Jack O'Sullivan

The co-founder of Fathers Direct responds to an article by Deborah Orr,who took exception to the idea of men and women being equal partners in a pregnancy
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The Independent Online

Right from the start, I realised that equality with my wife during her pregnancy was out of the question. Ten minutes after she beamed at me while clutching the positive pregnancy test, she started vomiting. She carried on for a further five months. She could not drink alcohol. I could. She slept uncomfortably. I slumbered peacefully. Then, there was the actual delivery. The sight of a consultant wielding forceps, 24 hours into her labour, was terrifying. I'll give that experience a miss as well, thanks.

Right from the start, I realised that equality with my wife during her pregnancy was out of the question. Ten minutes after she beamed at me while clutching the positive pregnancy test, she started vomiting. She carried on for a further five months. She could not drink alcohol. I could. She slept uncomfortably. I slumbered peacefully. Then, there was the actual delivery. The sight of a consultant wielding forceps, 24 hours into her labour, was terrifying. I'll give that experience a miss as well, thanks.

Deborah Orr rightly says that men will never be as involved in pregnancy as women. It is, as she says, a female experience. But she is wrong to imply that men today actually want to barge in on that experience.

The dad who would be a pregnant mum is a straw man, easily knocked down if it were even possible to find him. He is not among the 800 new fathers surveyed for the study published this week by the National Childbirth Trust and Fathers Direct. Many said they would have liked greater involvement in the pregnancy. They meant that they wanted to be as supportive and useful as possible.

These are not pushy, angry dads to be easily dismissed as stereotypically male, flexing their muscles even as mothers go through the agonies of childbirth. They are just ordinary dads who love their partners and their babies. Ask any of them about their priorities at this time and they will, to a man, say the welfare of the mother and child. But they are concerned that the poor treatment of new dads makes matters worse for both.

They are right. Who wants a man who feels ignorant and excluded helping them to look after a newborn? Far better to have a capable man looking after the baby, giving mum a break and building a life-long relationship.

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