Dec 21, 2009

The must read book for new Dads!

"I was ignored in the delivery room!"
Some new fathers may feel that way today, but as historian Judith Walzer Leavitt writes in her critically-acclaimed new book, the roles of expectant fathers have undergone dramatic changes since mid-century and are still evolving today.
Make Room for Daddy: The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room (The University of North Carolina Press, 2009) looks at the process of childbirth through the eyes of expectant fathers and chronicles their decades-long journey from waiting room to the birthing room.
Leavitt takes readers through historical twists and turns and brings together fathers" personal accounts in letters, journals and interviews along with medical literature, film, television and magazines to tell the real experiences of fathers across the country. She demonstrates the significant role that popular culture (ie. I Love Lucy and All in the Family) played in reflecting and reinforcing changing norms and the role it plays (ie. TV personality Dr. Phil) in speaking to today"s expectant dads. And she exposes the raw history of the impact race and class has had on childbirth in America.
Years ago, as popular image would have it, dads-to-be nervously paced the floor of hospital waiting rooms, often going through too many cigarettes as they waited to hear that their child had been born. But during those countless hours of waiting, many wrote down their feelings in journals known as "father"s books" or "stork room jottings." Frequently left in waiting rooms in the 1940s and "50s, the journals provided an outlet for the apprehensive, often exasperated men.
"In these books, the men wrote entries in which they poured their hearts out with the emotion of the time," says Leavitt, the Rupple Bascom and Ruth Bleier Professor of Medical History and Women"s Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "These books made me realize the importance of men"s roles in childbirth and enticed me to write their stories, and the stories of expectant fathers since the 1940s. I knew these stories would be important for today"s dads, but I never expected the tremendously emotional and meaningful reactions I frequently get from those who have read the book or hear me talk about it."
Leavitt, a prolific researcher and writer of women"s history, shows that these men in the 1940s and "50s, and those that came through the hospitals in the decades after them, played an important role in changing American childbirth practices, a fact often pushed aside in the history of the women"s movement.
"Men in the waiting rooms mid-century were bonding and plotting a more active role for themselves at the same time they were worrying about their wives, babies, and financial security of their families, not to mention their concerns about the atomic bomb and the cold war," Leavitt explains. "And today"s men, though faced with different circumstances, are forging a new future that is part of this evolving story of dads in America."
Telling much of the story using fathers" and mothers" own voices, Make Room for Daddy is striking a chord for men across the country reminding them of their own experiences, whether recent or in the distant past, even as it offers important new insights into childbirth in modern America.
Press contact: Adam J. Segal at (202) 422-4673 or