My only major pregnancy update from the last two weeks is that Mae is now responding to outside stimulus - when I press on her foot, she generally kicks back. It's also very easy to see when she's moving around in there, and it has been fun to share that experience with Carson and others. I play and/or sing her song to her every day - "I Will" by the Beatles - and she usually kicks in response. She also gets the hiccups once or twice a day, right against my bladder. All of this plus my ever-expanding belly is making her imminent arrival feel very real!
Because I don't have any other big updates or changes to share, I'd like to use this week's space to talk about a controversial subject: why my husband won't be present for the birth of our daughter.
Women have birthed with women for millennia. It is the most natural thing that a woman's body can do, and it is best understood and supported by other women who have had the same experience. In some parts of the world, women still birth exclusively with women.
For a long time in this country, labor and birth was done at home, surrounded by female friends and family. It wasn't until the 1950s that most women started birthing in hospitals - almost always with male physicians - rather than at home with midwives. These hospitalized women were typically isolated from friends and family, usually spent the long hours of labor alone in discomfort on their backs, and were often sedated against their will. Given the option of being totally alone or having your partner by your side who can support and advocate for you, it's no wonder that a movement started to let men into labor rooms. By the 1970s, it was a widely accepted practice in hospitals around the country and the world. These days, more than 90% of U.S. babies are born in hospitals, and I'd guess that most involved partners are present.
I think it's wonderful that some couples decide, mutually, that the father's presence will be welcome and helpful. However, there is a tremendous amount of pressure for the dad to be there for labor and delivery, which means that men and women alike who aren't comfortable with the idea are even less comfortable vocalizing that preference. Men who would rather not be present - for any number of legitimate reasons - may not speak up because they don't want to be seen as unsupportive. Women who would rather not have their partner there may stay silent because they don't want to deprive him of the experience, or because they don't want to be browbeat by everyone telling them how important it is to have the father present. This influence extends to me; when I share my decision, I am met almost universally with scorn and indignation. "You have to let him be there if he wants to be!" I've heard more than once. "Actually, I don't," I reply matter-of-factly. Why on earth should a man's desires outweigh any woman's when it comes to how she will birth their child? Unfortunately they often do, and it has taken my very strong will not to give in to the chorus. My heart breaks for women who are deprived of the birth experience they know they want because of outside pressure.
Michel Odent is a French doctor who has taken the bold and maligned stance that men should never be present at a birth. While I disagree with that absolutism (as noted above), I think he makes some valid points.