August 23, 2005

Get Out Of The Delivery Room With A Note From The NYT's Doctor

Sure, honey, I'll go into the delivery room with you--if you want me never to be sexually attracted to you ever again.

That's the somewhat dire subtext--um, no, actually it's the text-- of Dr. Keith Ablow's column in The New York Times about how some men just might have real difficulty getting back in a sexual mindset vis a vis their wives after watching their children being born.

Oh, he throws out the possibility that pre-natal classes are too clinical, those cross-sectional diagrams might get in the way of a guy's erotic imagination, but let's face it; he's really talking about watching the kid come out.

Let's set aside the whole issue of what giving birth might do to the woman's own sense of her sexuality and attractiveness for a moment and compare sides. Apparently, women are expected to accept the multiple functions of a penis without any complaints or diagnosable hangups, but if it might be problematic someday, it's better for a man not to have to contemplate the multiple roles of a vagina?

Sounds like there's a legitimate problem here, but it doesn't have to do with childbirth.

A Perilous Journey From Delivery Room to Bedroom [nyt]


I would like to thank Hollywood media and television for my ability to have watched both my boys birth from crowning to squirming out. If it wasn't for the realistic violence, murder and medical documentries, I don't think that I could have survived the delivery room. Oh, I forgot to thank the Gaming world for the ability to forget any type of trauma caused by such visual, even though there is no reset button. The desensitizing of my neurons is now complete!

Coming soon for the Playstation, X-Box and N64: Delivery Room 2006!!

on a side note, if the visual of childbirth destroys the mystic of the vagina, there is always the anus...

thanks Greg, for voicing my opinion... I'm glad a MAN did so!

The doc needs come out of the cave and join other males who have evolved past the point where childbirth is a turnoff. In this day and age, are we really supposed to accept such a sexually immature attitude? *barf*

My favorite part is that it isn't even the father's responsibility to be honest about whether or not he thinks it will bother him, but the mother's responsibility to just know that this will ruin their sex life and not even ask him into the delivery room in the first place.

So add "being psychic" to the duties we must now adopt. Goody.

heh, terry. and greg, i wish you'd send your post as a letter to the NYT. your comments as a (relatively) recent dad would have much more weight than anything we moms could say.

what a moronic sexist story; what a condescending, limiting view of dads. while i'm sure there are men out there who spazzed after seeing their babies born, i don't think the answer is women refraining from "invit[ing] their partners to watch them bring new life into the world" (a dim enough comment as is--what about those apparently rare guys who actually WANT to be there, as opposed to having to be begged by their wives to attend, as if the birth of their own children were a particularly dull dinner party). maybe, DER, the answer is adequate preparation for dads, and postnatal therapy for those dads who do have the ow-my-eyes my-wife-is-no-longer-pristine freakout. the story seems to subtly blame women for not keeping men away in the first place. feh.

christy slipped in with the same once-more-we-blame-the-mom sentiment.

That's the stupidest thing I've ever seen... after several months without normal "relations", and faced with a suddenly thinner, large-breasted wife, I can't see how most guys would have a problem getting their "groove" back... :)

As a woman who is 8.5 months pregnant and currently very paranoid about her body image, reading that article this morning was depressing. Thanks, Greg, for posting your thoughts and opinion!

watching my wife give birth to our son made me love her all the more, and made everything that much more amazing.

sorry, but you don't deserve none if you're going to have such petty hangups. it's. not. about. you.

Our boy was about six weeks early so when he was ready to make his appearance there was me, my wife's sister, and oh, I don't know, 15 other medical types just in case there were problems, there wasn't he was and is fine. It was amazing and fairly chaotic all at once. Never did I think wow, I can't be here because I may never desire my wife again, give me a break. After 21 hours of labor I could have caught the baby and she wouldn't have minded. She was just glad that he was OK.

I also can not strongly agree enough with Cam...I love the way my wife looks now and tell her that every day. I think we may have blown the kid's college fund on new clothes and bra's but what the hell.

Bollocks to that. I saw some shocking things I never imagined I'd ever see in my entire life at the delivery, but I am still into my wife. Probably even more than before. How selfish would you have to be to even consider leaving your wife alone at a time that is just as frightening and perilous (more so probably) for her? If she were in a car accident, would you stay away from the hospital lest the sight of her injuries fractures your fragile psyche?

Sounds like Dr. Ablow finished his residency in about 1950.

Thanks, guys. Just so you know, the women I know don't think men are neanderthals. And we like that you like our new boobs.

I wonder what Ablow's wife thought of the piece.

When I was about 4 months pregnant, I got into a 'discussion' with my shrink brother on this very subject. He presented me the same argument about how my boy wouldn't be attracted to me, etc, and how he would feel differently in general about me, my body, and all of my parts.
And THEN he said that if the baby was a boy (which he is), he would feel resentment and jealousy towards me and my son because our bond would be stronger as mother and son then ours would be as partners, yaddah yaddah yaddah.
Well, needless to say having this 'discussion' with a pregnant woman at any stage is just redonkulous. Oh! the wrath that my brother felt for this utter nonsense.
Did I mention that he is of a Fruedian field of study? Did I also mention that he is the father of twin boys? Did I ALSO mention that he is totally unhappy in his marriage to the mother of these boys? I wonder what this 'dr.'s' background is and if he's happy in his life choices. Doctor, heal thy self!

ps, the baby, the daddy and the momma are all happy, healthy and resentment free.

