The birth of a new role for men

Blokes giving birth would metamorphose into people able to cope with babies. Just as women do
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"MAN WILL soon be able to have babies." When I read that news yesterday, I had four reactions. The first was: "Wot you looking at me for, just 'cos I'm a stone overweight." I've had this tum, doctor, which just sort of hangs there, ever since I gave up playing football. No other reason. Honest. Then I thought: "Fish kettle." Our son, who recently got married, invited us for dinner and he did this whole salmon in a fish kettle. Never seen one before. It reminded me of those metal pans midwives used when delivery babies. If I am to give birth, it could be jolly handy. Just nip round and pick it up, when I get the labour pains.

Will there be labour pains? Lord Winston, the noted fertility person, who has come out with the possibility of blokes giving birth, didn't mention that. Not that I really understood it. Something to do with an embryo being planted in a man's abdomen, where he will carry it to term, then give birth by Caesarean section. All possible, so they say.

And long overdue. Women have become far too dominant in this childbirth lark, oh for centuries. More so in the last decade. They now don't need a bloke at all, not at first hand, but can pick up the stuff at any local sperm bank. Very soon, to save you queuing in the bank, it will be part of the cash point. You'll put in your card, key in your pin number, blood group, DNA, choice of eye colour, and bingo, you get a take-away sperm, injected into your hand. Or anywhere else.

If men could have babies, it would even things up more. Men would be able to take to their day couch for nine months, stuff themselves with Milk Tray, Guinness or lumps of coal and get total attention. Some women do that, oh yes. And it would stop them scoring points for ever when a man moans about his cut finger or his grazed knee or sore bum. "Until you've had a baby, you don't know what real agony is, so just shut up." They wouldn't be able to say that any more. Oh no!

But could I personally bear to have a baby? When our first was about to be born, I went to father's classes at the Royal Free in Hampstead, the first such classes in England. There's a thousand words in that, I thought. But I also wanted to know how it was done. My wife, alas, was in labour for about 12 hours. I got fed up waiting, so popped out for a pie. When I got back, she'd given birth. Never been forgiven.

For our second, the birth took place at home, in the room which is now our kitchen. And I was there, all the way through. In fact it was thanks to me, he's here now, able to use a fish kettle. He was born with the cord twisted round his neck and I helped untie it. So I have seen service. But the pain, the pain. I don't think I could stand it.

Last week, I tuned in to some telly thing called Playing the Field, only because my wife said it was about football. Turned out to be women's football. I watched for 30 minutes, without seeing a ball kicked, then left the room, rather hurriedly, when one of the players was about to go into labour. Yuck!

On the other hand, as Lord Winston is so awfully clever, blokes having babies would metamorphose into people able to cope with having babies. Just as women do. Aged 20, they often say: "No chance, I don't want no babies", then at 30 they go all broody. Pregnant men, presumably would be programmed by their hormones, and act like women, able to put up with all that pain and mess, and stuff, and not worry about where their next pie was coming from.

It would also even things up culturally and economically. I'm in the middle of a book about the West Indies, and on every island, developed or otherwise, I keep coming across women who have taken over. Bank clerks, hotel staff, solicitors, they all seem to be women - smart and trim in their suits, so organised and reliable. While their men, poor petals, sit around on the beach or bench all day, drinking or "liming".

Fishing and farming, which they consider real jobs for real men, have gone, but they won't demean themselves by doing service jobs. So many just do nothing, supported by their women. Now if - while sitting around at home, or on the beach, they could have babies - equality in marriage would be possible.

A book. That was my fourth reaction. Fay Weldon, who is my age, she's been knocking out all this stuff about women being cloned, doing without men. There must now be scope for a novel by a man, doing without women. With IVF and all those other initials, women still need a few drops of sperm. They can't produce that on their own. Not so far. But if men gave birth, they could then do the whole shooting match. Go screw yourself would come true. Men would be absolutely, totally, in charge. I'm sure I could do a 80,000 words novel on this theme in the next two months. After all, it is fiction. Isn't it?