My second child, a daughter, was born two months ago. As my wife prepared to deliver the baby and the doctor readied the room, there was only one thing for me to do: remind everyone, once again, that I would not be cutting the umbilical cord.
I have no idea when the practice of paternal cord cutting was introduced, but it seems pretty obvious that it’s an attempt to give the father a role in the birthing process.
And herein lies my aversion to the practice.
With our first child, my wife was in labor for 36 hours, much of the time with excruciating back pain. At the end of this very long day and a half (which, need I remind you, came after 40 weeks of pregnancy), she pushed out our 8 pound 3 ounce son.
And you know what I did during all of this?
Sure, I rubbed her back and timed the contractions. I even lay on the bathroom floor at 3:30 a.m. as she soaked in the bathtub, but so what? Relatively speaking, I did nothing to birth our child, and I had no interest in cutting the umbilical cord and pretending I did. Experiencing the depth of my impotence–irrelevance, really–and, thus, the depth of my gratitude, was a lot more important to me than snipping some scissors and imagining I somehow helped facilitate the birth of my child.
But the truth is, my discomfort with the cord cutting ritual runs even deeper. For one, it reminds me of the ribbon cutting ceremony that might accompany the opening of a new car dealership. The act is also pretty horrifying on a symbolic level.
Think of it from Freud’s perspective. The father is absent from pregnancy and labor, as the mother sacrifices her body to give life to a baby; the father then enters the baby’s life by literally severing the tie between it and its mother!
Why would I possibly want to be responsible for that?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the desire to be involved in your child’s birth, but guess what, Dad: You don’t have a vagina, so there’s really not that much you can do during the actual birth. You can be unfailingly loving and supportive, and you should make sure to be. You should also be eternally grateful and cry incessantly to express that gratitude. And, of course, if you really want to be helpful, you can make sure that as soon as you, your wife, and your beautiful new baby are settled at home you stop complaining about how tired you are and wash the fucking dishes.