One of the world’s best-known experts on obstetrics has announced he thinks Dads need to get out of the delivery room and leave the women to it.
Dr. Michel Odent is a French obstetrician who’s heavily involved in the orgasmic birth and home-birthing movements. Last year, he wrote a piece in the Daily Mail espousing his theories about why dad needs to stay “nearby” for the birth, but stay out of the delivery room.
Now he’s back, with plans to address the Royal College of Midwives in England next month, and he’ll be sharing the same story that got modern women riled last year: bid Daddy goodbye.
So why does he think midwives will listen? He’s appealing to their scientific side. According to an article in The Observer, Odent says fathers are stressed at a delivery, and they’re transferring that stress over to their partners. In turn, that slows the body’s ability to produce oxytocin – the hormone which helps create contractions.
So stressed daddy equals slow, painful labor.
Now allow us to quibble a bit, shall we? Odent seems to be projecting a lot of anxiety onto the male of our species. Is every man in the delivery room wringing his hands and caterwauling? My husband, for one, was the rock who kept me going – and I appreciated that he was really there for me while the doctor and nurses were concentrating on the baby and getting her out of there. Did he ever think that our stress level might be heightened by being alone without the person who means the most to us in the world at this point?
But Odent doesn’t think women need anyone there – be it a husband or a friend. Odent suggests no one be in the room OTHER THAN a midwife, and he’s made a point that midwife must equal female. Likewise, he disturbingly equates the term doctor with male as though that is the only possibility.
But he doesn’t stop there: he also says Dad seeing Mom like that is bad for the relationship – because it ruins the sexual attraction . . . and leads to divorce.
Where to start with this one? A simple fact: he’s selling his sex awfully short here. Four years after the birth of my daughter, my husband doesn’t have nightmares about seeing our daughter crown. Is it a pleasant sight? That depends on how you look at it – it’s not for everyone, sure, but if it freaks you out that much, here’s an extremely simple suggestion: don’t look. My four-year-old manages it when she thinks part of a movie is too scary, so I’m going to bet a grown man could do the same.
Odent’s suporters come from surprising places: the Observer quotes the National Childbirth Trust’s representative, who thinks the relatively new cultural norm of father-in-delivery room puts too much pressure on Dad to feel like he must be there. Says Mary Newburn: “There’s such a feeling among women that ‘you got me into this, I have carried the baby for nine months and now I have to go through labour and birth, so the least you can do is be with me, and if you feel a bit squeamish, then tough’.”
I’d say she’s spot on with that one. Which isn’t to say I think that’s a bad thing. As a female, I didn’t have a choice over whether I spent those nine months like that, whether I had the contractions, the delivery . . . and yet we were creating this child together. It wasn’t a punishment to ask my husband to be in the room, it was part of sharing something we’d done together in the only way possible. He couldn’t physically deliver our daughter, but he could be there to hold my leg up, feed me ice chips and get a glimpse of our family’s history in the making. He didn’t owe it to me – he owed it to the child he helped make.
I do have to wonder – if you don’t think you can handle the whole icky squicky birth thing, what are you doing getting someone pregnant?