Sorry guys, but birth is women's business.
August 28, 2000 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Sorry guys, but birth is women's business. Call me a stickler. But the notion of male involvement in the nine very long months of pregnancy has, in some circles, gone way over the top.
posted by murray_kester (9 comments total)
Well that certainly was a pointless story written by a bitter person. Why is the washington post publishing and syndicating drivel like that?

Basic summary for those that didn't read it: Hey guys, stop helping! Stop trying to help! You're no help! There's nothing you can do to help! Stop it right now! Don't share experiences! It's annoying to me and a few of my female friends!
posted by mathowie at 8:12 PM on August 28, 2000

While the author's ill-tempered string of old-fashioned sexist generalizations makes her sound like a blue-haired prat, I'm inclined to agree with her distaste for that eminently silly "we're pregnant" nonsense. It's just plain incorrect, and it puts one in mind of bizarre fertility treatments gone wrong.

On the whole, though, this article annoys the hell out of me.

Sure, "it's plain annoying to put men in a position where they think they are helping when they aren't." It's annoying to put anyone in that position, in any situation. The answer is not to write off half the human race as terminally clueless, but to see about educating them so they CAN be helpful. Or "the notion of husband as coach is another bad idea, especially when he urges his wife on like a personal trainer" - well, certainly: if he's distracting her and making her uncomfortable, he's doing a bad job and being unhelpful. The answer, again, isn't to conclude that men are useless but to teach them how to be useful.

I think the author is having trouble separating her distaste for modern birth practices in general - the disgust for anything that smacks of technique is transparent, particularly in her remarks about lamaze - from her belief (justified as it may be) that men generally don't know much about what women want during pregnancy and childbirth.

(just an androgynous alien commenting on earthling matters...)
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:17 PM on August 28, 2000

It is a bitter article, but I have to admit, as a woman, I just hate it when a man says, "We're pregnant." "We" are not pregnant. She is pregnant. That kind of sucks. And yes, men are very helpful throughout pregnancy, and they take care of a million details to make it easier, but the bottom line is, all the real work in this is done by the woman, and that whole "We" thing is like brushing a woman's work off.

That said, I do hate these articles that work on the premise that because the author can find one or two stupid men as examples, all men must be stupid.
posted by kristin at 9:17 PM on August 28, 2000

Does it matter if the article is bitter? The question is, is it valid. How valuable are men in that situation? Women can do it alone in a field if they have to. I figure the answer is gonna be that it is different in every situation. That some women could not imagine not stand the idea of their husband not huffing and puffing with them. Some women don't wanna be distracted. My wife is telling me that when the time comes, she wants me in the waiting room.
posted by thirteen at 9:31 PM on August 28, 2000

Your wife might think differently when the time comes. Two words: Counter-pressure. Trust me on this one.

posted by lileks at 9:58 PM on August 28, 2000

It's probably never going to happen for me (because I'm too old) but I've often considered what kind of role I would play during a birth. Helping with the breathing is just plain silly, but I think that being there and holding her hand and wiping the sweat from her face with a cool damp cloth are things which would be appreciated. Labor and birth have to be a bit scary for a woman, and to go through them surrounded by strangers would have to make it worse.

Every coin has two sides. What if it's a stillbirth? That's when the woman would need her husband the most, for then he MUST tell her that he still loves her and doesn't blame her; he MUST comfort her as she grieves. He MUST provide emotional support which she won't get from anonymous masked doctors and nurses.

That's what I think the man can provide.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:56 PM on August 28, 2000

An unexpected stillbirth (child alive in womb but dies during the birthing process) is EXTREMELY rare nowadays. But a late-term miscarriage is not at all rare, and amounts to the same thing emotionally. And a woman going through that needs enormous amounts of emotional support and cannot wait.

She needs her husband/lover there to tell her he still loves her and doesn't blame her. She needs that NOW, not in six hours. She needs him there while the dead fetus is removed, holding her hand and helping her while she grieves.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 12:18 AM on August 29, 2000

There is only a limited role men can play, and pretending they have a bigger one falsely ennobles them and perpetuates the myth of equality in family-rearing and housekeeping. (You know: men do a thing or three, women do thousands of others, and everybody calls it even.)

I admit that there are aspects of the process that can be a bit silly (something which is not limited to the birthing classes by any stretch), but frankly there are people that find those things helpful. Making blanket statements about the relative usefulness of men during childbirth is as valid as making blanket statements about what women *WANT* during childbirth. The anecdotal evidence provided by the fact that this (I think "bitter" is a fair evaluation) author has poor communication with her husband, or that her friends' husbands are selfish prats who can't turn off the ballgame, does not define the experience for everyone.

For myself, I intend to communicate ahead of time with my wife, in order to plan what we *think* will work, and then I will try to pay enough attention to know if the dynamic changes during the event itself. As for the "myth of equality" in family-rearing... our current plan involves breast feeding, which will mean there are some physical limitations to my participation (I won't be wearing one of those strap-on lactation-devices) in some aspects, but beyond that I'll merely point out that the author's familial relationship is not mine and leave it at that.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 9:35 AM on August 29, 2000

In each of my pregnancies and labours, my husband was invaluable. He was utterly needed and not an annoyance. We communicated my needs, and he took care to pay close attention to me during labour so as to not be a bother or a phantom. (Either is bad.)

But more importantly, we do have wonderful equality in the raising of our children, splitting the "work" and the rewards pretty evenly. Why? Because, once again, we communicate our thoughts, ideas and ideals regularly and strongly. And I think that's the key to the whole concept of marriage/partnership and parenting -- and would seriously abate much of the writer's bitterness.

posted by Dreama at 10:38 PM on August 29, 2000

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