful, wonderful wife, Leslie, who I’ve been married to for 46 years. I’m very proud of that.
Robert: And she was mature. Her – her brain was more mature…
Jim: Yeah, they’re a little ahead of the game.
Robert: They are ahead of the game. And fortunately, my – my dear Leslie had the major responsibility of taking care of Josh.
Jim: Yeah, and you were a good support person, I’m sure (laughter).
Robert: I – you know, I was a young kid. And I look back and think about our life then. It was a simple life. It was a wonderful life. And yes, I did fall ridiculously in love with my son and my other children when they came. I couldn’t help myself.
Jim: And you’re the father of six.
Jim: So, you have done this well (laughter).
Robert: I’ve done it…
Jim: You’ve done it often (laughter).
Robert: I’ll let you interview my children…
Robert: …And find out about the well part. I tried.
Jim: Okay, let me get to it in terms of the culture. Here you are, a physician, a pediatrician in Southern California. Your practice is right there in Santa Monica. Um, but you had a friend when you first had your baby – your firstborn – and that friend said something to you that I think is very typical of what is said today. “Don’t you know that kids are a burden? Don’t you know that, you know, this isn’t – what are you doing? What are you thinking?” Speak to that issue. You’re seeing young couples every day, probably in their late 20s and 30s, bringing in their newborns. I’m sure you’re observing that the age of couples having children is moving a little older. So, kind of bundle that into a package with us. What is this fear? And why are people so down generally about having kids?
Robert: You know, it is a phenomenon. And I think that, you know, when you look at children, you think about children – first of all, I think that we have cohorted ourself in our modern world. You know, teenagers hang out with teenagers. You know, older people hang out with older people. We – we have divided our families up into these little cohorts.
Jim: Huh, yeah.
Robert: If you go to other countries, Jim, and I – and I spend a fair amount of time in the Third World in Africa. I just literally got back from Cuba a couple of days ago. And I will tell you that when you go there, there’s an integration of the young and the old.
Jim: That’s true.
Robert: And so, what happens is when you’re in your high school, you’re in college, you’re in graduate school, whatever, you’re not around children, and you don’t really realize the joy and the delight. And I tell people that, you know, babies and children bring a smile to your face every day. Every day.
Jim: Yeah, it’s amazing. I’ve been to Cuba. I had that same observation. It’s kind of like a time capsule, you know, Cuba, because it’s been so isolated. And Dave Dravecky, actually, the former baseball player from the San Francisco Giants, he and I went down to Cuba. He did a baseball clinic, a pitching clinic. And we were talking to, believe it or not, government officials there about religious liberty and access and things like that. But the amazing thing was that integration that you say – people on the – on the porch, old and young, playing checkers, eating a little meal or something. It’s like a time capsule. It’s like the ’40s and ’50s.
Robert: Yeah, you’re completely correct. And I see that in Africa, too.
Robert: And it’s because they really need each other. It isn’t like they have much of an option. They actually – they’re all working together to make the family work.
Robert: And – but the result of that – okay? – and to get to your question, Jim, is that why are people kind of, quote, “down” on – on having babies? Because they don’t know. They don’t know the joy, the blessing, that children bring. And you’re right, the demographic is changing. People are getting married later, number one, partly because of, you know, their professional desires and what they want to do. And that’s…
Jim: And commitment issues and all kinds of things.
Robert: All those things. And that’s understandable. But people are – when they do have children, when they finally get to the point where they have a child, they kind of go, “Wow, where have I been?”
Jim: Right, that’s the experience we had. Describe that new-parent attitude that you mention in the book. You call it the new-parent attitude. What attitude is that?
Robert: Well, the attitude is a little bit – first of all, they’re – like I say, they’re older, and so they’ve kind of thought through this whole thing. And they’ve read a lot of books. They’ve been to seminars. They’ve been to their prenatal classes and everything.
Robert: So, they’re like, you know, academically, they’re – they’re ready. They’re ready for…
John: They have their plan. They’re ready to work the plan.
