The Maternity Ward – “No Father’s After 9 o’clock!”

I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”  ~ Sigmund Freud

A father’s love is as important as a mothers love for her child.

The second chapter of the story started as I wheeled the glass box out of the delivery ward and into the maternity ward where white faced women wandered about beside bleary eyed men carrying or wheeling tiny sometimes screaming babies around.

After the wonderful treatment we’d had in the delivery ward I was in good spirits and hopeful. Imagine my disappointment when the midwife tells us, as if it was no big thing, that the father has to go home at night. That after 8 or 9 in the evening he is not allowed there.

It was like a blow to the stomach, an area that was already sore.

And the rage over the fact only hit me after I’d got home and started to think more deeply about the fact. The family is split and all focus is put on the mother for the first days.

Which I understand. She has gone through a hell of an ordeal and she needs all the rest she can get. She also needs to get used to this little bundle of joy she’s brought to the world and apparently she HAS TO breast feed.

There I felt like there was no other choice. I felt like if I’d said “I’m not going to do that” there would have been an uproar. I guess I’m wrong there but I would have undoubtedly been looked at funnily.

Having lost a lot of blood (I got a transfusion on my second day there) I felt weak. I didn’t sleep for more than 3 hours in a row for my entire stay there, from the delivery to the time I got home I felt like I didn’t get any GOOD rest at all. J gave me time during daytime when he was allowed to be there but I had to wake to try and breast feed and since that wasn’t working very well I felt stressed by the staff.

Some of the midwifes were wonderful. They tried to help, gave good tips and advice and when they noticed that my little girl was looking weak they gave her something extra. Other midwifes I wasn’t as happy with, they felt judgmental and rude as they tried to be patient with me when I tried to get help in the middle of the night.

I know most of the experience I had there is in my head and the fact that I felt the help was less than helpful was my own fault. Although I do not understand the breast feeding frency of the place I had decided to breast feed and I wanted it to work. I am guessing that a woman who has decided no to to breast feed wouldn’t have it easy in that place though unless she had a damn good reason.

The biggest problem of the place is the matriarchal feel of it. The father’s are second rate. They don’t matter there at all. With the uncomfortable wooden chairs beside the beds you’d think they weren’t even welcome! As if the mother is supposed to recuperate all on her own.

It is a ward for mother’s who have just given birth but the best help she can get to recover comes from the father of her child and where the father is willing and able to do everything he can do help (they do get 10 days of work to be present during the delivery and afterwards) why isn’t he allowed to do so?

Sadly that’s just where the injustice to fathers begins.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that before I name my child she is called “unnamed Karlsdóttir” (which to me is completely absurd!) and because we are not married we have to officially sign a father’s testament. A document which I HAVE TO sign and if I, as a mother, don’t sign it he is more or less screwed. He can’t insist on the paternity being confirmed but I can. A DNA test can’t be done on the child unless the mother approves of it. So a mother can deny the father his child and deny the child its father.

This in the land of equality for the sexes.

The laws seem to assume that a father is always trying to escape from fatherhood and  the laws are there only to make sure that the mother gets the right compensation. The right of the father to his child is ignored completely. Father’s don’t matter – only mother’s do.

I’ve always frowned a little when I hear people speaking of the magical bond between a mother and her child. As if the feelings of a mother to her child are somehow more sacred and more true than the feelings of a father to his child. He doesn’t carry the baby for 9 months but lets be honest – it’s the time AFTER THAT that is really important in a child’s life. And a child has the right to a mother and a father when possible.

The relationship a father has to his child isn’t like the relationship a mother has to her child I guess. And as with every other matter that has to do with equal rights I think that we shouldn’t assume that we’re the same and that our roles are the same but as in all other equality matters it is important not to assume that one is somehow better than the other, that should somehow stand higher and be more true, more right.

I saw a documentary the other night about the matter of fatherhood in Sweden. The laws are old, outdated and nobody seems to be interested enough to change them. A father of a little child that died at 3 weeks old years later still doesn’t officially have his name in the child’s death certificate as the child’s father as the child’s mother committed suicide before signing the fatherhood document. Absurd, downright appalling.

Why doesn’t anyone care? Father’s care about their children but why don’t the men (and women) in charge care enough to change these laws? Men are often the most frequent users of the mother’s love is holier than the fathers line but surely they want their rights to their children, surely they can’t actually believe that their love for their children is somehow less important or less real than their wife’s or girlfriends love for the child?

You might think it a romantic and a beautiful thought – a mother and her baby – but in real life there is one missing from the equation – the father. A parents love for their children should be equal – if not in poems then at least in the eyes of the law!

The fact that they drive men out of the maternity ward is just the first sign. They didn’t apologize for it but they did have apology written all over their faces when they were upholding the rule. But for some reason in this newly build maternity ward there isn’t a room for the father to spend the night – there isn’t room for him to stay and help the mother care for their new born child.

How absurd is that in today’s society? How absurd?

