June 26, 2012 On Nida
You may have heard about the Orthodox couple whose baby was delivered by a truck driver (reported here: http://www.vosizneias.com/108634/2012/06/25/new-
I don’t know any details of this family; how old the couple is, if this is their first child or which branch of orthodoxy they belong to. But despite the little I know, I find it hard to judge the husband per se for his behavior. I think his inability to “reach in” himself to get that baby born can hardly be faulted to him alone. I think it is a larger societal issue. I know too many frum men who would in all likelihood get lost and freeze at such a time. I also think it is not unusual for men who have learned the ways of the birds and the babees through religious “marriage prep” courses to understand that they are to keep these rules at all times, even while the water is flowing and the placenta is emerging and the child is exploding between the mother’s legs. Several societal factors breed such cowardice: 1. marriage at a young age. For all you know, this father-to-be may be nineteen and freaking out and in the worst position to get a baby out of a vagina 2. dogmatic and rigid education of laws of niddah, as in, touching her will make your child a bastard, and do not ever hand her the baby so put the baby on the pavement and have her pick the baby up with a snow shovel, all to avoid, god forbid, any touching during nida! And there’s 3. men’s fear and ignorance of the female body. The third is especially understandable. A man who has been taught never to look at a woman’s privates will naturally find it hard to do so for the first time somewhere on the highway with his unborn child speeding in between.
Anyone could panic and run for help.
But of course, my sympathy goes so far as seeing this man’s clutziness as the religious sexuality problems at play here. Because religious problems aren’t hereditary, you see, so that scenario would be better for the world, now with Baby Clutziness around. But more seriously, because I think the nida laws aren’t so far from suggesting pretty unreasonable behavior during delivery either. That women who deliver twelve babies in their life should never hold their husband’s hand while pushing? Not a back rub or even a comforting pat on the arm? Or even if they have five children, or three or one. Why should a woman give birth to her child while her husband stands with his back to her, or is outside of the room, or if he’s a cohen, outside of the hospital and maybe at home? Isn’t that outrageous in itself? All of these seem strikingly inconsiderate, even heartless and mindless. Isn’t a little bit of physical support and comfort when the woman goes through so much pain for childbirth only humane?
I cannot attest to the overal norm, but it was pretty normal among the Hasidic women I knew to deliver the babies alone, while the husband either left the room or turned around. I also think many people are very, very strict about not touching a nidah partner during the first few years of marriage. The wife is untouchable, even while she is in most desperate need to be touched. With all of these rules, I ask you: is it only a road-side baby that is hair raising, or is it the overall way frum women are supposed to give birth?