I often wonder how in the lack of a life lived as a community, we as women are asking of men roles traditionally filled by other women? We expect our men to listen to us, emote with and often parent as we parent: "No! do it like this!"
One example of this is the recent trend for the man to be present at the birth of their children. A trend that is treated as good as gospel, so much so that when I became pregnant the father of my daughter and I just assumed that he would be in the room when our child was born. It was only after we spoke to our doula Liliana Lammers of our plans for our daughter’s birth that we were surprised when she advised us against Ben being in the room.
Are some traditions okay to keep?
In an email to me Liliana explained:
“…the fashion of having the father present, for the birth of the baby and the birth of the placenta is very new in the history of mankind.
If we think of the two obligatory actors during the birth process: mother-baby, and we know how easy it is to inhibit the birth process we (would) never dare to introduce the father, who (can be) anxious, stressed, nervous...in other words full of adrenaline! (Which is) highly contagious and inhibits the release of oxytocin...the hormone necessary to give birth to the baby and to the placenta. So, when very rarely a father only comes after the delivery of the placenta, I have observed that men are radiant, full of admiration for their wives, and their health in the days after the birth is not affected. This attitude, the man coming afterwards also protects the sexual life of the couple. Sexual attraction is also fed by mystery, and showing everything to the man can have a nocebo effect.”
After consulting another elder in my life: my mother, we decided on Ben not being present when I gave birth. So although he would come and bring tea and give encouragement mostly it was me, Liliana and the two mid-wives we had from the NHS, who were like angels they were so brilliant. So it was us four women, in my home (finally, perhaps another story) and it was a tremendous experience. Mainly because I felt relaxed enough to really let rip. So that in the company of women I roared like an elephant and bellowed like a hippo as they offered their support and encouragement.
Crucially nothing had to be held back. I could roar, grunt and moan to my hearts delight. And it was delightful. The unabashed primalness of it all.
To be in the company of women who could support and accept it all felt liberating.