A Male Perspective On Birth

By the time I’d gotten to SF I was wise to the significance of the male perspective.  I counted on my old friend, P, for some insider trading.  He’s a radio guy; talk is his business.  After a quick hello to TC and kids, P and I disappeared into the fog.  We’d been in touch forever, but it’d been twelve years since we’d last seen each other (in what was a momentous last hurrah before settling down with partners we’d eventually marry).  My pregnancy thwarted the threat of any college monkey business.  Still.  He looked good, same bounding energy, same passion for music, same bright eyes.  I tested the waters, “You’re turned-on by my hugeness – you want me bad, yes?”  Without skipping a beat P answered, “Actually, no, not at all.  Sorry, Babe, I’m just not into it.  You look great, though!  Look at you!”  The light of his honesty felt like home to me.  He told me not to fault TC if he wasn’t into it right now, that there was a lot going on down there (in my body), and it’s hard for some guys, including himself, to get comfortable with it.  I huffed, “Well, why can’t you just turn off the light then?”  He sighed, “Yeah, that’s what M said.”  (M, his soon-to-be ex).  He explained it wasn’t that simple… the changes were intense plus there was the burden of impending parenthood and the stress, fears, and doubt that goes with it.  He’d wanted to buy me ice cream and had me hold his arm when we’d crossed the street.  I begged him to put my round belly and gasping lungs out of his mind and remember me as I once was.  We sat at an Irish bar, P with his beer and me sipping  ginger ale.  P had something important to say.  He laid-out a blanket disclaimer that he knew full-well women are the superior sex, wiser, more pain tolerant, better multitaskers, all-around stronger than men.  I concurred with this well-documented fact.  “There’s a reason you’re the ones having the babies,” he said, “men could never do that.”  He went on to confess something I’d never heard before, something that occurs when men see their wives give birth.  “It traumatizes some men,” he said, “For real.  I have more than one friend who’s been deeply scarred by it.”  That’s why when P’s wife gave birth he dared not venture south of the equator, but anchored himself right by her side, eye to eye (“And believe me, that’s a lot!”).  It was all to say that if TC chose to stay up yonder I should respect his decision and know that it doesn’t make him less of a father.  (Boy, was TC glad to hear this, because if these words came from him I may not have readily accepted it.)       

Some of you, living as we do at the epicenter of the U.S. home-birthing movement, patchouli capital of the world and mystical land of breastfeeding-until-five, might be offended by this revelation.  But I urge you to see this for what it is: a male perspective previously unknown to me.  I applaud P’s brave share.  

Naturally, I was curious to hear his take on post-birth vagina.  He said that generally his friends claimed there was no difference at all, but for him… and this was offered with great trepidation… he… noticed a change.  Not a big change, but it definitely felt a little different.  (I take into account that during this conversation he was at the beginnings of a painful separation).  But it was not the physical change that was most significant, he and his friends agreed.  What they couldn’t overcome were the images forever seared into their memories.  Seeing a woman’s body all stretched, bloody and wet with a human head pushing out of it, the grunting, moaning, sweating and trembling.  It’s just too much for some men.  “It’s messy business,” he said, “I mean, stuff is coming out all over, you know that, right?”  I knew only too well.  “It’s coming out your ears, your nose, your eyeballs.  If there’s an orifice, shit is coming out of it, no joke!”  Being a member of the superior sex, I loved hearing this.  His voice was passionate and imploring, “No man needs to see that.”  I told him I knew a woman or two who shared the sentiment.  

Over the ensueing days of retelling, it became clear that the one who benefited most from my conversations with P is TC.  TC is always complaining that men just don’t talk like this.  Whenever I come back from spending time with the ladies he’s all ears, wanting to know every detail, because the information we share is substantial not superficial.  Years ago when I told my wise mentor (a male feminist playwright) that TC had a lot of womanly qualities, my mentor cautioned, “Be careful.  Don’t assume these traits are female.  What they are is human and men are quite capable of embodying them though sadly most have been programed shut to down.”  True.  Fortunately, there’s a small contingency of men I know who are excellent communicators, who are interested in expressing their hopes, fears, desires and sharing their experiences.  Perhaps men would be more likely to lay their armor down if we made it safe for them to say that the thought of seeing their partners’ bodies turned inside out by childbirth is horrifying to them.  And the others, the men who get right down there and apply hot compresses to their wives’ perineas, should speak out too and let their brothers know that as intense as it can be, they will survive.  Shit storm and all.


