Slate’s Meghan O’Rourke has an interesting article on men who are sexually traumatized by watching women give birth.
Today’s women . . . see having the father in the delivery room as a necessary component of a healthy marriage, one in which both partners contribute equally to collective partnership. This is an absolutely reasonable request: Childbirth is scary and painful, and it makes sense to have reassurance and help from the person you’re closest to (and your child’s father). But the belief that men should be on duty no matter what assumes on some level that sex is just like all the other functions that the body performs. What the experience of the men in the therapist’s article suggests is that, for at least some, this isn’t true; for some, the erotic depends on maintaining a distinction between the sexual and the reproductive.
To the traumatized men, but also to some of these women, I say: it’s not all about you!
I’ve undergone a profound change in the last few years, and said change is directly related to being a parent. I’ve realized it’s no longer all about me. Now that I have children to raise, their well-being comes ahead of everything else. I’d love to have a nicer car and more new gadgets, take lessons to learn a musical instrument, or go out drinking with the guys every Friday (not really on that one), but my needs are second to the needs of the children, and given the constraints we work with (time and money), those things just aren’t possible. I understand the deal I struck when we had kids.
I can imagine how some men could find watching their partner give birth unsettling, but to that I say: Get past it! It’s not about you. It’s about your child.
I witnessed the births of both our children, but contrary to what O’Rourke writes, my primary reason for being there was not to comfort Katie (though I was happy to do what I could for her), but to participate in my child’s life from the very beginning. If any woman thinks that the only reason for her partner’s presence in the delivery room is to comfort her, then to her I also say: Get past it! It’s not about you. It’s about your child.
Oh, and frankly, sex is “just like all the other functions that the body performs.” It’s great that God or mother nature made it feel good, but the purpose of that feeling is to make us want to do it. It might be tough to perpetuate the species if we didn’t get some personal bonus from what is essentially a biologically necessary function.