August 30, 2005

What You Don't Know Can't Hurt You

A man who doesn't want to watch his wife give birth is a jerk.

That's the opening line of a recent piece in Slate about society's expectations of expectant fathers. The line is a paraphrase of the more extreme epithets some female bloggers directed at men who do not wish to be present at childbirth ("total asshole", "squeamish and dishonourable").

Luckily, people reacted to my decision to leave the birth to Liz and her mother with considerably less vehemence. As Meghan O'Rourke points out in the Slate article,

Until 30 or so years ago few men were in the delivery room, and now nearly all are: That's a huge cultural shift.

Perhaps the human race hasn't suddenly figured it all out since 1965 - maybe tens of thousands of years of human history can offer at least some guidance.

Personally, my decision was motivated by two factors. The first was sheer humility - how could I have helped Liz as she experienced childbirth? I'm sure she would have appreciated the effort, but somehow I think I my presence would have been less than reassuring. I didn't want Liz to look up and see someone even more terrified and clueless than she was.

I also didn't feel like my absence made me a bad husband. I think a lot of marital problems are the result of people wanting their spouse to be all things, all the time. I am comfortable enough with myself and our relationship to know that there are some things that I just can't do for Liz (and Grandmom did a great job!).

Secondly, I didn't want to witness Liz giving birth for the same reason we don't watch each other go to the bathroom - some things are better off unseen, even between a husband and wife. There's definitely something to be said for preserving an element of mystery.


Michelle said...

Marc and Liz

I agree with you both whole heartedly. I hope Chris will want to be in the room,but he may not want to be! You are both a great couple to look up to and admire!


Anonymous said...


I can understand why you didn't want to be there. You have to do what makes you comfortable. It wouldn't have been any help in the delivery room if the Doctors had to revive you. You are a great Father and that is more important.

Grand Dad