Getting men pregnant

Getting men pregnantThe new decade has been ushered in with assurances that women will achieve a new prominence in the Nineties. They will, the media assure us, the major earners in the family, and they will be ‘older’, like everyone else in this rapidly ageing democracy. Superwoman, whose existence depended on there being a male provider in the background, may suddenly find herself the sole earn in the family. So how could things even out a bit? Surely one doesn’t have to look far. No woman, it can safely be said, would enjoy – or would ever have enjoyed – the doubtful pleasures of domesticity without the compensation of bearing and rearing children. To watch someone else go through the experience of pregnancy and childbirth is very different from undergoing it oneself – almost as great as the difference between being an actor with a leading part and an understudy who never gets a chance to shine. The solution is clear; and, according to the pathology professor and essayist F Gonzalez-Crussi, perfectly feasible. He takes as his starting point the assertion of Elizabeth Badminter, the French feminist writer, in a recent manifesto that the pregnant male is a viable possibility. Not only imaginable, but also ripe, and even over-due, for actualization.  In his words , ‘Scarcely can it be denied that among those men (those for whom maternity would be eminently suitable) – especially the young ones – are many who would be wonderful childbearers’. ‘Ah yes, but … ’ starts the obligatory reply to these considerations. Remember, however, that a womb is not indispensable for the foetus to develop.

Men above 40 apparently can be counted out as New Mothers. (These findings come from a recently screened television programme in which men above and below that magic dividing-line were asked their views on childbearing; that young men would make better madonnas has also been the conclusion of Elizabeth Badminter).  And I’s true that the potential spectacle of males of the old order complaining of morning sickness, asking for maternity leave or suffering from an insatiable desire to eat pickles, does stretch the imagination beyond limits. The Brave New Womb is for those with hairless chins to ponder.

male_pregnancyA couple of weeks ago Today newspaper reported a statement from John Parsons, senior registrar at Kings College Hospital, that the impregnation of the male ‘can be done and undoubtedly someone will do it.’ In the same item Professor Dennis Lincoln, director of the reproductive biology unit at the Medical Research Council an Edinburgh is reported as saying ‘biological problems are immense …. A course of replacement hormone therapy both before and during the pregnancy would be vital to keep the foetus alive …’ But apart from arguments as to its feasibility, just how desirable would male mother-hood be? Perhaps it cuts two ways. The man who bears a child will, conceivably – if this is a permissible world to use in the context – feel more strongly ‘bonded’ (as the Social Service have it) than a man who has been a mere onlooker, or in a pub or football stadium, at the time of the birth of his child. These strong and possessive feelings might be expected to bring with them that sense of unerring maternal responsibility with which all women are expected to be born – and are castigated by society if they are not.

This would be all to the good, spreading responsibility at last with a more even brush – and allowing the ‘major earner’ to forgo the discomforts and inconveniences of pregnancy, while gratifying employers no longer asked for unprofitable maternity leave.

Conversely, a revolution might well break out. A vision of stampedes of omen running from their offices and other places of work and demanding their sacred right – the right to bear children, their point, as they might suddenly see it – returned to them immediately, com unnervingly to mind. The fact that a womb is not necessary after all has come as a nasty shock already to many of the female sex. That a baby needs no more than ‘growing space’ does seem to reduce the mystical role of motherhood. The first male pregnancy has been forecast by American doctors for 2014. We, like the lucky man, will just have to wait and see.

From "Getting Men Pregnant" by Emma Tennant        Independant Magazine

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