I've always suspected that the father's role throughout the whole gory show is mostly to not block anything such as medical experts, emergency parking spaces or birth canals. This should be a simple task except people like me have to do it. Hence a room full of men learning just how many words you can combine with vaginal. It wasn't always this way...
Imagine that you're Dirk Bogarde in Doctor in the House and you've been called to a maisonette where a woman is in the late stages of child birth. Now imagine that the husband is actually at home for some bizarre reason. He's doubtless flapping around like a headless chicken and any first aider will tell you that the first thing you need to do in this situation is clear the area of any hazards quickly and permanently. How to do this? You tell him:
"Quick, I need a clean towel and some hot water!"That should keep 50's man busy for at least thirty minutes.
Of course, I know full well that these items are completely useless for childbirth. The baby should not be bathed for at least an hour and we now know that soft fabrics lead in all cases to SIDS. Clearly this sort of cheap trick is not going to work on 90's man who is far more clued up on 'lady issues' such as pregnancy and emotions.
And while the delivery room may be no place for someone with such a low pain threshold, male presence is almost unavoidable nowadays. Thus damage limitation is the purpose of the class I attended today and here are a sample of the tasks I must perform at each of the stages of labour:
- Breathing: If the woman is breathing quickly in the early-to-mid stages of labour, she can't accidentally start pushing before she's fully dilated. If a man is breathing quickly in the early-to-mid stages of labour, he can't sing When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin.
- Foraging: We're now at the hospital where the duration and frequency of contractions is carefully monitored by nurses who need to look busy. I also need to look busy which is good because Mom needs to eat and drink to keep her energy levels up... and that's why there are so many vending machines in hospitals, why they are located in such baffling places and why they pay out less reliably than the Wheel of Fortune machine at Caesar's Palace. They are high-tech alternatives to the towels and hot water.
- Hand holding: As the birth nears, one hand is in the iron grip of a screaming woman and the other is aiming a camcorder. This makes it very hard to make popping noises.