Sunday, July 19, 2009

“Honey, My Water Broke Too!”

In short, anything you can do, I can do too — not necessarily better, but in my own little way nonetheless.
couvade (koo-VAYD) — noun: 1. a custom in some cultures in which when a child is born the father takes to bed as if bearing the child and submits himself to fasting, purification, or taboos. 2. a medical condition involving a father experiencing some of the behavior of his wife at near the time of childbirth, including her birth pains, postpartum seclusion, food restrictions, and sex taboos.
A strange concept that I learned about in A.J. Jacobs’s The Know-It-All, couvade can be both a rare medical phenomenon that can occur anywhere and a specific custom of the Basque people in which the man deliberately takes to a bed and imitates the mother of his about-to-be-born child. This is my understanding of the latter case, anyway — that it seems to be a more of a conscious choice inasmuch as participation societal traditions can be voluntary. It may seem silly to some, but I suppose the notion of paternity leave might have seemed strange to people not to long ago.

Different websites offer different etymologies for the term. Most claim it comes from the French couvade, meaning “brooding.” Merriam-Webster traces it back to a Middle French term for “cowardly inactivity” that in turn comes from cover, “to sit on, brood over.” It relates the word to covey, “a mature bird or pair of birds with a brood of young.”

I’m sure there’s a joke about Thomas Beatie in all this, but I’ll leave you all to form it in your own minds.

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