So far we have been concentrating on the problems and challenges of childbearing women. In fact, of course, it has been millions of years since reproduction depended on a single individual. Bisexual reproduc-tion is a fundamental biological pattern. and the more complex the organism the greater the interdependence. Homo sapiens has extensive methods of sharing the work of successful reproduction. In the process of having their children women receive four types of help. First, of count, the help of the male is needed to achieve fertilization.
The second type of help, which is also common to many other species, is protection of reproducing females. In particular, the male is often physically equipped to be a more effective fighter, and therefore better able to defend against attackers. The female in turn specializes in gestation, lactation, and maternal care. The burden of reproductive survival is thus shared between male and female in a cooperative way.
The other two types of help given reproducing females appear to be more highly developed in man than in other primates. Human society arranges to give considerable economic help to women physically handicapped by childbearing and child caring. This help is offered in a variety of ways: perhaps sharing hunted food. or having the pregnant woman return to the food supplies of the grandmother. or supplement-ing her income from government payments.
The most common current procedure is to have a male take care of the financial needs of the female and her young. Still another type of help is needed. Not only does the childbearing woman need money to pay for food and shelter, but around the time of delivery she needs personal assistance, especially if she has older children to worry about. There is need too for help with the usual house• hold chores when late pregnancy and early mothering make the physical performance of these tasks more difficult. Little acts of helpfulness at this time give more than physical assistance.
Such actions also give emotional support at a time when the mother is giving a great deal of herself to the new life within her or just born. When wider family groups stayed in one community and lived near each other, special personal assistance to the childbearing woman was taken for granted. It simply was the thing to do for the women in the family to give help to the pregnant woman and the one burdened with a little baby or many young children. Now. unfortunately, many young reproducing couples And themselves far away from the people who traditionally would give help.
They may not even have close friends to turn to. Older female relatives often have full-time jobs that cannot easily be dropped to help daughter, daughter-in-law, or niece. For this reason, the father has additional responsibilities thrust on him. He not only fertilizes, protects, and gives economic support, but increasingly he is called upon to supply the personal assistance and emotional support once given by female relatives.
Many men are responding with an increased interest in the whole process of childbearing. They attend classes during their wives’ pregnancies to hear about the physical and emotional aspects of pregnancy, and about labor and the early post delivery period. Most men enjoy being with their wives in early labor, when the hospital makes them feel welcome. Some men also like to share with their wives the experience of birth. They sit at the head of the delivery table and have the same view of delivery as their wives