Friday, June 4, 2010
Fathers and Childbirth
Now, however, new research has appeared giving males an opt-out from the nonsense of being forced to attend antenatal classes and birth. According to Dr Jonathan Ives of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Birmingham, men who are obliged to attend antenatal classes and be present for the birth of their children can actually become “deskilled” at parenting.
Dr Ives is working on a treatise named The Moral Habitus of Fatherhood, but let’s not hold that against him, because the rest of what he says makes eminent sense. He describes the dogma of “equal involvement” in childbirth as, “false, modern rhetoric”, and argues that men who feel a sense of duty to become actively involved in pregnancies are left disenchanted and self-doubting as they realise that they can offer little more than passive support to their partners. --Men are Better Off Building the Cot than Going to Antenatal Classes
"False, modern rhetoric?" My antenna went up when I read that because, thanks to Princess Grace of Monaco, I had already begun re-thinking my support of women expecting their husbands to attend their children's births. I read last week that she believed that men had no place in the delivery room. Until then I had assumed it was a good thing. My husband attended childbirth preparation classes with me and stayed with me through each delivery.
Would he rather not have been there? I don't know.
As I pondered Princess Grace's belief, I thought about the reasons I wanted my husband with me during birth. Primarily, I realized, it was because I felt so vulnerable, and I knew he would protect me and be my voice if needed. Despite the focus of prenatal classes, it was not because I needed him to comfort me or coach me.
Not only that, we had made a pact that if something was wrong, and our newborn had to be taken from me, he would go with him. This brought me immeasurable comfort, as I had a great fear that something would be done to the baby that I did not want or that our baby would accidentally get switched with another.
So I am not sure if fathers attending births goes hand-in-hand with the revolutionary spirit that laid waste to our culture beginning in the 1960s, or if it is a reasonable response to the drastic change from having our babies in the nurturing environment of the home to the cold, clinical, de-humanizing hospital maternity ward.
It is hard for me to fathom that "being there" actually can cause the father to become "de-skilled" at parenting as stated in the article. But the older I get, the more I understand how different men and women are. In my own limited experience with raising a boy and a girl, I have certainly seen it. Maybe the way they handled animal births here at home is really the way it is supposed to be. When our goats birthed, Emma would pull up a chair and station herself as close as she could to the receiving end of the expected kid. Nathaniel would run and hide around the corner of the barn and wait for Emma to give him the all-clear.
Artwork: Piero della Francesca’s Madonna del Parto (Madonna in Labor)