I was ushered from this matriarchal place by J and his father. We came home to a wonderfully clean and child prepared apartment. The look of our little one roomer melted my heart. He had brought home the bed, he had made it beautifully with a quilt and tiny pillow with forest pictures on them. He had prepared a changing table with every detail a parent could imagine present.

The look of the place might be one of the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me, every detail was right.

And for the first time since I had my little girl I felt I got some good rest. He was there at night to help me and suddenly the breast feeding worked like charm.

All I needed was to find my own way of doing it and get some help from the person closest to me and to her. The homecoming was a delightful relief.

-Eygló

P.S. An afterthought – I am very thankful for the help I did get and for all the kind advice I got in that place. I appriciate that the staff is pressed with time, have a lot of patients and a lot to do and I did get all my physical ailments nicely taken care of in that place. It’s the system that’s broken, the people in the system are doing their best and for that I am grateful. I also realize that in today’s talk of what’s wrong with the medical system this might not seem like something that should be high on the list. The maternity ward I got in Sweden while I was pregnant was fantastic and the ward in the hospital great but this is still an important detail.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Shannon says:

    I think I would have gone into hysterics if they had ushered Andy out the door mere hours after having any of my children, especially the twins!

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  2. E-J says:

    “I know … the fact that I felt the help was less than helpful was my own fault.” I wouldn’t be so sure about that. I realise the UK isn’t seen as quite the enlightened place that Sweden is re maternity/postnatal care, but I and so many other new mothers I’ve spoken to have also felt angry that our partners had to leave, not to mention pressurized and bullied about the breastfeeding. I had my boobs forcibly grabbed and squeezed and stuffed into my daughter’s mouth. I spent a lot of time crying. And then they refused to discharge us on the second evening because I hadn’t sufficiently proved that I could breastfeed correctly. The whole thing was wretched.

    (Imagine if you’d given birth to a boy – his name would still have been recorded as “Kárlsdottir”!!)

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    1. Eygló Daða says:

      I’ve heard quite a few women here saying the same thing regarding breast feeding and the treatment in the maternity ward. I too experienced the grabbing and shoving treatment. And I too would have been refused home going because I hadn’t proven that I could breast feed if I hadn’t realized on the second day there that I had to stop asking them for help because each time I did it was put on record. So after that I didn’t ask for help. I was refused discharge the second day because of my own health and that was devastating enough.

      It’s absurd that while I was refused to go home I still had to pay (although the amount is laughingly low and just to show and I’m very grateful that the maternity ward is almost entirely free) for my days there. Imagine a hotel where the bellhop or the concierge tells you you can’t check out.

      And the if I’d had a boy scenario hadn’t occurred to me before – I don’t think I’d have been able to handle that. I don’t know what I’d done! Ack.

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  3. E-J says:

    No idea you’d had to pay for that sort of treatment! Am rather shocked.

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    1. Eygló Daða says:

      I was too as I’d been told “all maternity ward is free” at my first midwifes appointment. 80 SEK a night isn’t much and nowhere near what it actually costs but still…

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  4. Sunil S says:

    What a curious bias.

    I wonder what the balance would be like, empowerment without the *atriarchy.

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    1. Eygló Daða says:

      Interesting thought! 🙂 Balance = Equality? I dunno. I’ve heard that becoming a midwife as a man is not something most men want to put themselves through. Being one of the girls is hard.

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  5. Clare Applegate says:

    I am witnessing here a similar bias and prejudice against fathers. One of the guys I made friends with in the pantomime, is a young man in his late twenties, who married early, had a child with his young wife, who when his daughter was two years’ old, abandoned him and took his daughter to Belgium with her to be with another man. He has applied for custody 4 times, and has tried to get more rights to see his daughter, but at present is only permitted to see her a few times a year. And he is the complete opposite of what is supposed of young men who are cut loose from fatherhood – he absolutely dotes on his daughter and has had to be treated repeatedly for depression mainly due to having her taken from him. When his wife left, she was pregnant, and told him her second daughter was by this other man. He secretly took a cell sample from the younger child on a visit, and he has discovered in a private dna test that she is in fact his child also, but because he cannot legalyt request the dna test, and to get one without consent would be seen as illigal, he cannot take it to a court of law, and this other daughter could grow up without ever seeing him, and being brought up by another man (his ex-wife has remarried).

    I have seen firsthand what devastation this has caused, and not least the strain it puts on the child, as she is also without her daddy and needs him, and every time she they are parted again it is a trauma for her. So he is torn as to whether to not see her, but can’t bear the thought, as he adores her and thinks her mother doesn’t take proper care of her, and wants to check regularly that she’s okay.

    It’s a terrible terrible prejudice, Eyglo, and I’m so sorry it is also like this in Sweden too. I thought they would be more progressive. It’s ridiculous! Fathers are equally important to a child.

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    1. Eygló Daða says:

      That’s horrible! Poor man! This has to be talked about more – I can’t imagine why it isn’t being shouted off the rooftops! it’s insane that this is allowed to happen!

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