Well I've been pretty quiet on my web sites since my first child was born on July 28. No apologies, I've been spending that time doing daddy things!
But tonight I wanted to get something off my chest that has been bugging me ever since my boy was born. It started with the prenatal classes. The major focus was on the mother, which is to be expected, after all, it's the mother who has to get the baby out! But every once in a while they would make a lame attempt to include fathers. Here's one example. After going on and on about the close relationship a mother can build with her baby through everyday caretaking, like nursing, they said, "Now, the father may think that there isn't much for him to do but that's not true. After the baby's fed the father can burp him!" (Not an exact quote but the basic idea) Thanks a bunch! That's exactly what every guy sees as a fulfilling relationship with his baby--getting spit up all over! Not that I mind Kevin burping on me, but I don't see that as my major care-giving role!
I wrote these comments off as innocent carelessness, but in the hospital on delivery day this anti-father bias became glaringly apparent. It seemed that the whole system was set up with the idea that my wife was the baby's real parent and I was the tag-along.
Now I have to stop here and say that the nurses that we had were great. They were respectful and even apologetic when they had to enforce the asinine anti-fatherhood policies of the hospital. So my complaint is not with the hospital staff but with the idiots (and I mean that literally) who made up the policies.
I could rant for a long time about the anti-father policies at the hospital but I'll stick to three obvious ones.
1. When Kevin was born and everything was stabilized enough, they had us move from the labor and delivery room to a nursery room. As we were getting ready to go down the hall, the nurse apologetically informed me that the I was not aloud to carry my own baby to the new room; he had to be carried by my wife. Excuse me!?! Who came up with that boneheaded idea? My wife was weak and bleeding from the delivery with a perfectly capable husband right next to her yet they made her carry the baby in her lap in the wheelchair, because, in their mind, Kevin was her baby not ours.
2. When we got top the new room Kevin's bassinet was given a place card identifying his name and other pertinent info including the name of his mother. Significantly absent...the name of the father. Then they gave us all armbands. In all the action I didn't bother to read my arm band till later that night. It identified me as "Significant Other". To give them the benefit of the doubt I thought that maybe they made their relationship designations based on the mother, not the child, and since their are so many unmarried women having babies these days maybe they might be afraid to write husband on the band. Of course if that's the case then her band should say "patient". So to check up on my theory, as soon as Heather was awake I asked to read her arm band. Sure enough, it identified her as "Mother"! This really got me mad. How dare they identify Kevin's mom as "mother" but relegate his dad to the status of "significant other"! Every child has a father. He may be good, he may be bad, he may be involved or he may be distant, but unless he died in the past 9 months the child still has a father. And they ought to have an arm band that says it!
3. When they gave Heather the various paperwork to fill out I decided that, just to make sure that their is some recognition that the baby belongs to both of us, I'd be the one to fill out the application for the birth certificate. I was relieved to find that they did have a place for the father to sign on the certificate but then I saw the catch; there was a place on the form where, if the mother and father are not married, the mother could state who the father was, giving him parental rights. Of course, if the mother didn't want to do that then the father's only hope would be to hire a lawyer. Now, Heather and I are happily married so this didn't apply to us so I didn't bother Heather with it, she was already tired enough. But when did we get to the place where a father has to have the permission of the mother to have the rights and privileges of a daddy? I thought that right was God given and biological.
Just for comic relief...After being completely shut out by the hospital's policies, after making it extremely clear that, in their opinion, Kevin belonged to Heather and I was just a "significant other", I did finally get some recognition from the hospital....They addressed the bill to me (not to Heather)! At least they figured out that fathers are to be the providers!
So what does all this matter? Why don't I just shake my head, laugh it off and then forget about such insults? Because this strikes at the heart of society's desecration of the God given role of fathers. When I was working in radio and later when I sat on a child abuse prevention committee one common thread arose: We need to get fathers to be fathers. When the father is not involved in a kid's life the child suffers and so does society. We ran ads and did education campaigns trying to get fathers to get involved. All the while our health and government agencies were actively disrespecting the father's role!
In his book, Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs proposes that while women most desire to feel loved, men most desire to feel respected. After careful consideration I think he is right on. So if we really want men to step up and be dads, we need to respect the role of father. When a hospital, court, health and human services, the media or any other agency disrespects fathers it contributes to a culture where fatherhood is not a respectable thing. And if men want to get respect, they'll have to look elsewhere to find it.
Thankfully I get my opinion of fatherhood from God, who thinks it's so important that he used it to describe His relationship to us (see Romans 8:15-17). So I'll do what I can to help change society's view of fathers, but meanwhile I'm going to be a proud dad; and if others think it's strange...I don't care!