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Make Room for Daddy

Make Room for Daddy: The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Make Room for Daddy
    Book Description:

    Using fathers' first-hand accounts from letters, journals, and personal interviews along with hospital records and medical literature, Judith Walzer Leavitt offers a new perspective on the changing role of expectant fathers from the 1940s to the 1980s. She shows how, as men moved first from the hospital waiting room to the labor room in the 1960s, and then on to the delivery and birthing rooms in the 1970s and 1980s, they became progressively more involved in the birth experience and their influence over events expanded. With careful attention to power and privilege, Leavitt charts not only the increasing involvement of fathers, but also medical inequalities, the impact of race and class, and the evolution of hospital policies. Illustrated with more than seventy images from TV, films, and magazines, this book provides important new insights into childbirth in modern America, even as it reminds readers of their own experiences.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0561-6
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-20)

    On December 8, 1952, American television audiences watchingI Love Lucysaw 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. Although women had been getting pregnant and having babies for millennia, television shows in the early 1950s routinely acknowledged that fact by producing a baby without the nine-month preliminaries. Arnaz, already the father of little Lucie, wanted it to be different this time: “I wanted to talk about...

  5. 1 ALONE AMONG STRANGERS The Medicalization of Childbirth
    (pp. 21-47)

    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 for most exigencies. Many women discuss the possible procedures in advance with their physicians and midwives and, within prescribed limits, make birth plans outlining their choices about what might happen to them during labor and delivery. Once labor begins, however, some women find that their desires are ignored, either because a different physician...

  6. 2 KEEPING VIGIL Fathers in Waiting Rooms
    (pp. 48-85)

    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 in hospital hallways, on hard benches and chairs, with few amenities. Most often, however, the men sat in “stork clubs,” “husbands’ rooms,” or “fathers’ rooms,” hospital waiting rooms located near maternity suites and newborn nurseries reserved exclusively for them. At the middle of...

  7. 3 THE BEST BACKRUBBER Fathers Move into Labor Rooms
    (pp. 86-119)

    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. The changes that allowed men to enter labor rooms came slowly and unevenly and demonstrate the heterogeneity of the hospital birth experience in the United States. The opportunity for men to be with their wives came first to those...

  8. 4 HE WANTS TO KNOW Prenatal Education for Fathers
    (pp. 120-155)

    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 corridor of the fathers’ waiting rooms into the labor corridor and, later, into delivery rooms. The classes opened new spaces in which the men could share experiences and feelings with one another as well as with their wives. In the classroom the male bonding that...

  9. 5 PEACEFUL AND CONFIDENT Mothers and Fathers in Labor Rooms
    (pp. 156-194)

    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 birthing women from their husbands, as it did when men waited in fathers’ rooms. But by the 1960s and 1970s large numbers of men, initially most of them white upper and middle class, found ways to get into labor rooms to be with their wives, especially after taking...

  10. 6 SIDE BY SIDE Men Move into Delivery Rooms
    (pp. 195-235)

    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 policies began to be resisted, though, especially by advocates of natural childbirth and those men who had been with their wives during labor. Debates about whether to permit fathers into delivery rooms grew heated during these midcentury years. From the 1940s to 1970 the question was argued in medical meetings and...

  11. 7 WE DID IT Together in Delivery and Birthing Rooms
    (pp. 236-283)

    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 had become an issue of national importance but was not yet a common reality. By the middle of the 1980s, the contentiousness of the topic finally resolved into a new standard practice in American hospitals. The new practice evolved with the help of various court cases, the women’s movement, and childbirth reformers—including significant continuing active participation by the...

    (pp. 284-296)

    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. They had moved out of the constraining waiting rooms into the rooms where their wives labored, and they had also managed—with a lot of help from their wives, childbirth educators, the women’s movement, supportive doctors and nurses, and community activity—to find a place for themselves amid the equipment-filled delivery rooms to be there for the...

    (pp. 297-298)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 299-366)
    (pp. 367-370)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 371-385)