Robert: Oh, they – they get it all, yeah. And – and I think, too, that, you know, they’re also looking at other people. And we’re all human. We all do that. And they’re seeing the things that other people are doing. But I think that the attitude I’m talking about is, they can’t mess up. They got to get it right. They gotta get everything perfect. But you and I know we live in an imperfect world, and we all know that our parents are – are not perfect. And…
Jim: (Laughter) And we as parents are not perfect.
Robert: And yes, and we (laughter) are not perfect. And so, but if you’re trying to be perfect, that puts a burden on your back that is hard to actually live up to.
Jim: No, it’s true. I wrote a book called When Parenting Isn’t Perfect. And a friend of mine said, “Why’d you use the word when?”
Jim: Which was really good. I thought to myself, you know what? You’re absolutely right. I don’t know why I used that…
Robert: It’s never perfect, yeah.
Jim: Parenting isn’t perfect.
Robert: Never perfect.
Jim: Um, the idea of that burden, though – I want to give you 30 seconds, maybe 45 – you take your time – of making the pitch as a pediatrician as to why having children is a good thing. What benefit do we derive from having children?
Robert: Okay, well, 45 seconds, Jim, is not…
Jim: I’ll stretch it to a minute (laughter).
Robert: …Not fair. But here’s why. Children do so much for you. They – they radically change who you are, fundamentally change – I mean, basically, your brain changes. And I can prove that you physiologically and even looking at your brain under a functional MRI and show you that you’re a different person. So, that transformation from non-children to a – someone who has a child is powerful. And if you engage the process, you will look around, realize – and you do this retrospectively – you look back at your life and you say, “I’m a different person.” Now, listen. Not everyone can have children.
Robert: And I – and I don’t mean to speak…
Jim: Exactly right.
Robert: …Uh, you know, and some people have reasons for not having children. God bless them. I – I wish them well. But for those who have children, they – children fill your life with joy, delight. They lead you to new places in life that you would have never gone before. But the point is, is that children enlarge you in a profound and wonderful way.
Jim: They do. And it’s – man, I don’t know. When I’m talking to young people, you know, the 20-somethings, again, I’m trying to encourage them. “Don’t hold back. Man, have children. And don’t be…”
Robert: Have – have children.
Jim: “…Fearful.” Why do you think the culture, though – I mean, that fear thing is gripping so many 20-, 30-somethings? There’s just a fear that they don’t have enough. They aren’t good enough. They won’t do it well. “My parents messed up with me. I’m probably going to do the same thing” – right? – I mean, all those connotations that are running through their heads.
Jim: Just stop it. It’s amazing how natural it comes to be a good parent.
Robert: You’re completely right. And I will tell you, listen. We come into life with all of the thing – the burdens and the things that who we are, our background, everything. People don’t end up having as many children these days, number one. And so, that – if they only have one child or two children, they have to make sure that each one of them is – they do it right, okay? Not that we – people that have a lot of kids don’t want to do it right for every one of them. But the idea that, uh, you want to get it perfect, you know, you don’t have too many chances, this thing with parenthood, and you don’t want to mess up. The other thing, too, is people – like we mentioned, people are having their children later in life. When we were 22 and we had our first child, Josh, I can tell you that I never thought – I kind of – it was very organic. It wasn’t like I was thinking through all the things I should have been thinking through. I never worried about him getting sick. I didn’t worry about all the things that you needed to do. I wasn’t saving for his college fund.
Jim: You didn’t wrap him in bubble wrap? (Laughter).
Robert: I didn’t know to do that.
Robert: I suppose if I would have known that, I would have, you know? But we – we loved him very, very sincerely and, uh, very simply. And it – that’s kind of how it was.
John: Hmm. That’s good. Well, we’re talking today on Focus on the Family with Dr. Robert Hamilton. And he’s got this great book, 7 Secrets of The Newborn: Secrets and (Happy) Surprises of the First Year.
John: Go ahead and get a copy of the book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call us and we can tell you more. 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Dr. Bob, I want to pick up on something you briefly mentioned, and that is the brain chemistry changes in a mom. And you in your book talk about that happening for a dad as well. So, let’s look at the two of them. I mean, it’s obvious, I think, for a mom. You see, you know, physical changes for a mom. She’s pregnant, of course, and, you know, she’s having – her body’s response to that is very obvious. I’m not so sure I ever dialed into the fact that a dad’s brain chemistry is changing as well. That’s the first time I’ve heard that.
