Press-Republican

August 11, 2013

Husbands should say no

By STEVE OUELLETTE, You Had To Ask
Press-Republican

---- — Professional golfer Hunter Mahan made headlines recently for all the wrong reasons.

Well, not ALL the wrong reasons. He didn’t assault anyone with the intent to cause bodily harm. He didn’t fool around with golf groupies behind his wife’s back. He didn’t fail to replace a divot or surreptitiously nudge his golf ball out from behind a tree.

What Mahan did to garner worldwide attention is pack up and leave in the middle of the Canadian Open golf tournament — which he was winning — to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.

How did society get to this point?

Setting aside what some might consider his wife’s selfish decision to go into labor at that particular time, rather than waiting for a Tuesday, what is it that made Mahan surrender glory and a better-than-average chance at a million-dollar payday?

Mahan certainly isn’t the first athlete to miss time because of a child’s birth. Basketball players have skipped games. Major League Baseball even has a paternity leave for its players.

Football players … well, they generally have their wives induce labor, any time but on a Sunday afternoon.

Sure, regular everyday folk take time away from work for the birth of their children, too. There aren’t millions of people, though, watching Fred the accountant input numbers into a spreadsheet. There isn’t a fortune on the line when Gil, the social-studies teacher, turns his class over to a substitute.

There was a time, not really that long ago, when men weren’t supposed to be in the delivery room at all. They would drop their wives off at the hospital and go to the nearest bar for a stiff drink. Or they would sit in the waiting room smoking cigars and waiting for a nurse to come in proclaiming, “It’s a boy!”

Billions of babies were born this way, without any input (other than biological) from the fathers. At some point, however, we lost our way. Gradually, fathers became first welcome, then almost required, in the delivery room.

Society now tells men that it’s important for us to be there, that we want to be there. Can’t miss that miracle of birth!

Honestly, though, we’re long past the point where birth should be considered a miracle. Nearly every one of the billions of people on the Earth was born at some point — far fewer than the number of people who have experienced, say, the miracle of liposuction (another medical procedure that shouldn’t be viewed).

Countless thousands will be born today alone. Other mammals give birth all the time, without any assistance at all — certainly without the presence of the father.

Frankly, there’s not much for a father to do in the delivery room anyway. The nurses and doctors do the heavy lifting. Sure, we can hold hands and be supportive, but that won’t make the woman feel half as good as a perfectly placed epidural.

Helping them breathe is something obstetricians invented to make us feel useful, but if we weren’t there, our wives were going to breathe anyway.

As an entertainment option, watching a baby being born is quite a bit less desirable than an episode of “Breaking Bad.”

It’s extremely messy and more than a little gross. The government should slap an X-rating on those birthing home videos, making them illegal to watch for children under the age of 30.

I know the wife always says she wants you there, but once you’re in the room, she’s going to yell at you anyway. She’s going to say foul, evil things. She might promise that she won’t, but she will, and that will engender bad feelings down the road.

It’s time for husbands just to say no. We’ll all be better off reading a book in the waiting room, or staying at the office until we get the call to “swing by the hospital, and oh, make sure there’s an infant car seat strapped in the back.”

The children won’t care. At the birth, they won’t know what’s going on. Later on, it will be far more important what you got them for their birthday than what you did on the day they were born.

The wife might care, but if she really loves you, she’ll forgive you for not being there. Half of marriages end in divorce, and hardly ever is the reason listed as “failed to watch baby escaping from womb.”

More important is the being there for feeding and diapers and driving to soccer practice.

I fear that Hunter Mahan will some day look back at his daughter’s birth and regret that he was there.

It could be soon — a million dollars would have bought an awful lot of diapers.

Email Steve Ouellette:ouellette1918@gmail.com