photo: Eddy van Wessel
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Keeping men away from the birth of their children
,,I am not allowed to enter the maternity hospital and I do not want to wait outside for all those hours.’’ A young future father complains bitterly. His wife has gone into labour of their first child and he is not allowed at her side. He drives home to wait and keeps in contact by phone.
Health care in Iraq, even in Iraqi Kurdistan, is far behind on the West. I have covered the subject before, and will again. To keep husbands out of the delivery room and even not create any space for them where they can comfortably wait, is only one of the many problems to be solved..
Children are an important issue in Kurdish society. People need to get married because in Kurdish culture you should have children. Almost the first thing people inquire about in most social contacts is how many children one has. If you are not married and do not have children, something must be really amiss.
Yet at the same time to give birth, is considered a completely female issue. Men who are not doctors, have no right to be involved - which is strange and seems to me very conservative. Man and wife make the child together and raise it together. When there is a good relation between the two, the wife will want her husband at her bedside for support, and he will want to be there for exactly that reason. It seems better for the woman, who wants someone near to her she trusts in these difficult hours.
Do doctors ban men because they might be shocked by the pain their wives have to go through in labour? Do they ban them because they get in the way, may faint or get aggressive? Or do they really think that giving birth is a women only business? If that is the case, why are these male doctors allowed in? Do they want to go back to the dark ages where birth was something between women only, like menstruating, pregnancy and menopause?
When people get married, they do so ‘for better and worse’. That means sharing the most important moments in your life. Isn’t the birth of a child one of those? What gives doctors the right to ban men from that if the couple wants to be together?
My mother had all her five children in the company of my father, at home, as is the habit in my country. Friends of my own generation and younger still give birth to their children at home, with the help of a midwife and sometimes a doctor. We Dutch do not connect giving birth to being ill. It is seen as something very natural, which should be a happy event. As long as it is a normal birth, it can be done in the soothing atmosphere of home.
The Kurds are many steps away from that. Not only have they medicalized child birth, they hospitalize women giving birth and then also keep them separated from their husband and father of the child. If the woman is not circumcised, as many still are in Iraqi Kurdistan, surely other, less medical ways of child birth can be considered?
,,Just heard the child was born'', says the now father through the phone, ,,have to run.'' But a little later, he is back on the phone. ,,They still will not let me in! This is really against human rights!''