Robert: It’s very real. And I have to say that part of – part of the research when I wrote my book is, I actually was more aware of that. I kind of thought that, but I didn’t know that. But what is happening is that, you know, listen – God in His glory wanted men and women to have children. And we need to keep these kids alive, and so that bonding phenomenon is happening during – certainly during the pregnancy for a mother because we watch her.
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Robert: We watch her tummy grow. We watch her – all the other changes that happen in the women. And by the way, um, I tell parents this all the time, hormones make the world go round.
Jim: (Laughter) In every way.
Robert: It’s not money. It’s hormones, okay?
Jim: Spoken like a true pediatrician.
Robert: Well, if you’re a teenage boy, you understand, okay?
Robert: And the reality is that, you know, which are being made (laughter) by – in the brain – they kind of infect mothers. And there are things that are going on which are phenomenal. You know, obviously, when you’re pregnant, uh, you’re seeing the changes that are happening, and they’re phenomenal. But mothers are getting ready to be a mother. They’re getting ready to bond intensely with that child. Oxytocin and other – you know, pitocin, these hormones that we hear about, they’re little tiny proteins. I call them little chemical messengers, which are being sent from the brain. They have their effect on – all through the body. And they’re preparing women, certainly, to be mothers. Now, for men, it’s a different dynamic, too. And, um, we’re talking about – by the way, men who are engaging the process of pregnancy with their wife, if you’re not living with the pregnant woman – very odd, and I don’t quite understand – I’m not sure anybody can tell us why – but men who are living – if you simply impregnate a woman and you go on your way, you don’t get this, okay?
Robert: But men who are living with a wife and watching her go through the pregnancy, funny things happen. Your testosterone levels begin to plummet. They go down. Your level of oxytocin, usually that hormone which causes letdown in women, begins to go up. There’s another hormone called vasopressin, which is, uh – we call it the monogamy hormone, begins to go up. And that is a hormone which causes you to want to protect your wife and child, ultimately. That begins to go up. Even pitocin. Men have pitocin floating through their blood. So, all of these things which, you know, listen – I don’t remember the phenomenon. It’s been a while since my wife was pregnant. But, essentially, it kind of takes the edge off of men in terms of that testosterone thing.
Robert: It really is interesting.
Robert: And so, that is happening in men and clearly women, too.
Jim: Yeah, you know, Dr. Bob, something that always intrigues me – and I love science. I did a business degree. I did not do a science degree. My wife, Jean, did biochemistry. But, um, you know, the way so often science does back up God’s design. You know, it’s not in conflict. I’m not sure why the world always tries to convince us that there’s some kind of Darwin thing occurring because it seems like, what a perfect way to go. But why, as a doctor and as a, uh, scientist – why is there this desire to discount these things, uh, even what you described right there, that men become protectors? I know that some in the culture just – they hate to even acknowledge that that is actually taking place. It can’t be right. But it is. You’re saying science is seeing it through MRIs, through watching those, uh, hormones be released in our brain. It matches what God’s design is for us. Why is there this conflict?
Robert: You know, I think it really has to do with the God thing. I mean, people who are given to, you know, atheism or that there is no God in the universe, you know – God bless them – they have to have an answer. And the answer to everything is evolution or natural selection.
Robert: You know, I always think about, you know, the number of – we know how old the universe is, approximately. I mean, okay. I think that is a gigantic leap of faith if you want to really kind of discount God or discount, you know, a force beyond evolution and natural selection is okay. Okay? That’s their religion. Uh, I have chosen to look up to the skies and say, “That’s a God who loves us and that is a God who designed a perfect plan for our lives.” And that’s kind of who I am. A good friend of mine – I was just traveling with him in Guatemala. He was an atheist, or he’s an agnostic. I said, “Why did you change?” And he said, “Bob, here’s why. I – the Hubble Telescope is out there and circulating…”
Robert: “…And they focused a tiny – literally a pinpoint of – of the sky that we can actually see. And they lit it – kind of – they held that image, that piece of the sky, and they later developed it. And they saw that there were – that one little pinpoint of the sky showed millions and millions and millions of other stars and…”
Robert: “…And, you know, constellation.” And he said, “Bob, after I saw that,” he said, “I couldn’t deny it. This is bigger than us.”
