Should Husbands Be Present At Childbirth?
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WHEN a wife is struggling in the throes of childbirth, when the excruciating pangs of the crisis of motherhood are scourging her very soul, it seems to me that she would be strengthened, buoyed up, made better able to bear the tortures of this trying ordeal, if she could clasp the hand of a loving husband.
But in this matter again we have to contend with the influence of this prudery-besmudged age.- How awful it is for a man to view the unclothed or uncovered body of his wife! It is supposed to shock the wife's sense of decency! And yet how pitiably ridiculous is an attitude of this sort. There is only one reason for the obscenity and indecency associated with the exposure of the feminine form, and that reason is of such a nature that it stands as a stigma, a lasting disgrace to this much-vaunted civilization of ours. We have so closely associated sexual intimacies with the unclothed human form that the view of a woman's leg unclothed, or of any other part of her body, that is ordinarily supposed to be covered, is expected to excite a man sexually. He is not supposed to be blamed especially for this susceptibility; but in reality it indicates a degree of degeneracy and perversion in the human mind which must be definitely and permanently eradicated before we can reach any true state of civilization. In fact, it is this phase of the masculine character which, to a large extent, is responsible for the sexual excesses that we have referred to so frequently in these pages.
Sexual desires should have nothing at all to do with the mere exposure of the human female form. Such desires should be awakened only by the definite glance of the eye and the other real indications of passion on the part of the woman whom a man has chosen for his life's partner.
All this is a diversion from the theme of this chapter, but it at least helps to bring out the point that there should be absolutely no need for a feeling of shame on the part of the wife when she allows her husband to be present at the crisis of childbirth.
It is true that many husbands would not care to be present on such an occasion. And likewise some wives would perhaps object to their presence. Therefore the question must be settled entirely by the personal desires of the parties concerned. But if a woman feels that she can be comforted and assisted by the presence of her husband at such a time, it would certainly be to her advantage to have him there, and it would manifestly be his duty to be there.
How can we fittingly characterize the cowardly spirit of the man who shirks his duty in this respect, and who fails the woman he loves in this momentous crisis of her life, on the effeminate plea that he "cannot bear to see suffering"? How are we to express the contempt due to the man who offers the excuse that he "shrinks from the sight of blood," in order to skip away and spend a comfortable time playing cards, and waiting for the news to be brought to him on a platter? It is true that in rare instances men and women are found who actually faint at the sight of blood; but we are not speaking of such extraordinary cases, and the unwillingness of a man to stand by the woman who means more than all the world to him, in the hour of her suffering and trial, is in practically every case due entirely to a lack of moral stamina. No one knows better than the writer that it is hard to witness pain and suffering, but even so it is not so bad to see it as to bear it. And the husband at such a time can help his wife to bear it.
Furthermore, it is just as well that a man should be in a position to understand just what his wife has to go through for the sake of bearing his children, especially if he is one of those who insist upon the wife's going through the ordeal repeatedly, and against her will, in order to satisfy his vanity or passion.
A woman will be more willing to bear children if her husband shows the proper spirit in times like these, and if she has his sympathy and presence to help' sustain her during the agony that she sometimes suffers. It is true that with proper preparation the ordeal may often be made compartitively easy, but this result cannot always be insured, or accurately predetermined. Child-birth is in any case a crisis in a woman's life, full of possibilities and even of dangers that cannot always be foreseen. The least that a man can do is to give the woman he loves his moral support at such a time.
There is nothing so laudable, so heroic, so dIvine in all human life as the ordeal associated with the crisis of motherhood. The vulgarity and in-decency with which this subject is viewed and discussed everywhere is appalling evidence of the pitiful degeneracy of the age. Let us honor the pregnant woman. Let us uphold, commend and admire her. Why not? Every human soul was once confined within the walls of a mother's womb. You, my friend, as you jeer or stare at a pregnant woman, should recall that at one time your mother was carrying you in the same way, and when you cast disrespect upon another woman you are casting it to an equal extent upon your own mother. The man who cannot respect his own mother is the vilest specimen of de-graded degeneracy that this earth has ever brought forth. Such miserable beasts have hardly a human trait. They befoul everything with which they come in contact. Their minds so reek with vulgarity and filth that life itself in all its manifestations contains for them nothing clean and wholesome.