Social Pressures of Birthing

Giving birth is woman’s domain. A friend of ours who was present in birthing room when his wife was giving birth, said that he wanted to puke. I don’t think my husband needs to be there when I’m 10 cm dilated. I certainly don’t want that mental image of me to be stuck there in his mind.

For over ten thousand years human female gave birth in the company of professionals – shamans, midwives, doctors – most of whom were women.  This wasn’t always possible, but tended to be the case.  Then came 1970s, and all of a sudden American husband (sorry — partner) migrated from the bar into hospital delivery room where he was told to time contractions and mimic his wife’s breathing. 

One of my coworkers, a shrink, was so upset at me when I said I’d prefer to leave my husband behind, she screamed. Turns out, my husband needs to bond with the baby. As it happens, my husband already loves the baby, he will help me with the baby, and he’ll play with the baby and teach it things, like many fathers did before him and many will do after. All this, I believe, is totally extraneous to observing me in contractions or “catching” the baby as it comes out of my temporarily deformed vagina or even cutting the cord. (Why does the honor of cutting the cord go to the individual who contributed his sperm to the project? Because he suffered through hours of his wife’s moaning probably promising to himself to never get her into this mess again!) I’m not sure that watching the doctors wipe the uterine slime off the baby will necessarily enamor him to the little one.

If father’s presence at birth were truly a positive development, we’d see the results of this practice by now. We’d see Western family strengthened, divorce rate declining and children growing up self-sufficient and strong. We’d see child-oriented men begging for another offspring. Instead we have a generation of single child weenies razed by divorced parents.

Nevertheless, I think I might just keep my husband around for labor. Social pressure and living arrangements leave little room for maneuver. First, if for some reason (like exhaustion) I am unable to make a decision about the birth, the only other person legally entitled to do so is the father. It’s his baby, after all. Second, because we are a nuclear family my husband will be the one taking me to the hospital, and he will be the one dealing with emergencies if such arise. To deal with emergencies he needs to know more then I want him to know about the particulars of childbirth. Third, because everybody assumes that he will be present, it will be difficult, for instance to find a doula willing to work with our preferred arrangement.

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April 15, 2007. Breedosaurus, Random thoughts.

One Comment

  1. Lupo replied:

    Werd up. A man’s place is smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey in the waiting room. Back when men knew their place, the family was strong, crime was low, and all was well in mudville. Seriously; I don’t know how any psychologist gets off giving advice. Society worked better back when people simply believed in raw superstitions like good and evil.

    I was 3000 miles away when my neice was born, and I’m crazy about her.

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