11 responses to “A Male Perspective On Birth

  1. I don’t know anyone who has actually pooped during delivery. I had fear of this, but it never happend. I think it is utter bullshit that some men are scarred by seeing the mess of delivery. It is not a pretty sight, but my gawd, their child is coming out of there. How can that be scarring? It’s only a damn vagina. They need to buck up. It all goes back to normal in time.
    I just don’t see how they can have the image of that burned into their brain so badly it keeps them from wanting to go “there” again.
    I have seen a live birth and things get real messy down there. There is blood, there is slime, but it is also the vessel in which a beautiful child is born.
    Maybe the image men should have is just that. Not only does the vagina provide many hours of sexual pleasure it also is the route in which their child was brought into the world. That makes it beautiful and fun. Multi functional!
    They should be honoring the vagina! Setting up an alter in the bedroom for it.
    I just don’t see TC as being one of these men who will be scarred forever by the mess that is delivery. He is much too smart and much to sweet to be that shallow.

    You have no worries Shannon. Your vagina will be fine and TC will be fine. Just like pregancy becomes a small part of the overall picture of raising a child like we talked about today, the mess of the vagina will become a blurred and distant memory as well.

    I think you are just minutes away from going into labor. I feel it.
    I will be expecting a call here soon.

    Hang in there and keep those feet up!

  2. If / Then – Devil’s Advocate
    If men should buck-up and see the trauma of birth as beautiful for the sake of their child regardless of their true feelings, then shouldn’t the same apply to women who view breastfeeding as equally traumatic and scarring? After all, breastfeeding is proven to be better for the baby regardless of how one feels about it (too painful, too imprisoning, too demanding, too gross, unnecessary – I know several women who feel this way). Or would it be more beneficial for us to embrace individual choices and validate our feelings even though we might disagree?

    One thing I know is that no matter how anyone feels or what they choose, the multi-functional vagina certainly is worthy of being worshipped by all (including gay men who were birthed by it) and furthermore, all dwellings would be enriched by the erection of a vagina alter – here, here, JB!

  3. Point taken. Anything I post is purely my opinion. Everyone must make their own choce as to what they view during birth and how it affects them. I just hate to think someone would be scarred by such an amazing thing.

    I was one of those people who disliked breastfeeding. But I had no problem with looking at breasts after. I still found them beautiful and fun. 🙂

    Your blog touches topics most people would not discuss otherwise, so yeah for you.
    I have learned everyone has their own opinion and views and it’s always good for someone to put it out there for us to think about and discuss.

    Now, as for the babies…. ?? I have 2 1/2 more days off! I sure hope to see them before I go back to work. I cannot wait!!!

    I hope you are not too miserable………….

  4. I don’t think it should be decided on principal, it should be decided on compassion and love for your partner. Just as you wouldn’t force him to spend the weekend with your mother, who on principal he should love and cherish, but in reality makes you and he both crazy. ( not your actual Mom, but ya know the general Mom, or my husbands Mom..) I think it is a compassionate thing to allow him this out. We all make adjustments for our loved ones… some we understand, some we come to accept… TC is amazing, he is above and beyond as far as I am concerned. Chaz doesn’t want to hear what the ladies have to say, he doesn’t want to talk about things like this. I accept this, I don’t think he is shut down, I think it is who he is. I accept him. I talk about it with other people. I don’t think it is fair, or healthy, to expect them to be EVERYTHING we need or want. I am sure if it was truly important to you, he would do it for that reason alone. And isn’t that enough?
    It is his birth too, even if it isn’t his body. What is his “birth plan”:)
    I hope they come out soon, I know it is crunch time and you are being pushed to make some tough decisions, but just know we love you and trust that you know what is right for you and for the boys.
    I also think Clancy should be added to the list.

  5. is it crunch time? you’re not even 40 weeks!

    so, wow, this is a huge topic.

    the thought never occured to me that g might not want to be there. present at all, up here or down there. he definitely wanted to be there. all the theres!

    what i think would be very helpful for tc is to talk to men from all perspectives on this one. i know one of the emotions g felt in the first birth was some helplessness – it is simply difficult sometimes to watch the person you love experience birth. birth is hard. but as you know – all that noise means everything’s working. etc. g also found it incredibly inspiring and beautiful. i wonder are these men who dont want to see live birth watching anything on television or in movies? is it all blood or just the blood of birth and seeing your wife otherworldly. that, indeed, is a power to behold.

    but to not see it? i think i’m with jb on this one. i’m going to think about it some more and really ponder it all. but really? the idea of not seeing your child be born is, well, foreign to me.

    and especially you guys. i mean, this all feels so monumental! you have been on such a long road to birth (and now two babies!) and to not see it happen? not that it will at all be an anticlimax to look in your eyes (with p on this – it’s ALOT to look into the eyes of a laboring woman) but …. i guess i just never considered it.

