I am a big, big, huge fan of Odent. (Don't want to be in danger of understating it.
) He was the first researcher, as far as I know, to really begin considering the role of the primal in human birthing. More than anyone else, except those who owe a huge debt to him in the formation of their own philosophy of birth, he gets it.
I was at first disappointed with this article, though. Then I took a step back and realized that what he is doing is what he does so well in every other subject -- he asks questions. He says, these are the things we should be paying attention to and asking what they mean.
He does that with everything he talks about. He's very clear on this point: "Our objective is not to provide answers but to analyze the many reasons why it is such a complex issue."
|There are many sons of men: some can keep a low profile while their partner is in labor; others tend to behave like observers, or like guides, whereas others are much more like protectors. At the very time when the laboring woman needs to reduce the activity of her intellect (of her neocortex) and "to go to another planet" many men cannot stop being rational. Some look brave, but their release of high levels of adrenaline is contagious. [...] It is often during the third stage that many men have a sudden need for activity, at the very time when the mother should have nothing else to do than to look at her baby's eyes and to feel the contact with her baby's skin in a warm place. At this time any distraction tends to inhibit the release of oxytocin and therefore interferes with the delivery of the placenta.
Absolutely true, and for men who are like this, for the couple to ignore the possibility of this having an adverse effect on the process in the name of "husband-wife childbirth" as the ideal, I think is very, very foolish.
So these are valid issues. Odent doesn't take the questioning far enough, however. We need to also be asking: what is it that makes these men nervous? What is it that keeps them from entering a primal place? Would their behavior be different (just as the laboring woman's often is) if there were not observers? Why is the mother sometimes apparently self-conscious and distracted by her mate and not by clinical observers? What is it about the way men and women are conditioned to be with each other in various subsocieties that affects how they relate their sexual relationship to the birth process? Etc.
All of these answers are going to look different depending on what psychological and philosophical approach is taken to the birth, and what environment the birth occurs in. Obviously, looking at unassisted birth will tell us very different things than looking at midwife-attended or hospital birth. It's much harder, though, to become aware that there is a difference if you're looking at it from the outside, because firstly there are so relatively few undisturbed births compared to other births, and because in many of these there are
In our case, the less clinicized and more private the birth process, the more appropriate was my husband's behavior, and the more bonded we were by going through it together. Also, in our case, the more positively it affected our sexual relationship. I can't go into much detail because it's private (just like our sex life is) but suffice it to say that we were both in an altered state of consciousness. He was receptive to what I was releasing and therefore we were able to enter a very primal state together, as we do when having sex. It was partly due to that happening that it was such a peak experience for me.
A lot of UCs, though, are really not approached differently than a professionally-attended birth would be. In some, the husband is expected to act as doula or midwife. There is a great potential for disaster in having men take on a role that is not natural to them or to the birth process. That
is what the article is trying to address, but unfortunately that message gets lost when people take it personally and misinterpret his questioning as a dogmatic judgment of their own birthing choices.