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    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    The Trauma of (Observing) Childbirth

    I try to have sympathy, empathy even, for men's complaints, however cliche. I try not to have knee-jerk feminist responses; I try to seriously consider their concerns.

    But this is ridiculous.

    "They ended up having to cut her open to get the baby," one patient told me. "I saw it. I mean, how am I supposed to get that out of my head? Every time I look at the scar, it's like I'm seeing it again."

    In the most striking cases, the symptoms that men experience come close to post-traumatic stress disorder, with its roots in the witnessing of an event that involves a threat to the physical integrity of self or others and responding with intense fear, helplessness or horror.


    One thing I find fascinating is this notion that women are supposed to maintain this "mystery" in order to remain attractive. Men are never expected to be "mysterious" in order to get laid.

    And then there's the underlying assumption in this article that men watching their lives give birth is something "new" that detracts from the relationship. I highly doubt that this "man-paces-the-hallway-while-woman-screams-with-sisters-and-mother-in-adjacent-room" model has its roots in human beings' most ancient birth rituals. I imagine there were a lot of men yanking the babies out of their partners before doctors. Which is another thing- if this is so disturbing, how is it that gynecologists, obstetricians, and others manage to have sex lives? (I know, he answers this- "I do not believe that most men suffer these symptoms. But some do." I guess none of these men went to medical school.)

    I often read about how women lose their sex drives after giving birth. They are always told to take a hot bubble bath, listen to some Barry White, and GET IN THE MOOD.

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