    as for the poop, i had no idea it was possible. but really – makes sense, dontcha think? i just remember my midwife saying something like, “… and i’m just going to swipe this away” or something like that and i thought – swipe what? is there poop? huh, weird.

    if you’re that worried, you can always have an enema when you know you’re in labor. i know that will really be one of your top priorities!

    i can promise you it will be the last thing on your mind. is it on your mind now?! my sister was worried about pooping too. she found herself eating spagetti the night before her induction and one bite in remembered and spit it out. spagetti! i think she went with cooked vegetables.

    if that’s your thing!

    i love the perspectives and thank you everybody for chiming in. this is a great topic. stretching my mind. thanks shannon.

    oh, and i like that you said we would be “enriched by the erection of the vagina altar. ” nice wording! to that – i bow to the mighty ‘gina! she has done amazing things!!!

  6. Okay, I just sent your most recent entry to Joe, asking for a completely honest perspective. God, I will stay tuned to see what he writes and I know he will.

    All I can say is my own experience. Joe never mentioned anything at all being unpleasant, nasty or gross. He was more emotional than I have ever seen him! At first happy, then stressed when Molly my first was having problems. He retells me things he remembers. One was the image seared in his brain, of the empty hospital room, machines disconnected quckly, light still on, me being wheeled quickly, gone to surgery to delivery her in emmergency. He remembers thinking and saying, ” I will give every last fucking dollar I have to make all of this turn out okay!” That is true and telling of who he is. He cried, he showed emotion and he showed absolute joy when everything turned out! It took me a long time to convince him to try for another baby.

    Those are the memories I have of Joe with our first.

    TC will be a champ and know that your body does come back some what, it does take work, more than when you are young!

    Rent, the old movie with Kevin Bacon called: “She’s Having a baby”.

  7. Okay I had to edit his response some, too graphic to share with even these perfectly nice people. But I assure you, you can get the ghest of what he is saying. Feel free to ask him directly for those things ommited.


    I love pregnant women! Maybe the sight of them stirs my animal-need to procreate. Maybe their big bellies and swollen breasts are a signal to me that hey, here is a fertile woman. She will take good care of your sperm. Pregnant women are goddesses. Horrifying? Creating life and bringing it into the world horrifying? It’s magical.

    Sex with you when you were prego was GREAT! I need a cold shower thinking about it. The last trimester you were an ANIMAL!

    This is Shannon right? I can’t believe a guy turned that down.

    Have I ever complained about body parts? Before, during or after you were prego? Please.

    Had you not had a cesarean I would have wanted to watch the kids’ birth. I couldn’t watch the Dr. cut into your belly with a knife. I can understand not wanting to watch the birth. I can’t understand not wanting to screw your prego wife!


  8. jw = Man of the Year! Congratulations, jw, you have just clenched the #2 slot in my Most Desirable Man In The Universe category. If TC and I weren’t expecting these babies it’s quite possible you’d be #1, but considering he’s worked tirelessly to support me and this pregnancy, his place at the top is secure. If you weren’t married (to my friend, no less) I’d certainly be seeing you in a new and intriguing light, friend.

    Hail Joe: King of Pregnant Sex!

  9. So I have to clarify. It is not that he would be grossed out. of course it is the birth of his child, but it is just not his thing. We still have sex with the lights off. i think I have seen him naked three times in ten years. I know you all think were are crazy, but it works for us. I think if you are lucky you marry your match. I find it sexy to do it in the dark, especially now that i am no longer a spring chicken. Just being honest. I think it just boils down to you. What works for you and him. I wouldn’t want him down there. Really. I was not into prego sex. So it worked for us. i think it sucks when you are married to someone that doesn’t agree with you on these HUGE life issues.

    You two will do what is right in the moment. I don’t think it is a measure of how much he loves you. I think a husband that gets up every night with the twins to feed them is HOT!
    The same man that continues to get up with three kids so I can sleep in.
    I think a man that can make you laugh so hard in the face of your mother in laws visit from hell is on fire….
    One who is totally grossed out by poop and barf that he knows just how to clean it up…
    I love that man.
    I hope that you birth is so uneventful that these things remain top issues around your experience. You two will be great and so will your Vijayjay….
    Love you honey

  10. Jr. I agree! Hail to a guy who can take barf, projectile poop etc and still have a good belly laugh with you! Imagine how fun old age will be with these guys? All of you rock! Now it is time for our sweet friend to have these babies at last!

  11. CONGRATS Shannon.
    I knew you had it in you.
    Much luv

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