chapter  10
The father-to-be
ByJoan Raphael-Leff
Pages 14

In some traditional societies paternal activity ritually begins only once the child is a certain age, when the child finally acquires the father's name. In others, conversely, it is the father who acquires a new name after the birth, and is known as the father of his child. Much of the ethnographic literature has focused on couvade as a particular form of paternal acknowledgement - those ritualized practices, engaged in by the male mate of a parturient woman which mimic pregnancy, confinement and/or childbirth. Thus, for the man, pregnancy arouses not only male identification with the father, but the father-to-be identifies with his mother, too. The dilemma of the western father-to-be is that he is confronted by the same transitional fears, anxieties and envy as his traditional counterpart, but has no transitional rites to express these. The expectant father may rationalize sexually abstaining as concern about dislodging the embryo through intercourse, a prevalent belief echoing traditional taboos on sex.