How men and women think differently at birth
By Professor Charles Kingsland, Consultant Gynaecologist & Specialist in Reproductive Medicine
You know when you go on holiday and just before you are about to get called for your easyJet flight to Palma or Tenerife? Yes you nip to the toilet first, but secondly you rush into WHSmith for some last minute reading material. Well, my wife and I do anyway. I always buy some reassuringly thick and intelligent sounding novel by a famous and elite writer; Bill Bryson is my favourite at the moment. He’s brilliant by the way, well worth getting into his books. My wife, however, will stock up with Bella, Best and Take a break. I won’t tell you what I call these magazines, but it’s not complementary.
I can guarantee that before the camp steward, there is always at least one, who has switched on the information regarding what to do if we crash land into the mud flats of the River Mersey
just to the left of the Runcorn Bridge on take-off, (not survive, I suspect). It is I who will be reading about Kerry Katona’s next boyfriend, the tragic complications of some D list Geordie Shore’s 12th botox injection within the last week or some soap opera divas cheating husband, immediately following my last flights episode where the very same actress had married her soul- mate. Miscalculation that one!
Anyway, there I was reading the sad story of some poor woman’s pet hamster being eaten by the local neighbourhoods sex fiend, when my eyes were diverted to a column, ghost written for some premier league trendy has been footballer, who was being interviewed about his, albeit rather limited and predictable, life story. As he answered the predictable questions with equally, banal and utterly predictable answers, there came to my attention, one glaring and biologically implausible mistake regarding the erstwhile superstars family life.
I could understand that his new partner was his best friend and how his favourite meal was steak and chips, usually after he’d had sat out his last match recovering from injury, or that his favourite holiday destination was Barbados or that he raced home after each training session to cook his children’s tea; but then came the faux pas of such monumental proportion, it rendered the rest of the marketing interview, which had up until then portrayed this much tattooed superman or some form of latter day hybrid between Adonis, Mother Theresa and Maria von Trapp.
When asked “What has been the best moment so far in your life so far Kyle?”, “Well Tarquin, the best moments of my life have been seeing my children Dacia, Duster and Chardonnay being born.” I swear to you, I could almost hear the repressed sniffs of tearful besotted female readers, whilst lamenting as to why their own thuggish lobby partners could not be so caring, so faithful and so in touch with their femininity as this paragon of all things virtuous within that athletic torso, we call the perfect male.
Well let me stop you there at once ladies. I’m afraid his story is fabricated at best and a downright untruth at worst. Because, ladies, and I hesitate to dispel all of your idealised concepts of the human male or what we should, at least aspire to, we are just not wired that way. It’s a bit like turning a light on and expecting water to come out of it. It’s not in a male’s hormonal make up to bond in that way. Of course we can play act and pretend, but that is what it is, an act.
In my 30 years as a Gynaecologist, one of the many privileges I have experienced is to be present at literal thousands of life’s most amazing and sacred moments; the birth of a child. It’s not always amazing and sacred, but thankfully most of the time nowadays, it is.
During those final moments before birth, the baby has almost completed what is without doubt the most dangerous and difficult journey he or she has ever had to make. The about to be new mother has been through, most of the time anyway, one of the most difficult, painful and potentially dangerous events she will ever have to traverse. There will be a lot of blood, sweat, pain, tears, maybe the odd drop of urine and faeces. There may even be some loud noises. It all culminates with the birth of a scrap of humanity usually covered with some or all of the above.
The first question that is always asked is “boy or girl” if they don’t know already. The second and for some obscure reason is usually, how heavy is he or she? I’ve never quite understood why we ask that, but we do.
The first thing I would always say to the parents is “Oh isn’t he/ she gorgeous”. Lie number one: babies when they are born are not, generally gorgeous, far from it in fact, especially when they are not your own.
What usually happens then is what I consider to be truly the 8th wonder of the world. Despite all the general mayhem, mummy takes one look at the child and immediately bonds. “Hello” she will say tenderly, make some billing and cooing noises at the unattractive new human and will give out a beaming smile that we adult male partners rarely, if ever, see.
Meanwhile at the passive end, what do we males do? I’m afraid ladies that whatever you have been told or have read, we simply do not have the hormonal equipment to behave in the same inbuilt and reflex way that you do. So, what do we do? Well we behave in the way we have read about and are programmed to do in the sanitised idealistic and fairy-tale world of ‘the would be’ celebrity. We act the part. Most of the time, we fail badly. We feel worthless, fidget, shuffle and think to ourselves “What in Christ’s name is going on?”.
At this point, I will let you into a secret; whilst the midwife or occasionally the doctor, i.e. me is clearing up, making a few minor vaginal adjustments with the aid of needle and thread or delivering the afterbirth, I will say to the father, would he like to go and make a few phone calls? Which, in fact, is a metaphor for, would you really like to go back into the jungle and spear a wild boar for tea or better still go back to your fellow warriors around the camp fire? We are just not programmed to bond in that way. Often we get abused and vilified for not being able to react in the way women would like us to.
For the next six weeks or maybe more, we just wander around in a post-partum haze wondering where our beautiful, sexy, attractive lover has disappeared to amongst a pile of dirty nappies, breast pads, strange and intrusive visitors. It can be very confusing and not a little depressing.
And then one day we return from the primal soup, enter the cave and there sits the little invader looking up at us quizzically. By now they have engorged sufficiently on our wives to have grown and matured to recognise us, the strange visitor who returns to the cave about the same time every day.
They look at us and think to themselves enquiringly; I don’t know who you are, you are certainly not my mummy, but you keep turning up every day. Strategically and moving forward, I think you are going to play a significant part in my life. And then they smile at you, and, especially if that child of yours is a girl (biased interlude here), you are hooked for life. Woe betide any other male that comes along to breach that bond.