The NY Times writer is a jerk; his clients not necessarily so

I’ve lost count of how many posts and comments I’ve read about that New York Times article. I’ve been by turns fascinated and amused by individual stories, shocked by the level of vitriol and misunderstanding, intrigued by the various side-tracks that come up and baffled at how many people miss the point of the outrage.

Consider the conclusion of the article:

Women may want to consider the risks as they invite their partners to watch them bring new life into the world. For some of the passion that binds them together may leave their lives at the very same time.

The responsibility for considering these risks lies with the women. If the passion leaves their lives as a result, that’s something over which their menfolk have no control. Women have to decide whether they want to take the risk of asking their partner to support them as they bring into the world the child they created together.

Either you think there’s a problem with attitudes like that, or you don’t.

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13 Responses to The NY Times writer is a jerk; his clients not necessarily so

  1. 1
    Lee says:

    Nick, thanks for a good summary of the overall tone of the article. I do think that the people who run the delivery prep classes need to address the one good point in the story – that there’s a perceived “taboo” to discussing the potential impact on sexual attraction of watching the birth. My childbirth instructor discussed the impact of watching the child be nursed – ya know, the whole functional/sexual dichotomy of breasts – but didn’t talk at all about postpartum vaginas except to recommend Kegel exercises.

  2. 2
    Amy Phillips says:

    Maybe I’m being completely daft, but couldn’t this whole “problem” be solved by having the woman’s partner stand at the head of the bed, where he (or she, for that matter) can hold mom’s hand and talk to her and actually provide emotional support during the birthing process, instead of at the foot of the bed where the bloody, messy, un-sexy part is actually taking place? I mean, sure, if dad wants to see the baby’s head emerge and mom wants to let him, more power to them. It just seems like in cases where dad doesn’t want to see the actual pushing-of-child-out-of-body part, there’s a really easy middle ground between forcing people to watch the baby actually being born and leaving a woman in labor without the support of her partner.

  3. 3
    Nick Kiddle says:

    couldn’t this whole “problem” be solved by having the woman’s partner stand at the head of the bed

    One of the men in the article voluntarily took a peep and now regrets it.

    There are lots of common-sense solutions to the problem of men not wanting to support their partners during labour, but most of them are based on the idea that two people having a baby are adults who are into compromise, rather than a woman who wants nothing more than TWO helpless baby-type things to care for at once, which is what the writer’s closing advice seems to imply.

  4. 4
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    You know, I seriously would not want to have a man that was that idiotically shallow. Yes, I said it. No compassion from me, sorry, I’m a mom, I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve layed on that table and had a baby pulled from my belly. While I didn’t expect my husband to take a birdseye view, I certainly would -never- have forgiven him for willfully abandoning me during the birth process. I needed the support there, and it made what was a traumatic (though wonderful) time for me far easier to have his reassuring in my ear and hand holding mine.

    I hear commentary like that and want to become one of those old ladies that spit on the ground in response to show just how unsympathetic and condemning I am of that particular horseshit pov.

  5. 5
    binky says:

    Surely there is no study about this, but I would give my eye-teeth for a peek at data about whether the non-birthing partners of two woman couples experience the same loss of sexual interest. Surely I’m biased for expecting the answer to be “no.”

  6. 6
    Nick Kiddle says:

    I certainly would -never- have forgiven him for willfully abandoning me during the birth process.

    I think it’s worth pointing out that the topic wasn’t exactly men who willfully abandon their partners during the birth: it was about men who were present for the birth and later sought therapy for their reactions to it. The only suggestion of abanonment is in the idea that women are being unreasonable for expecting their partners to be present and should consider if the benefit of the support they receive is worth the harm to their partners’ fragile psyches.

  7. 7
    Avenir says:

    Forgive me for playing the strident feminist (or don’t), but this whole thing reads pretty obviously to me as just another (old) tool used by the patriarchy to keep women from feeling good enough about themselves to (gasp!) approach a feeling of equality with men.

    On one hand, as women, it’s our duty to “maintain our culture through reproduction.” It’s only the nasty, immoral women who want to regulate their uteruses with abortion, or even contraception. So women, have babies. Be comfortable with your social role.

    But wait… you know, come to think of it… having babies isn’t a miracle at all. Certainly nothing to be proud of. In fact, it’s kind of gross. Eeew. Vaginas.

    Maybe the Times should just bite the bullet and report on the real story here: “Once Again, the Patriarchy of America Maintains Itself By Employing Another Insidious Method of Making Women Feel Worthless and Uncomfortable Simply Because They Are Women.”

