When our first son was born, we were ecstatic. We spent all day (and night) staring at him. We couldn’t wait to show him off to the world and celebrate his arrival. Of course, hubby got to do that first. He ‘wet the baby’s head’ when our son was only a week old.
Lost in translation
Wetting the baby’s head traditionally refers to the Christian baptism where the baby’s head is wet with blessed water. However, water isn’t the liquid of choice for dads these days.
Today, the tradition of wetting the baby’s head has been somewhat lost in translation. It’s now commonly associated with celebrating a baby’s arrival with one or two (or more) alcoholic drinks. And it’s primarily done by dads.
That’s right ladies. Once again, men rise to take credit for the baby that they made, carried for nine months and laboured. They deserve a good pat on the back and a drink, don’t they?
For the most part, I hear a resounding no. It was certainly how I felt.
Frustrated and resentful
When my husband announced that he was going out to wet our son’s head, I was in the deep fog of new motherhood. I hadn’t slept for seven days; my son was constantly attached to my boob as I tried to get to grips (quite literally) with feeding.
I was emotional. I swung from euphoric to ‘what the hell have I done. Will I ever leave the house again?’ Hubby only had to stir my tea the wrong way and I’d be a blubbering mess.
So, you can imagine how frustrated and resentful I felt when he toddled out the door, already three beers down. When I spoke to friends about their experience, they agreed.
One friend even told me that her husband took it one step further.
“His mate came to the hospital the night after our son was born and they drank whisky from a smuggled flask in smuggled glasses,” she says. “After our daughter was born, he drank out of a hospital cup. In fact, I’m confident he was drinking whisky from a flask while I was in labour!”
Time for a change!
Despite our society allegedly striving for gender equality, some things don’t seem to change.
“Wetting the baby’s head is one of those celebratory events that’s become accepted as a tradition or rite that’s always been done and never questioned,” says psychologist, Marny Lishman.
“It’s never changed, or even kept up with modern times. It’s automatic and most people just go along with it, without much thought.”
But isn’t it about time that we did think about it and pushed for change? Isn’t about time that we got to celebrate and ‘wet the baby’s head’?
There should be an equivalent tradition for women. God knows that, after our baby is born, we need a bit of light relief and celebration.
We need to celebrate no longer waddling around like a duck, peeing every two minutes. We need to celebrate being reacquainted with our toes. And we need to celebrate the opportunity to drink in peace.
And when we say drink. Let’s be honest, we’re probably not even talking alcohol.
Most of us sleep deprived mums would be happy for a hot cuppa or coffee. Anything that’s not interrupted by screams, feeds and swaddles is worth a celebration in itself.
So how about it, mums? How about we start to push for our right to celebrate the birth of our baby. Instead of the men walking out the door to do it on our behalf, let’s take a stand and swap places.
Wetting the baby’s head shouldn’t be a male tradition. It should be a rite that’s earnt following months of hard work. For arguments sake, let’s make it nine.