There is a growing trend [from all the corners of this country] of women requiring an increased participation of men in the responsibility of parenting. This, right from when the doctors announce the pregnancy to when the baby is out.
Certainly men never grasp, in full depths, what their women go through to bring new life to the world.
The pangs and agonies of the labor ward, to men, oftentimes seem like one of the other tales that women are very fond of telling. Whatever “war” transpires there, however poignant, it is soon slumped and overlain by the “bundle-of-joy” which is always the only thing people outside are looking forward to.
It is not because men are any careless of their wives though. Tradition much earlier defined how far they [men] could go.
No wonder, there is not a chance you’ll find a man in a birthing room holding his wife in the squat position for the final stages of labor. Moreover it’s not about being particularly hands-off in their approach to labor; it is simply because women are expected to labor alone and fathers-to-be relegated to the waiting room, or they’ve been running other errands, when the birth is announced over the phone and they are dashing to the hospital.
But as the wheels so turn, this might be changing drastically in the near future; for mothers think that sitting up in the waiting room is hardly enough – apparently men should be part and parcel of the labor process within the delivery room. Question is; could fathers-in-waiting really be more involved?
According to Estella, a 25 year old teacher in Mukono, every man should witness the birth of his child. That way, “he’d forever appreciate his wife and the bond between them would even grow stronger. It’d especially make more sense if it were a natural birth,” she says.
Shamim, an accountant in Crane Bank in Nakawa, is more philosophical on this; “idealistically, men, close at hand with their wives is how it should be. I mean, staying up all those hours or even days in labor, using your last strength, enduring 1- 3 degree cut/tear, screaming the name of your lost ancestors, learning a new language on the spot and/or speaking Spanish and just to finally push that little cone-headed mini out, through that tiny canal… it should be a lifetime lesson only worth of deep respect for mothers, appreciating them, no mistreatment or abuse of any.”
“However,” she continued, “realistically if that was the case, we would have little domestic violence and a lot more of those ‘good’ things but…” Shamim caved in to despondency. Looks like it will be a long time coming.
Linda, a 20 year Supermarket attendant in Bweyogerere, reasons that if they know how to knock a woman up, then they should be there to give her the much useful emotional support.
Clearly, Etella’s point of view is by no means in isolation. More women than not would actually have their men stay by their side during labor.
Apparently this is the most generous thing a man can ever do for his wife and baby. Well, it is called crowdbirthing – having your husband or members of your family and friends to squeeze into the delivery room to cheer you while you give birth.
Mrs. Emily Lekecho, a Nursing Officer in the Women’s Ward, Mulago Hospital recommends that it would do no harm for the father-to-be to support and escort her pregnant wife on all antenatal visits until the time she delivers.
“Yes, even in the labor ward. It serves to the advantage of the woman if she reckons she has the support of her husband,” she explains.
Nsalasatta, a 30 year old transporter in Kireka, was a bit skeptical before he leaned in to the fact that it would all depend on the wishes of his wife.
“If it pleased her for me to be in there, I would perhaps creep somewhere to the corner of the room as she does her business. I’d hate to see someone bleed so much though.”
However, there are dissenting voices too; Lawrence, a 28 year old journalist says, “I would be in a beer parlor shaking my stout. Her mother will be in there with her. If I ever attempt to enter that ward, it would be the end of my libido ever!”
Martina Nalwanga, 43, a sales executive in a Banda based Car Mart likewise disapproved, saying that African women should for once stop being so superficial and watching all these fake things on TV. Some women reason as if when they were making love, it was only the man who was having the fun. A man with a pregnant wife will have his patience tested to the limit. Dragging him to the Delivery Room would be the last straw. Having said that, I see some women talking as if it is a rule or mandated obligation for a man to follow them into the labor room because they watch it on Grey’s Anatomy or hear about it from abroad. African women are strong women and have never been so whiny like White women to need a crowd around to help them give birth.
In consonance, Mrs. Kizito, an elderly and retired midwife in Mukono argues that some women tend to act rather bratty when they have their husbands around or anyone who loves them, for that matter. “However, the labor room is not place for anyone to be lazy, whether it is the expecting mother or the midwife. Besides, a crowd could divert the midwife from her primary task of ensuring the safety of the mother and her baby,” She emphasizes.
As for Winfrey, a student at Kyambogo University, “not all women would be at ease with their husbands in the room regardless of what you might perceive; their husbands might add to the nervousness and distress. Moreover, the woman might also want personal privacy [no matter how ridiculous the word privacy here might sound]”
Winfrey just happens to be in sync with a finding arrived at by a bunch of British Scientists. According to Daily Mail, an online magazine, women who have their partners with them during childbirth experience more pain.
In an experiment by the University College London researchers working with teams at King’s College London and the University of Hertfordshire, those who struggled to form intimate relationships were the most likely to feel pain when their partners were close by.
Dr Krahé said: ‘We wanted to test whether this personality construct, termed attachment style, might determine whether partner support decreases or heightens the experience of pain.’
Dr Fotopoulou added: ‘Individuals who avoid closeness may find that the presence of others disrupts their preferred method of coping with threats on their own.
“This may ultimately heighten individuals’ pain experience.”
Not any scientific research though will stop the debate from carrying on. In any case, Nursing Officer, Lekecho, importantly remarked that though you might find flexibility in Private Practice, in Uganda, by law, it is not given to men to escort women to the Delivery room. What is certain is the singular truth that the expectant mothers need the “partners-in-crime” to support them to as far they could go.
First Published In The Mighty Red Pepper