What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon
Real Men Don’t Have Babies
[p.15]I think it’s high time we re-establish a crucial fact that our very advanced society has totally lost sight of—i.e., which sex actually gives birth.
Back in the Middle Ages people were very clear on this point. They may have mistakenly believed that the moon was made of cheese and that flossing regularly after meals made your teeth fall out, but there was no doubt in their minds that the women—not the men—were the ones having the babies. Even as little as twenty-five years ago, the general American public could be counted on to answer the following multiple choice question correctly:
QUESTION: Who has the babies?
Everybody knew the answer was b., of course, because they’d all seen enough 1950s-style sitcoms to know that it was the woman’s job to say, “I think the baby is coming, Dear,” while it was clearly the man’s job to spring out of his twin bed, eyeballs spinning like cherries in a slot machine, and scream, “My wife is having a booby! I mean she’s having a baby!” before accidentally locking himself in the bedroom closet.
That, however, was BD.—“Before Donahue”—who showed up on national television one day carrying a mike and wearing a skirt and encouraging men to show their sensitive sides.
Nothing has been the same since.
One of the ways that men started showing their sensitive sides was to get more involved in the whole birthing process from pregnancy to delivery. When my parents were having their children, for instance, all that was required of my dad was to drive my mom to the hospital, park the car, then read back issues of Sports Illustrated with all the other expectant fathers in the waiting room.
Now, however, enlightened men like my husband, Ken, go to prenatal classes so that they can learn how to bathe and change plastic [p.16]dolls, which comes in very handy later on if their wives happen to give birth to a Barbie. Men also learn in prenatal class how to “coach” their wives through childbirth which incidentally isn’t supposed to hurt very much if you just figure out how to breathe right.
Well, I don’t mind men getting involved in the childbirth deal except for one little thing. They’re starting to get the idea that they’re really the ones doing all the work-timing contractions, reminding you to breathe through your mouth instead of your nose, fetching ice chips—while you’re just lying there in a comfortable bed whining and otherwise being in a bad mood.
Actually, I’ve noticed that men do this sort of thing quite often. While I happen to like and respect men very much—I even married one—they do have this tendency to think that everything they do is somehow bigger and more significant than everything you do. They work harder, they play harder, they suffer harder, especially if they happen to have the flu or a cold. Most men really do believe in their heart of hearts that they are more miserable than their wives when both of them get sick at the same time.
They figure this is true because their wives keep rolling out of bed to make lunch for everybody which everybody knows they couldn’t possibly do if they were really ill.
The reason I bring this all up is that I am going to have another baby, and I truly hope that the same thing that happened to me the first time I had a baby doesn’t happen again.
I’d had a long and difficult labor—I’m sure because I wasn’t breathing right—during which Ken never once left my side. He was, in short, the model “birthing partner,” encouraging me, making me as comfortable as possible, talking me through contractions. When I finally had the baby, the medical staff cheered and ran around the delivery room, whooping loudly and giving each other high fives. Then they congratulated Ken on how brilliantly he had coached me through the whole thing after which they hoisted him on their shoulders and carried him off to the locker room. The only thing anybody said to me was would I please turn off the lights when I left. I’m sorry but I just didn’t think that was exactly fair. So what if I wasn’t the guy with the headphones calling the plays? At least I was there. I contributed.
Hey! I even have a kid to prove it!