Sunday, November 18, 2007

Harlan loves the Mommy Bloggers!

Perhaps you've read "Help Me Harlan" in the Post-Gazette Sunday edition? As opposed to the Cat's Call/Just Ask Cat advice drivel tucked into Tuesday's edition? Harlan is nationally syndicated ("Like Dear Abby, only younger, hairier and a man."). Cat Specter has local political and society connections, plus a kicky beret. I'm not a fan.

Anyhoo, Harlan is working on a "How to be helpful" book for first time fathers and he wants help from mommies and daddies across the land. Follow the links to share your thoughts on how an expectant father can be supportive throughout pregnancy.

I generally like Harlan's advice, but have to admit that I groaned when he made the oh-so-obvious joke about eating a hamburger in front a woman in labor sucking on ice chips. Having never given birth myself, I can speculate that feeling helpless and terrified far transcend being a clueless, bumbling fool.

My brother-in-law is an awesome father, 100% invested in coparenting his toddler. He was as involved in the pregnancy as possible (from my limited vantage, I must acknowledge). But after being up for 26 straight hours, he went home for a nap and didn't wake up when he was supposed to return to the hospital. After an understandably frantic call from his wife, Ledcat had to literally drag him out of his bed which set in motion a predictable chain of guilt, anger, frustration and some yelling. Meanwhile, I fed the cats. I must give him props for how he handled the entire situation, post-nap. And no one jokes about it. Especially because she's pregnant again.

Harlan should be sure to include one sure-fire solution to these situations: have a set of childless, lesbian aunties on hand at all times for daddy shaking and cat feeding. Plus, where other bring flowers, we bring diapers. Amen.


  1. Thank you for the help! I promise this book will not suck. In fact, I can assure you that it WILL offer something of value. At the very least, it will be heavy enough to (gently) throw at a new dad to wake him up for a 3 am feeding. And please, feel free to set me straight if you think my advice can be better (every once in a while, I admit, I miss the mark). That said, I always try my best. I promise.
    Harlan :)

  2. Will the book dedicate any paragraphs to families that have two dads? Cause that would rock and be reflective of the real modern family. Imagine if both parents experienced pregnancy from an external vantage point -- how would that impact their parenting? You might want to solicit some input from that perspective.

    Thanks for reading our blog! You are our first celebrity. :-)

  3. hiya harlan. i was happy to find out about you. i enjoyed reading you.

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  5. I'd love to have same sex parent input --- If anyone has something to share please, send it my way. If anyone knows of people who have something to share, please send them my way. This project is all about highlighting the voices of people who are living the experiences. The more vantage points the better the book. Thanks for the support! - Harlan

  6. In the post you said:
    "Having never given birth myself, I can speculate that feeling helpless and terrified far transcend being a clueless, bumbling fool."

    You're correct in that you can speculate, but..., no. Helpless and terrified? Giving birth isn't terrifying, and women are anything but helpless in that realm...unless of course she has voluntarily stepped into the common role of woman as victim.

    In reality, birthing can be one of the most empowering experiences a woman will have, but like many things; it's contingent on the choices she makes.

  7. I meant that the parent who is not giving birth might feel helpless and terrified b/c they don't know what to do to be helpful. I was imagining how I would feel if my partner were giving birth and I was by her side. I don't think the experience of witnessing your partner in childbirth is contingent on gender and I was disappointed that Harlan used a rather trite stereotype to get his point across.

    I would also suggest that there is some degree of grey between women who are empowered by childbirth and women who "voluntarily stepped" into the victim role. Many of the women we work with in my dayjob are overwhelmed by the prospect of giving birth, uninformed about their options and lack access to the resources of empowerment that better educated and financially secure women have. Their choices are limited by their circumstances and that's a systemic victimization with a heavy racist tilt.

    It is hard to imagine a 12 year old feeling empowered by childbirth.

  8. Sue, I've never assisted a 12 year old in labor, but I have assisted teenagers. These young women lived in a group home and planned to relinquish their infants at birth. They found empowerment and strength in the midst of great loss.

    Is it safe to assume that you provide these women with the tools they need to make informed decisions if they show interest? Please send me a private email if your workplace lacks that type of info. I'd love to help. (Especially because I'm one of those uneducated women with no financial resources.)

  9. Laurie,

    I think you've illustrated my point ... if organizations such as mine are not able to provide good information to expectant women, there is a systemic breakdown that can be a barrier for women during childbirth. That breakdown is about access to resources - including good information - which is not realistically available to every woman in our society. We can't fairly put the onus on you or your organization to educate all of us. However, there are constraints on me, my organization, my coworker and, certainly, the people that we serve.

    I personally think that identifying barriers, both personal and systemic, is an important empowerment tool. Our society has deeply enmeshed barriers based on race, socioeconomic status and other characteristics. We don't all have a level playing field when it comes to making choices and I don't see the fault in acknowledging that fact. Can you find empowerment in adversity - absolutely. Does that mean we shouldn't continue to address the adversity - absolutely not.

    It sounds like you are doing your part to undo those barriers and I applaud you. We need more resources available to all women, which means women across the socioeconomic strata have to work together on these issues.

    However, I don't plan to give birth and still believe I would feel terrified and helpless to watch Ledcat in childbirth.