There is nothing like the having a child that teaches you more what a woman goes through, and reminds you what you don’t. I’ve spent most of my adult life becoming aware of the position of privilege I enjoy as a man in a patriarchal society. The hardships that women face when it comes to unwanted advances, objectification and legislation of their bodies, being judged by appearances over the content of what’s inside, and of course the even harsher realities of domestic abuse and sexual violence. But having journeyed with my wife through pregnancy, birth, and caring for a baby the world couldn’t seem more upside down.
In my new favorite book series, The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss he describes a culture called the Ademre. In this culture they are not very sexually conservative. Sex and love are separate and so sleeping around is no big deal. As a result of this lifestyle they have not made the connection that a man is associated with making children. Women think they just sort of “get pregnant”, because there is no monogamy. As a result they think other cultures who think there is such thing as “fatherhood” are silly. I know this doesn’t sound very convincing to you, but the book takes place in a non-modern society so you can’t do any DNA tests or anything, and you just have to read it to know that it’s very hard to find a hole in the reasoning. The main character of the book who is male cannot either and feels extremely frustrated that he can’t convince the woman that men play a role in making a child. Both my wife and I feel even uncomfortable reading that section, because men feel so diminished that you actually start to feel bad for men. That’s some good writing Rothfuss! And I know that is his intent. To make you feel uncomfortable. (as an aside, I think finally figured out the hole in how a culture could not develop in such a way, but that’s for another time). My point in this preamble is that through pregnancy up until now it is pretty clear, how little I have to do with creating life. One microscopic sperm out of millions, and my part was over. Life grows in a woman and then after its out she feeds it! Amazing!
Her body changes. She feels the motion of the baby inside. She feels the baby leave her body. Her hormones are jacked up the whole time and even now. Her need for attachment through breastfeeding. There is just a very clear biological change every step of the way, that my body does not go through. Watching even just how amazing she is right now, and how in control she is in taking care of this child, for something she has never done before is just phenomenal to see. The hormones get strong sometimes, and she cries sometimes because she feels the slightest failure in breastfeeding, or if she accidentally scratches him or something, but she is amazing. And then their is the pain in giving birth. A pain unlike I’ve never seen her go through before. She tried to be brave and go without the epidural to begin with. Neither of us are believers that natural childbirth is necessary or anything, but I knew she would want to test the waters. Had she been able to go into labor naturally and do the things that are supposed to help in dealing with the pain of contractions I believe she could have done it, but regardless women have been doing this for a couple hundred thousand years and here we are today.
She has been the star of the show, and I a supporting actor. Now before men reading this get up and arms, let me say that, there is no question that this child will do better the more adults it has in his life, and that two people can better care for the child than one. And an equal partnership will be not only be a great advantage to the child in raising, but give him an excellent example to look up to when he forms his own relationships with others. Whether they be friendships or romantic relationships, regardless of his sexual orientation.
What inspired me to write this post is, how is it that we live in a patriarchal society? Why am I am not the one fighting to assert myself as an important gender? How can any man not come to realize that women are absolutely amazing? Is it just because of our physical strength? This seems like a poor answer, but possibly. One biological aspect that I know men feel in regards to birthing is fear. Fear that their offspring are not their own and are less likely to care for the offspring as a result. Is this fear so strong that it has led to the control of women and their bodies just to make sure that we can guarantee that the offspring she has belongs to us? Given that we evolved in social groups, that had community support to help raise children, even this seems like not a very good answer, but possibly.
But then I wondered if it isn’t all just overcompensation. The fear that we might not be really that important after all and thus we assert ourselves the most. We joke all the time when we see a guy drive down the street in his loud and chrome fitted truck with giant wheels …”What’s he compensating for?” What if it all this is just men trying to make themselves seem more in control than they really are? More powerful than they really are?
Some questions to think about. This man has to go feed his child some breast milk his wife made and stored in a bottle while she catches up on some much needed sleep. 🙂