Thursday, 2 February 2012

Where are the dads?

In the Daily Telegraph today, Henry Wallop, in the section Television and radio writes that this is the year of the small-screen baby and that it's about time fathers got a look in.

This article appears to me to be part of the 'consensus' that believes fathers should be present at the birth of their child. While admittedly I have never fathered a child (well at least not to my knowledge) and that had I, I may well have a different opinion, I am well aware that the process is painful to women, that it is a tad 'bloody' - and I would not wish to be there (and if forced to be, I would most definitely be at the 'head end') as regardless of which end I was positioned I would more than likely 'hit the floor' in very short order.

Generalising, I believe it logical to assume that most women for reasons related to their genes have a desire to conceive, a wish they may not be able to logically explain - and knowing the pain element involved - still wish to undergo the process of childbirth. But why does that mean the husband has to be present? Why is it necessary that he should be 'forced by present thinking' to witness what amounts to the physical humiliation of the woman he loves? Why should she be forced to have her husband/partner witness that 'humiliation'? If a man is required to undergo circumcision in later life, is his wife/partner forced to witness the act? If a man has testicular cancer, is his wife duty bound to witness the operation? Should a husband be forced to watch his wife deal with her periodic problem? Every member of the human race has certain acts they have to perform - and childbirth is one of them. Should not each person be accorded the privacy of that act from their 'other half if they so wish'?

It is appreciated that some readers may find my view/thoughts outdated/unacceptable/chauvanistic - to which I can only apologise, while saying that is me, that is how I feel - coupled with the fact that it is easy for me to hold such views as I am at an age where my chances of being part of the reproduction of another human being equate with my chances of winning the lottery.

Just who are these people who wish to have all men/women confirm to their way of thinking? Is childbirth not one of the last individual decisions that should be left to the two people concerned - the one who 'began' the process and the one who has to 'end' it?

When will 'those who know better' just butt out of people's lives and leave them to make their own decisions?

Just saying..........


Anne said...

Interesting! Fairly recent fashion for fathers to be present, and many cultures would not do it. My own Dad was in the house (my brothers and I were born at home) but only entered the room after the birth when everything was all cleaned up and beautifully presented. To him, childbirth was always nothing short of a miracle. Mum just had a midwife with her. She has never said that she would have wanted Dad to be in the room, and it wasn't the done thing then. I don't think Dad regretted not being there at the actual birth either. Certainly he could not have been a better father, there or not.

Fast forward 30 yrs, fashions change. My poor husband felt (was) duty-bound to stay with me throughout three (maternity unit) deliveries. Really he would have preferred it Dad's way, he says so! but if there is a Dad around the expectation now is for him to be there. Incidentally this helps to free up midwives in the hours of labour as Mum-to-be has someone with her.. some women have their own mothers, sisters or friends in attendance. Much is forgotten afterwards (nature's way of helping us to do it more than once!) but I'm glad my husband was there; it's a mystical, scary, amazing journey, deserves to be taken together. He says he felt guilty because I was in pain and he couln't do anything about it ... to which I reply: TOUGH!

I must take issue with your depiction of childbirth as 'humiliating' for the mother though .. how can the bringing forth of a new life be humiliating? It is the most profound thing.

Conclusion - negotiate together, do what feels right, not what seems to be the current fashion or expectation. 'Being there' doesn't neccessarily make you a better father. It's being there for the next 20 years that counts.

TomTom said...

believes fathers should be present at the birth of their child

No. But they should be present at the conception of the child they claim to be theirs.

Ian Hills said...

A good post. I was present at the birth of my child and tried to "help", but due to having a different set of hormones, was not able to empathise as much as I would have liked. The mother's feelings change rapidly throughout the process (as different hormones come into play), and when it's all over they don't say "thank God it's over", but "is the baby alright"? Amazing - but how can a man be fully in touch with this secret world of the mother? I'm glad I was there, but the best empathy comes from the mother's own mother, who knows exactly what her daughter is going through and responds accordingly.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

A: It was not my intention to convey the bringing forth of life as humiliating, rather the fact the mother is seen in a rather humiliating position by the one who supposedly loves her. Agree it is for the two people concerned to discuss and agree. I think IH's comment hits the nail on the head when he said that attending he felt so helpless.

TT: Agreed, nice comment.

IH: See above to Anne.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

One thing to remember is with the modern NHS ("the envy of the world"), midwives and nurses change shift at fixed times regardless of what's happening, and quite often spend as much time chatting to each other as attending to the patient (this from personal experience), so if the husband is present, at least the woman will have some sort of continuity of company. It helps, I believe.

BulloPill said...

I was present when my wife gave birth to our three children. I'm assured by her that my being present was a support and comfort to her. Our second and third children arrived together - a twin pregnancy - and, because of complications with my wife's first pregnancy - there was a huge audience. I counted 11 at one point in the delivery room, including , bizzarely, a lady bringing-round tea and toast!
I think this really has to be a matter over which the mother and father need to put their own wishes into action, not to be hidebound by convention.
Me being there worked for us, but that's not going to be true for every delivery.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

WY: The husband's presence may well do that - if he is able to be present, I just doubt personally that I could attend.

BP: As you say, it worked for you and am pleased that you acknowledge it may not for every delivery.

Anonymous said...

I have been present three times. My presence was not resented by the hospital staff. I was never made to feel I might be in the way. Since I like to keep an eye on things, I believe my wife was relieved to know that I was ‘alert and on station’ while she was helpless and in the hands of strangers. There was of course no question that she should ever have felt humiliated by my witnessing what was happening to her. We did not have that sort of relationship.

It is a maturing experience to share what the mother has to go through. It is true that things can become messy but that is not foremost in one’s mind and I say that as a man who is excessively squeamish in ordinary everyday life. One doesn’t even think of the superficialities. It is what it all means that dominates everything. That and concern that nothing must go wrong.

On two of the occasions everything went extremely well. On the one occasion a minor emergency occurred. I do not know what it was but everybody suddenly started to get very busy indeed. I saw on one of the monitor screens that something was not at all as it had been previously. The preoccupied staff had not noticed it and I was able to point it out. From their reaction I believe I made a significant contribution. I am very glad to have had the opportunity.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Anon Pleased it all worked out for you - I still have doubts that I could have done that.

As many have said - and I quite agree - it is a matter for both to discuss and agree. Had any wife of mine insisted I be there then needless to say I would have been. I just don't know how long I would have remained vertical.......

As to the humiliating aspect, perhaps I did not express myself very well. There must be a sense of humiliation bearing in mind the position a woman is placed in and relative strangers (ok, their only doing their job) standing round, etc. There must be women who think like that and would not want their husbands present?

Anonymous said...

Well i as a serving royal marine was present at my twin daughters birth.Not a good thing ROUND ONE room fills up six nurses asked if a student can observe yes of course STUDENTS ELEVN OF EM AND THE CONSULTANT.Its all go hand holding feeling very useless .After much hand crushing twin one arrives ooooh the relief a daughter .Right lets take five cuppa and a fag NO READY PUSH omg ROUND TWO im a little overwhelmed its like a boxing match im losing i have not made it back to my corner and its round two .Twin two arrives no problems its all over.PUT YOUR HEAD BETWEEN YOUR KNEES MUCH LAUGHING AND IM A CASEVAC CASE so much for commando s said nurse.It was not for me awful time but fab the consultant informed the students that is the first and only uncomplicated multiple birth you will see.I hold my hand up to the other twin dad well done not my gig as they say.