Jim: That’s powerful. Bob, let me ask you. You make the case that moms and dads are equally important in a baby’s life. The mom’s role seem self-evident. There’s that connection. But explain why it’s important for dads to be involved because, you know, temperamentally, or whatever issues we’re facing, we can either be engaged fathers or disengaged fathers.
Robert: Well, um, you know, this whole process of a family, you know – and you are Focus on the Family…
Robert: …And I – by the way, I love this program. I love you guys.
Jim: Oh, I appreciate that. It’s fun.
Robert: I have supported you for many, many years.
Jim: Thank you.
Robert: It’s been such a joy to be here. Um, parents, you know, dads and moms bring clearly different things to the equation. But study after study has shown that when you have a father engaged in a family, those children do better. They thrive if you have a father who’s – I’m not talking about a father who shows up and is mute and doesn’t engage his kids and goes and watches television after dinner. I’m talking about fathers who actually take an interest. And by the way, I will tell you that I have thousands of wonderful fathers in my practice who really do. They’re people who really – you know, dads love their children as much as mothers do, of course. But when they’re involved, the kids do better and because it’s a complementary thing.
Robert: You kind of need both. You need a mom and you need a dad. And that doesn’t always happen. Certainly, in our world, I see many mothers who don’t have a partner, don’t have a spouse, and they’re a – God bless them. This is a tough way to go. And you know these people by name, and I do, too. But it’s wonderful to be able to share the joy of children with another person, first of all.
Robert: And the burden, it is hard to raise kids and all the things that they need. It isn’t for free. But when you have a dad engaged, involved, all I can say is that mothers are happier, children are happier. Life, uh, goes a little bit easier for everybody.
Jim: Yeah. You know, uh, one of the things, even from my own experience with my two boys, I always felt like the early days were tough for me to connect. You know, when they’re breastfeeding, and you’re changing diapers and they’re cute. They certainly are. And they’re great to hear, like we heard, giggles and things like that. And you give them a bath and wash their hair – that’s all fun – and dry them off and put them in the Broncos uniform.
Jim: But, uh, the point is I think for dads it’s a little harder to connect with a newborn or a 3-month-old compared to a 8-year-old.
Jim: So, speak to that, the way that fathers can connect to newborns and infants when we’re not understanding how we can.
Robert: You know, first of all, I want to clarify one thing – that the children are happier when you…
Jim: The Bronco part?
Robert: The Bronco part.
Robert: Children are a lot happier when you dress them up as Dodgers, okay?
Jim: (Laughter) Yeah, right.
Robert: Just want you to make that very, very clear.
Jim: That may be true (laughter).
Robert: Well, you know, yes, there are years. But anyway, I could tell you that, you know, the reality is, yes, when early on, this is a feminine thing. It’s a feminine thing to deliver a child and have a child and breastfeed and – and love that child. It’s very – and I think that we look at that – men, we look at the process, and I – I remember standing back in awe, and my wife, Leslie, who’s such a great mom, you know, breastfeeding the child – that this is their world.
Jim: It’s unique for them.
Robert: It is. Anyway, that being said, let women be women. Let them do what comes naturally and what is physiologically their role. But we – our role is to really kind of stand back and support them and to be there and, yes, to give them a break from time to time. And to a degree, we – we’re bonding with our kids in a different way. And that doesn’t make it any more important, but it is a different phenomenon.
Jim: What are those things that we can do? Give me two or three examples.
Robert: I mean, I can give you many of them. One of the most important things that new mommies need is sleep, okay? And they need to get that rest because if they’re not sleeping, they fall into postpartum…
John: So, dad takes the child and lets mom get a nap.
Robert: Yeah. And it doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that, John. Basically, what you do is you essentially – you take your child and say, “Honey, take a nap. I’m going to take little Josh or, you know, Noel or whoever” – one of my kids – “I’m going to take them around the block.” And get them out of the house, get them in the fresh air, take them to the park, wherever you want to take them. Take them to the beach. We have a beautiful beach in Santa Monica. Get the out of the, you know – and it’s okay that they’re not – they’re away from their mommy for an hour or two, okay? And the reality is by doing that, you give the mother a break, okay? So, that – that’s that. Number two, I mean, listen, there are chores that have to be done with children. There are – there’s food to gather (laughter) okay?
