Thrive by IU Health

August 21, 2023

Welcome to fatherhood: Empowering dads-to-be at IU Health North

IU Health North Hospital

Welcome to fatherhood: Empowering dads-to-be at IU Health North

By Emma Avila, epackard1@iuhealth.org, writer for IU Health’s Indianapolis Suburban Region

Nate Canillas, a father of two, is now leading a virtual class on fatherhood at IU Health North.

Nate Canillas has learned many lessons in fatherhood firsthand. He has two children, five-year-old Hudson and three-year-old Lauren. His wife, Felisha, gave birth to both children at IU Health North, and now Nate is helping other fathers prepare to become parents.

Before Hudson was born, Nate and Felisha joined a Lamaze class at the hospital, taught by Erin Harkess-Niemiec, childbirth education coordinator.

“Nate started his journey in my Lamaze class when he and Felisha were pregnant with their first child, Hudson,” Harkess-Niemiec said. “Nate was up for anything in class. You could tell he was going to be a hands-on dad. He was engaged in class, participated in all the activities and even wore the empathy belly.”

“It helped prepare me as a dad,” Nate added.

When Hudson was born, he had a tongue-tie. The couple met with a lactation consultant to help Felisha breastfeed. She also joined a breastfeeding support group at IU Health North.

“That really helped strengthen my bond with the hospital even more,” Felisha said.

When the couple became pregnant with Lauren, nicknamed Lala, they knew they wanted to return to IU Health North.

“When we got pregnant again, it wasn’t even a question of where we would go,” Felisha said.

“There is so much support here,” Nate agreed. “We never had any negative experiences.”

Even after Lauren’s birth, the couple stayed in touch with team members. When there was an opening for someone to teach a class on fatherhood at IU Health North, Harkess-Niemiec knew exactly where to turn.

Nate is a social worker and is also in school to get his master’s degree in social work. That, combined with his personality, made him the ideal person.

“Nate has such a calm nature; he never seems to get rattled,” Harkess-Niemiec said. “And with Nate’s education and work background, he is a perfect fit for teaching the Welcome to Fatherhood Class.”

Even with his busy schedule, Nate is thrilled to lead the class.

The group meets virtually once a month and provides a safe space for dads to not only learn parenting skills, but also to build a support community.

“Father support groups ensure men have a safe space to express their parenting challenges and frustrations and get help,” Harkess-Niemiec explained. “If you are a dad who feels isolated or can’t seem to find a role model to learn from, a support group for dads can connect you to other fathers.”

For Nate, this group combines his passion for helping others and an opportunity to help other men become wonderful dads.

“This is what I really enjoy,” he said. “It’s our chance to give back to the hospital that’s given so much to us.”