Didn't you love how women "invite" their partners to "watch" them in labor? As if it's a tea party? Why doesn't he just blame women for not making the cucumber sandwiches, too!

Reading Dr. Ablow's article in the NYT made me depressed and I'm the proud mother of a 20-year-old WonderSon ("No! No! My boy's not gonna be a sexist Neanderthal!"). I've come to realize, depressed dads like Dr. Ablow's patient are emotionally weak; no matter how fit and intellectual they are, Nature will select against them (if their wives don't sooner) unless they can be creative-minded 21st Century dads. I only feel sorry for such men (my ex- included) until I realize they are GROWNUPS and can choose how they will respond to life's events.

What a relief to read the comments here and find that there are men and women alike who were just as angered and/or depressed by that NYT piece. Very good points made as well.

I mean, my God, doesn't it just seem a tad ungrateful for a husband to no longer desire his wife after witnessing her delivering their child?

And, yes, christy, I agree that the implication is that the feeling is closeted and new mothers will just have to pick up on it. Yet more "emotional labor," as--who was it?--Carol Gilligan?--said.

And thanks, bobw, for voicing your sentiments, because I had thought that, in a loving marriage where a child was wanted, desiring the partner more *would* be the case. (Lack of sleep and less time, initially, notwithstanding... :) )

But I thought perhaps I was just being naive, which of course has occurred many times before.

ial, having a Freudian-leaning psych. for a sibling is something I would not want to endure. I'm sorry you had to deal with his incredibly, incredibly jerky, inappropriate, and inconsiderate lecture during your pregnancy. Another troubled head doctor to add to that already overtaxed professional population. Sigh.

I have a lot of very mixed and difficult feelings about my husband and I having children. Now I can put this on the list, too, I guess.

I can't get that quote from the article out of my head from the writer/doctor: "[Childbirth]'s a lot of things."


[...] Another puzzle I'm working on is just what happens when a baby enters a relationship. Our study shows that the majority (67%) of couples have a precipitous drop in relationship happiness in the first 3 years of their first baby's life. That's tragic in terms of the climate of inter-parental hostility and depression that the baby grows up in. That affective climate between parents is the real cradle that holds the baby. And for the majority of families that cradle is unsafe for babies.

There are some hopeful signs that interventions will be effective at changing all that. We have done two randomized clinical trials so far and we can reverse almost all of these negative effects on relationships and on babies. Also, at this point in the United States, it seems like we're going through a major sociological shift, and I don't know where it came from. In the last 40 years it seems that men have really changed. Forty years ago men didn't attend the birth of their babies, now 91 percent of men do attend the birth of their babies. That's interesting. But there something else too. What I'm seeing everywhere in the United States, regardless of ethnicity, and race, and culture, and social class, is that men have changed in very dramatic ways. And in a very fundamental way that has to do with existential choice and meaning, men want to be involved in the life of their babies, to be better fathers, and through that, to be better partners, as well. The major commitment is really to the baby. It's a spectacular change. [...], "The Mathematics of Love: A Talk with John Gottman"

I think if a husband/boyfriend helped make the baby, he should be in the room. Trust me, after the pain I was in if ANYONE was turned off from sex it should be ME. DH saw pretty much *everything* and yes he still very much wants me in "that way". To not be in the room for the fear of losing your sex drive is INSANE. I would divorce my husband for that. I mean it's not like the woman has any choice, lol. Unless a man gets really sick and/or is going to pass out, he should diffenately be there. Takes 2 to make a baby so both should be there when it comes time to DELIEVER the baby. Just my opinion.

Look here people....a sexually attractive woman is a sexually attractive woman. My wife , to me, was ALWAYS sexually attractive to me. Seeing all 3 of my children born, I relished the experience as a miracle of birth. At the time of those deliveries, I wasn't even thinking of vagina this or sex or what would she look like later or will I still have the desire. I just enjoyed the wonderful experience of our children being born. Later, we got it on just as always,and we enjoyed our love making as much, if not more as time went on. Why not for God's sake??? I have always relished the female figure,it's wonderful shape and form....and the birth of a child (or more) has nothing to do with a turn off for later on enjoyment of SEX!!!Are you kidding me?"??" Does her vagina look like some alien freak to ya's later or what?"

I'd just like to say that like one of your commenters, I'm pregnant and read that article. Already being self-conscious and already having issues with the father that we're going to try to resolve after delivery, I read the NYT article after a gentleman who came to the coffee store I work at said he could no longer even hug his wife after seeing the baby crown. This article makes me feel a lot better, even though I'm still scared of having the father in the delivery room now. Thanks for some mature and definitely more understanding insight!

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