Jim: No, I love it.
Robert: There’s diapers to change. There’s, uh, laundry to pick up. I mean, I can think of a thousand, you know, chores that need to be done. You do them. If you’re there and you’re a helpmeet – okay? We talk about women being the helpmeet to men. You could reverse several…
Jim: This is the time.
Robert: This is the time. Dr. Bob, I want to end here in – you know, in some ways, some practical help. You mentioned in your great book 7 Secrets of the Newborn four cornerstones of that first year that new moms and dads should discuss. So, why don’t we cover those briefly as we wrap up today? And then let’s come back next time and continue the discussion, okay?
Robert: Absolutely. So, yes, uh Jim, there are cornerstones, which I think really, uh – listen. Our goal – and my goal for writing this book is to encourage families to thrive. And I thought about it. I mean, clearly, I kind of stood back and thought, “What are the cornerstones which really make for a healthy people – healthy lives?” And I mean, I broke them down into four. There are probably a lot more. But number one, what do we believe? Uh, number two, what kind of parents are we going to end up being? Number three, what kind of communities do we belong to? And engaging our children in the community. And number four, how are we going to care for our child’s health? So, those are broad categories. Uh, what we believe? Well, I was raised in a Christian home. I have the fortunate to have had a mom and a dad who loved the Lord Jesus very fervently. They taught me to love God. Uh, it took me a while to engage that and take that as my own. But that foundation was there. And I think it’s important that we engage our children in our faith. And I talk about praying for your child. They’re 1 – they’re 1 month of age. They don’t know (laughter) what this means.
Robert: They don’t understand the words. But they do know one thing. They know that caress. They know those gentle words. And frankly, when you pray for your child, you’re talking to the Lord. And when you talk to the Lord, you’re thinking about God, and you’re thinking about the responsibility that you have before the Lord.
Robert: And so, it’s a profound thing. So, you know, share with your children from the very beginning of their lives that there is a God in heaven who loves them and engage them in your faith because I – listen. I happen to believe that our faith is the foundation, the rock upon which we build.
John: Well, we’re going to have to press pause right there because we’re out of time in this conversation with Dr. Robert Hamilton. We’ll have more from him, though, next time.
Jim: John, I love Dr. Bob’s heart for children and babies. And I love that he encourages parents, too, as they navigate the exciting and overwhelming time of having a newborn. I think that reflects the heart of God and how He cares so much about every detail of our lives from the very beginning. Dr. Bob’s attitude is such a contrast to how the world views children. And that’s why here at Focus we’re so passionate about celebrating life. One way we do that is through Option Ultrasound. This is our ministry that equips pro-life pregnancy centers with ultrasound machines and nurses’ training. We’ve found that when women who are thinking about abortion see their baby on an ultrasound machine, the majority of them are moved to choose life.
John: It’s a remarkable thing and Option Ultrasound is completely funded by pro-life donors. So, thank you to those of you who support this life-changing work. So far, the clinics we partner with are reporting that together we’ve saved over 459,000 baby’s lives.
Jim: That’s incredible! And we’ve done the math with all the numbers and the years to look back on. It takes about $60 to save a baby’s life through the use of ultrasound technology. If you’re passionate about pro-life ministry and share that heart for babies that Dr. Bob has really communicated today, join us. Support the team and help that baby come into this world. Many choose to become a monthly sustainer, while others are able to give a one-time gift. All of it helps. And would encourage you to join the team today. I’ll send you Dr. Bob’s great book, 7 Secrets of the Newborn, as our way of saying thank you.
John: Donate and get that book when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And Jim, it is really hard to believe, but we’re only about a month away from our free big event online called See Life 2020.
Jim: John, I’m so looking forward to that September 26th event. We’ll have pro-life speakers, special music and we’ll show an ultrasound of a pre-born baby. And to the listener, mark your calendar. Be sure to join us September 26th for a great, pro-life, online, event.
John: And you’ll find out more about See Life 2020 at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for joining us for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time as we hear more from Dr. Hamilton and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.