Make Room for Daddy
The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
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Until fairly recently, historians have treated childbirth as if it were a story only about midwives, physicians, changing technology, and medical advances. Then it became clear that labor and delivery could not be understood without the birthing woman’s perspective and experience. After all, she was the main actor, the one doing...
Introduction: MEN MATTER
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On December 8, 1952, American television audiences watching I Love Lucy saw a prime-time first: a pregnant actress playing the part of a pregnant woman. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, her real-life and television husband, along with the show’s producer, had decided to address directly a subject that had previously been taboo...
1. ALONE AMONG STRANGERS: The Medicalization of Childbirth
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The vast majority of American women (99 percent) currently deliver their babies in hospitals, accompanied by their physicians, nurses, and midwives and often by their husbands, partners, family, and friends. The hospital routine is fairly standard, although variations exist among hospitals, and medical protocols have been developed...
2. KEEPING VIGIL: Fathers in Waiting Rooms
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As the hospital came to be the preferred setting for childbirth in the mid-twentieth century, some of the men who accompanied their laboring wives returned home to await news of their child’s birth. Others may have retired to a nearby bar or restaurant to drink and eat their worries away. Still another alternative was to wait stolidly...
3. THE BEST BACKRUBBER: Fathers Move into Labor Rooms
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Even as most men were confined in fathers’ rooms in the 1940s and 1950s, some hospitals allowed a number of them to venture out of the waiting rooms for short visits to their wives during labor, and a few hospitals even let them stay through the long hours of labor, excluding them only when the woman went into the delivery room...
4. HE WANTS TO KNOW: Prenatal Education for Fathers
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Prenatal classes for pregnant women and their husbands—some developing as early as the 1930s but growing exponentially in the 1950s and 1960s—educated both parents for the experience of being together during labor. Hospitals frequently made these classes a prerequisite for the laymen to be permitted to pass through the doors from the public...
5. PEACEFUL AND CONFIDENT: Mothers and Fathers in Labor Rooms
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With more and more fathers present in hospital labor rooms during the middle years of the twentieth century, couples spent more time alone together during labor than ever before. During the period of home births, men had traditionally waited outside the birthing room. Increasing medicalization of childbirth in the hospital also separated...
6. SIDE BY SIDE: Men Move into Delivery Rooms
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Even as hospitals opened the labor-room doors to men, allowing them to be with their wives for the long hours of the first stage of labor, the same hospitals insisted that the men go back to the stork clubs to await the birth of their babies. The delivery-room exclusion...
7. WE DID IT: Together in Delivery and Birthing Rooms
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In 1973, Representative Martha Wright Griffiths (D-MI , 1955–74) introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress to allow biological fathers to attend the birth of their children. Congressional attention to the subject indicated that fathers attending the birth of their children...
Epilogue: EXPECTANT FATHERS’ EXPECTATIONS
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With the presence of fathers in delivery and birthing rooms across the country well established by the mid-1980s, except in some crowded public hospitals that continued to be pockets of inequality of access, laymen had conquered all the important spaces of hospital obstetrics...
A Note on Sources
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This project began when I visited the archives of Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital to start research on a new project, a history of childbirth in the twentieth century. The archivist, Susan Sacharski, showed me a huge set of “Fathers’ Books,” once empty, thick journals that the hospital had kept in its mid-twentieth-century...
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I could not have written this book without the help of a lot of people, many of whom I do not know. I am very grateful to all those who shared their birth stories with me and who got excited when they heard about this project and encouraged me to write this book. When I first presented this material to the American Association...
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Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2009