'Dad's Book' helped generations of fathers celebrate children's births at Oak Park hospital

OAK PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- While many hospitals celebrate the first baby born each year, one Oak Park hospital once had a unique way of celebrating their newborns.

At West Suburban Medical Center, "The Dad's Book" began in 1959 as a place for anxious dads sitting in the waiting room to write down their thoughts at a time when they weren't allowed in the birthing room.

An entry from October 1959 reads, "just before midnight, a pearl of a girl."

"In the span of about 30 years, there's a lot of changes," said Dr. Yam Tong, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at West Suburban Medical Center.

For example, waiting rooms are now a thing of the past, and dads are included in the birthing process.

"They can do a lot of things," Tong said. "They can comfort their partner. They can hold their hands. They can count for their pushing and they can cut the umbilical cord and they can hold the baby."

Mark Heath, of Chicago, is ringing in the New Year with the birth of his third daughter. He was in the delivery room, and while he didn't write in the book, his feelings are shared by dads across time.

"Having done it before, you have to realize that there's just some things you have no control over," Heath said. "Really, as the dad you have the least control."

For the Heath family, the end of the year brought new beginnings.

"As soon as we leave here, we'll be starting the New Year at this particular point with our whole family together, so it's really exciting," Heath said.

West Suburban Medical Center no longer uses the book because of privacy laws, but book or no book, the feelings are universal.
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