What Are You Talking About?

Filed under:Language Barrier,Priorities,WTF? — posted by Anwyn on June 18, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

Mr. Jonathan V. Last, here, seems very opposed to and disgusted by the idea of men in the delivery room during the births of their children. Other than that, and the fact that I too despise the expression “we’re pregnant,” I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about.

It wasn’t until the late 1960s that men began taking the last step. Urged on by books such as Robert Bradley’s “Husband-Coached Childbirth,” men started going the distance. By 1970, the delivery room had been pried open.

All manner of idiocy followed: tape recorders, cameras, video. Husbands huffing and puffing with the mothers. The expression “we’re pregnant.” Various fads have cajoled fathers into cutting the umbilical cord or playing catcher as the baby exits the birth canal or stripping off their shirts and clutching the newborn “skin-to-skin.” By the late 1970s, a man was considered something of a monster if he didn’t at least stand north of the equator during the delivery of his child.

He spends the first nine paragraphs loathingly reciting the history of how fathers went from off the scene entirely into the delivery room, and then spends the last three chapters wailing about society’s tolerance for absent or deadbeat fathers. While I sympathize on the last score, I wish he would explain to me what the hell one has to do with the other.

Yet today it is socially acceptable to father a child without marrying the mother or to divorce her later on if mother and father actually do bother to get hitched. And at the same time there is zero tolerance for a husband who says: “No thanks, I’ll be in the waiting room with cigars.” Ms. Leavitt’s fascinating history suggests that childbirth is just one more area where our narcissism has swamped our seriousness.

Whose narcissism, exactly? A birthing mother’s narcissism in wanting the person who, theoretically, is her companion and partner in all of life’s big decisions and events, in the room with her when a drastic, potentially uncontrolled event occurs resulting in the birth of his own child? A father’s narcissism in thinking his presence is necessary for this event? Who and what? And who cares? The idea seems to be that social norms now require the father present at the birth but let him off scot-free for the rest of the child’s raising. Does Mr. Last seriously believe that a father who stands ready to abandon his child and the child’s mother is going to feel constrained by customs requiring him to cut the umbilical cord? Does he really think the majority of the country both a) derides a man as less than a man if he fails to be present in the delivery room AND b) thinks it’s okay for him to then step out of his child’s life? Of course not. The bigger question is, just how does he propose “society” control the latter? The former, according to him, was brought about by an influential book that caught on into a trend and evolved into a norm. Great. If that method is so powerful, let’s use it on the deadbeats! Oh … you mean it won’t work on irresponsible trash like them? Huh. I thought Mr. Last said they could be found dutifully at the bedsides during the delivery. Weird.

Via Hot Air headlines.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace