While volumes of literature lend insight into the experience of being a mother in the NICU, the experience of fathering a neonate remains vastly understudied. The goal of this hermeneutical phenomenological study was to explore the lived experience of eleven fathers of very low birth weight infants during their infants' stay in a neonatal intensive care unit. In-depth interviews were semi-structured, digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed using Max van Manen's methodology, along with a metaphorical illustration to illuminate meanings of experiences. Analysis was structured using Heidegger's philosophical concepts of Being-in-the-world and Being-with-others, as well as the added concept of Being a changed man. The findings revealed that fathers struggle with powerlessness as they attempt to acclimate to the foreign environment of NICU and respond best when given tasks to perform. They tend to choose their battles based on the wisest expenditure of energy, and may leave an environment where they perceive they are not needed. Fathers benefit from developing close relationships with NICU nurses, but often feel misunderstood and require that trust be earned. An outlier from the group of fathers was further described from a case study approach. Findings from that study emphasized the crucial importance of additional support from health care providers regarding trust, guidance, true presence, familial bonding, and owning a sense of purpose.

Date of publication

Fall 2-3-2014

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Included in

Nursing Commons