Jonathan V. Last, in a review of a study of fathers’ roles in childbirth called “Make Room For Daddy” over at OpinionJournal, has much to say on the subject of our involvement with which I am in hearty agreement:

In the 1950s, fathers were pulled into the process thanks to a book by Dr. Grantly Dick-Read. His “Childbirth Without Fear” advocated natural birthing — this was before the targeted anesthesia of epidurals, when many women were simply knocked out for the duration. Dr. Dick-Read also argued that husbands should be with their wives up to the moment of delivery, supporting and comforting them. The book was a sensation. Men began migrating to labor rooms, where they rubbed their wives’ backs and witnessed the preliminary motions in the great feminine trial.

The natural child-birth counterculture was helped along, oddly enough, by the development of caudal anesthesia, a revolutionary drug that permitted women to manage pain while remaining awake during birth. Ms. Leavitt quotes one woman who was amazed at how the new drugs changed the labor-room experience, allowing certain civilized rituals to be observed: “When I’d drained [the coffee], my husband lighted a cigarette and passed it over to me. I took it gratefully.” Shortly after, she was wheeled into the delivery room, leaving behind the cigarette-provider.

It wasn’t until the late 1960s that men began taking the last step. Urged on by books such as Robert Bradley’s Husband-Coached Childbirth,” men started going the distance. By 1970, the delivery room had been pried open.

All manner of idiocy followed: tape recorders, cameras, video. Husbands huffing and puffing with the mothers. The expression “we’re pregnant.” Various fads have cajoled fathers into cutting the umbilical cord or playing catcher as the baby exits the birth canal or stripping off their shirts and clutching the newborn “skin-to-skin.” By the late 1970s, a man was considered something of a monster if he didn’t at least stand north of the equator during the delivery of his child.

Hear, hear.  What a horrid state we’ve reached.  I confess that I was dragooned into cutting one of the gel’s cords (I forget which one), but for the actual birth of each of them, I remained well “north of the equator” with my eyes locked firmly on the ceiling, deeply longing to be somewhere else far away.

But Last also makes a further observation that goes beyond the foolishness of the birth-bonding fad itself and points out the grotesque larger point:

The increasing involvement of fathers in childbirth has been mirrored by a decreasing involvement of fathers in fatherhood. Between 1940 and 1980, the American divorce rate more than doubled. In 1940, 2% of babies were born out of wedlock. Today that number is closer to 40%. There is something unwell about a society that requires fathers to pretend to find beauty in effaced cervixes, episiotomies and the bloody show — but then allows them to skip out on the rearing of the child.

Explaining how the dinosaurs once rationalized keeping men in the Stork Club, Ms. Leavitt quotes one doctor’s argument from the mid-1960s: “As the charm of woman is in her mystery, it is inconceivable that a wife will maintain her sexual prestige after her husband witnessed the expulsion of a baby — a negligee will never hide this apparition.” Another doctor concluded: “On the whole, it is not a show to watch.”

We all laugh at how benighted such views are. (Even if there is, just possibly, some truth in them.) Yet today it is socially acceptable to father a child without marrying the mother or to divorce her later on if mother and father actually do bother to get hitched. And at the same time there is zero tolerance for a husband who says: “No thanks, I’ll be in the waiting room with cigars.” Ms. Leavitt’s fascinating history suggests that childbirth is just one more area where our narcissism has swamped our seriousness.

Got it in one.  How typical of the way we live now that Modern Dad’s energy goes into staging some silly little Kodak Moment in the delivery room when we can no longer be bothered to do the day-in-day-out leg work of actually raising the child in a stable, two-parent home.  I know one or two such villains personally whom I would gladly horsewhip, had I a horse.  (Have the Feminists yet figured out that no-fault divorce was the greatest scam ever perpetrated on women by men, by the way?)

Also, count me in with Last and those silly 60’s dinosaur doctors interested in preserving the female mystique.