    If you’re a woman, whether you have babies or not, our society will always be looking for ways to make you hate yourself, so that the partriarchy, has to expend less energy *putting* us back in our places. Much less annoying and economical to just foster a society that encourages us to keep ourselves down.

  8. 8
    Decnavda says:

    With my first son, my wife was in hard labor for 48 hours before they eventually did a C-section. I stayed with her behind the curtain across her chest, but took a peek and saw her various internal organs sprawled out over her torso. It was very disturbing. My sister-in-law, filming the event, also took a peek and nearly got sick.

    Anyway, the idea of saying to wife when our second child was born, “Honey, watching you suffer labor for 48 hours and get cut open was just too tramatic for me, so you better go it alone this time,” is enough to make me laugh out loud. I was there and our sex life has never been better.

    What is it with my sex? We brag about our ability to lift a couple of hundred pounds over our heads and our willingness to rush into oncoming gunfire, but ask us to watch a live birth or share a pup tent with a gay guy and we just go to peices we can’t handle the trama. Men make no sense at all.

  9. 9
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Huge difference between surgery and vaginal birth, Dec. We’ve been discussing that in our household as I will be having surgery this time like I did last time. Regardless of that, my husband was there and supportive. You don’t need a birdseye view to be supportive, but you know what? When you’re there, and after all is said and done, if you’ve gotten a peek of something disturbing, it’s important to….well for lack of a better turn of phrase, keep your fucking mouth shut and cope. Not that I’m saying you didn’t at all, in fact, you handled it perfectly, as did my husband. I’m just so pissed at the idea of anyone even whining over such a thing. I’m about the least sympathetic viewer of this article at this point I think, perhaps due to being rather close to my own due date and feeling the general apprehension building of the birth process.

  10. 10
    Kyra says:

    This is about the most blatant example of patriarchal selfishness I’ve heard of in a long time. The author is more concerned with what the man goes through *watching* labor and childbirth than with what the woman goes through *feeling* it, without the option of stepping out for a moment and taking a break. It’s the equivalent of having someone fix an electrical problem in your house and letting them get electrocuted because you’re too lazy to go to the fuse box and shut the power off. And the jackass of an author goes and lectures the now-sizzling repair-person about the selfishness of demanding that you get up to turn the power off!


  11. 11
    Julie says:

    I have had two vaginal deliveries in the last two years (yes, I am that fertile). My husband, who is not so good in the gore and gross things things department, accompanied me both times. And both times he stayed by my head. He held my hands, he kissed me, he whispered encouraging words, etc… but he stayed with me the whole time. I really didn’t expect him to watch them be born, cut the cords, anything like that, but I did expect him to be there with me through the scariest and most painful (but simultaneously most wonderful) thing I’ve ever done. To the men who are traumatized, I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy… I’m trying hard to conjure up sympathy, but it’s just not coming. When they’ve torn their genitals from one end to another, we can talk about the effect on their sex drive. Until thn, I really don’t have much sympathy.

  12. 12
    Nick Kiddle says:

    The author is more concerned with what the man goes through *watching* labor and childbirth than with what the woman goes through *feeling* it

    Yep, that’s the problem right there. That and all the commenters who can’t believe us nasty feminists expect men to repress their feelings and get turned on to order and call them nasty names for going to therapy and a thousand other things that completely miss the point.

    I’ve got more sympathy for the men in the article than some, because at least they did show up to support their partners, even if they had issues with it later. My baby’s father has no intention of being present, so my attitude is something like “sod it. I’d rather be alone than be worrying the whole time how my birth partner is reacting.”

  13. 13
    Rock says:

    The idea that the birthing process is gross or unattractive is ridiculous. It is what it is and that’s that. It seems akin to guys that are jealous or have issues when the details of a prior relationship are revealed of their wife’s or girlfriend and they get turned off to them. (The image of purity and ownership get popped.) The image is in the mind, if the reality doesn’t match up, the problem is not in the reality it is in the mind.

    One foundational thing about being committed to another person is that there is intimacy. Intimacy is not always gooey and soft and warm. Often the most intimate times I have shared were in clarifying a misunderstanding or balancing the books so to speak where engagement and communication were at their peek as well as honesty. The deepening of the relationship after going through a difficult time usually meant enhancement in other areas as well.

    If looking at a birth ruins the ability to view a person as a lover there is a lot more happening in that relationship than simply post partum lunacy. I am glad the guys are getting therapy, it is sorry that they should use the woman as the source of their issue, I hope they are big enough to tell them over and over and over that it is not the mom, the baby or the process, it is baggage and deal with it. Blessings.