Picture this scene. It is 1957 and I discover that I am pregnant. What is the procedure?
After confirmation and a given date I have to go and see the Matron (a very formidable lady) of our local maternity home. Here I am given the once-over and labelled "Mother". I am booked in for the birth and for ante natal classes and henceforth I shall be known as Mother. As far as I am aware, nobody ever called me by name.
On the appointed day I am taken to hospital by my husband, who says goodbye on the doorstep. I give birth, see my son for about ten minutes whilst they are cleaning us both up. Then he is popped into his cot and wheeled away to the baby unit. It is 5pm. At 7pm fathers are admitted to the ward and new fathers are taken to view - through a large plate glass window - their new son or daughter. At feeding times (every four hours, no more, no less) the babies are wheeled into the ward in their tiny cribs and handed out to Mothers, fed, burped and returned to the baby unit. After three days Mothers are allowed into the area to first help with and finally bath their offspring. After ten days Mother and baby are collected by Father and taken home. This is the first time Father has been able to touch/hold/kiss/smell/cuddle his offspring.
Now picture this scene in 2009. Husband drives wife, who is seriously in labour, to the maternity unit, leaving their two year old with grannie. Husband is welcomed into the unit with wife, scrubs up, comforts wife during labour, is there to see his son/daughter emerge into the world. Wife is wheeled back to the ward, he accompanies and seconds later baby in his/her crib is placed at the side of the bed. Mother and father can pick the baby up, cuddle her, look closely to see he/she has all the right bits and pieces (always a worry for mothers), even be photographed holding the baby. Then father drives home, picking toddler up on the way. Baby has been born at 8am. At 6pm father gets a call to say he can collect Mother and baby and by the toddler's bedtime the whole family are well-acquainted.
Which scenario strikes you as being the most civilised?I suspect you will reveal your age by your answer. Apparently more than 90% of men are now present at the birth. But now, Dr Michael Odent has thrown a spanner in the works.
He claims that the presence of the father at the birth increases the likelihood of Caesarean section, subsequent marriage break up and even mental illness. He says this may be because
having a man present makes the mother more tense, which makes her produce more adrenaline and this in turn slows down the production of the right hormones and therefore slows down the birth process.
If you are a man reading this - were you in at the births of your children? Did you enjoy the experience and did it make for good bonding all round? If you weren't do you wish you had been? If you are a woman, what do you think about it. We really cannot dismiss Dr Odent's remarks as rubbish - he is after all a leading obstetrician.