Childbirth Education Classes

Virginia Mason Memorial’s Daddy Boot Camp

Dale Meck: From Daddy Rookie to Pro Status

The living room at Dale Meck’s house in Yakima’s historic Barge-Chestnut neighborhood is fully furnished: changing table, extra diapers, toys flung here and there. Turn the corner and you’re in the kitchen: more toys, sippy cups, clothes heaped on the dining table, a teething ring tossed onto the kitchen island, where, by the way, there is also a baby who is clamped to its surface in her booster seat. She has wet cookie stuck to her cheek. This is Evelyn. She is 9 months old.

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“We’re fully loaded now,” says Dale of his houseful: wife Kate, daughter Evelyn and their son Arthur, 3 ½. “In one year I went from being pretty carefree to having a wife, a house and kids, and I changed jobs. It happened all at once.”

Like it does.

Dale went from daddy rookie at age 32 to pro status in short order. And now he is the leader of Virginia Mason Memorial’s Daddy Boot Camp, part of VMM’s series of Childbirth Education classes. Dale has stayed home from work today because Evelyn wasn’t well enough to go to daycare. But he’s got this. No problem.

“It’s a pretty powerful moment when the nurses all leave and it’s, ‘WAHHHHH!’ and you realize that this new person is 100 percent dependent on you.”

“I went to the class the first time for the same reason almost all the guys go — their partner signs them up,” he says. In the class, Dale learned the basics: how to change a diaper, hold a baby’s head, swaddle for sleep and more. And he felt ready.

“It’s a pretty powerful moment when the nurses all leave and it’s, ‘WAHHHHH!’ and you realize that this new person is 100 percent dependent on you.”

“Also, dads need to know that they are taking two new people home from the hospital. You’re taking home a new baby and you’re taking home a new mom. New mom is protecting her baby, she’s cave mom. She’s now a fierce protector of her infant. You’ve got to be more patient,” he adds.

Armed with real-life experience, Dale, with Arthur in tow, returned to the class as a veteran dad on his way to become Daddy Boot Camp leader.

“The ideal class is ‘veteran’ dads with their 3- to 5-month-old babies, and the ‘rookie’ dads to be. The key component is the babies. We don’t have a class unless there are babies,” Dale says. “The rookies get to watch a dad be a dad to a real baby. In two hours that baby has a diaper blowout and they’re fussy — some of the veteran dads never sit down the whole time because they are shushing or soothing their little one."

“It’s a hands-on experience. The guys come out of class and they’ve held a baby and seen a diaper change. They’ve had the chance to ask ‘guy questions’ without mom or mother-in-law around. The veterans set the tempo and the tone.”

“I like the bowling analogy,” Dale says. “You find out your truck needs new brakes, but you don’t know how to do that. But there’s a guy on your bowling team who has a truck, and he just replaced his brakes. So when you're at the bowling alley you learn from him,” Dale says. “It’s like that with the class, expectant dads can learn tips and tricks from the dads who were in their shoes as rookies only months before.”

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