Stupid Stereotypes of Panicky Husbands

I was watching Kiki’s Delivery Service with the girls tonight, and at the end, the baker who befriends Kiki finally has the baby, and there is that little scene where she says it’s time to her husband, and he starts to panic and trip over himself.

This is a common image in pop culture: the dad-to-be who freaks out when it’s time.

It doesn’t matter if he’s been to classes like Lamaze for childbirth. It doesn’t matter how much he’s prepared himself. It doesn’t matter if he’s managed to memorize the phone numbers of all the important people, or placed their numbers somewhere convenient. Nope. All that goes down the drain when the water breaks.

Yeh Right.

I remained pretty calm with our births, though to be fair, our first was a C-section without any labor. Our oldest was a breech baby and she could not turn, and at the last sonogram the doctor said there’s hardly any amniotic fluid left, so let’s make the plan for surgery that afternoon. We had plenty of time to get ready to go back to the hospital, make the necessary phone calls, buy a few things we’d need for an overnight stay, dance to our wedding song at home one last time as a child-less couple, etc.

Of course when we went to the lot, the guy said he was pretty full and asked us how long we’d be. I told him, “don’t know — we’re having a baby,” and he rushed over to take care of the car, saying don’t worry don’t worry, just go!

I suppose the real reason most guys panic is that we have NOT done enough preparation. Maybe we didn’t go to classes. We probably did not read all those books our wives bought on e-bay or checked out of the library. So we feel like we have to do something and do something FAST.

The truth is that we men are not really needed for the birthing process. I’ll explain that in a minute, but first I wanted to note that with our second child, when my wife’s water began to break — slowly — I did not panic. We woke the midwife up at about 1 in the morning, and she told us to get some sleep because we’d be in for a long night the next day, and we did. Excited, yes, but no panic in the air.

Now, back to this idea of not needing the men.

We wanted to have home births for our children. That was important to us. We did not get that chance with our oldest, but we got that gift with our little one. On the day she was born, my wife was with her mother for part of the day, and when the labor pains became stronger, the women just showed up and did it all. My wife’s sister was helping by choppping ice for my wife to suck on. She also took care of our oldest. Our friend the massage therapist did her work on my wife. The midwife finally arrived after being stuck in traffic, and she did her thing, preparing our bed for the birth. And my wife was “vocalizing” (what we used to call “screaming her head off”) and it was a powerful sound, like the tolling of a church bell, strong and clear.

It was in these moments that I understood my role was not that important. Women have been giving birth for eons, and they know this stuff. My job was to be the support for my wife when she needed to push, and before that, drive the big one out in the car to get her to sleep. In any case, i never panicked, or freaked out, made a fool of myself.

I know such images in the pop culture world don’t carry all that much weight. But sometimes it bugs me.

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About T.B. White

lives in the New York City area with his wife and two daughters, 6 and 3. He is a college professor who has written essays about Media and the O.J. Simpson case, Woody Allen, and other areas of popular culture. He brings a unique perspective about parenting to families.com as the "fathers" blogger. Calling himself "Working Dad" is his way of turning a common phrase on its head. Most dads work, of course, but like many working moms, he finds himself constantly balancing his career and his family, oftentimes doing both on his couch.

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