It’s Breastfeeding Month. Or Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Or something like that. I only know this because while sitting on the couch a few nights ago, my betrothed looked up from her phone and said, “It’s breastfeeding month”. My response was a half-grunted “mmkay.” Didn’t think anything else of it.
Then I started to consider why the powers-that-be, those Ministers of Month Dedications, decided to bestow upon the month of August that most honorary title of Mammary Sustenance Month. I’ll admit, I like the name I came up with better than “Breastfeeding Month.” But who are they dedicating the month to? Is it the newborn drinkers of boob juice that warrant a month of recognition? Surely not. They can’t even find the nipple by themselves. Slackers. So it’s the mothers then? That makes more sense. But why do they get a whole month just for producing milk? How come I don’t get a month? We can call it “Half-Finished Projects Month” or “I Take Too Long To Poop Month.” Oh, wait. That’s right. None of the stuff I do as the Father of a newborn actually sustains the kid’s life. Successful care-giving on my part is avoiding serious injury or death. Of the child. And me.
Take a moment to wrap your head around that. Your spouse is sustaining the life of another human. That’s part of the deal. Do you, so-and-so, take this man to be your lawful wedded husband? Do you promise to nourish your offspring with your bountiful bosom and not let them die and so on and whatnot?
I’ve talked before about how I consider myself the breadwinner of the family, the King of the Castle, blah blah blah. I’ve also mentioned before how that is actually complete bullshit because my wife does more for our family than I ever could, while also managing to stay mentally stable. This is another one of those things that reminds me of how thankful I am that marriage and, more importantly, parenthood isn’t actually anything like that. This is a partnership. Albeit, a lopsided partnership but still…..
Our first daughter couldn’t breastfeed. Issues with latching or mouth-to-boob symmetry or something. I, being the rookie father that I was, thought “No big deal. We’ll just buy formula or whatever.” I thought my wife would be happy because that meant that I wouldn’t get to just remain sleeping while our parasitic offspring fed from her milk jugs like a lactose-tolerant vampire in the dead of night. I would get to join in on the bi-hourly wake ups and assist with keeping our firstborn fat and happy. Instead, she was devastated. I didn’t understand it at the time. I mistook my wife’s bouts of crying and depression as typical postpartum symptoms which, for some reason, I thought I was knowledgeable about– this being my first child and all. Looking back at it now, I can honestly say…what a dumbass I was. It wasn’t until our second child was born and I saw the reaction on my wife’s face the first time parasite #2 latched onto the breast that I realized what breastfeeding meant to a mom. And what it should mean to a dad.
I can only imagine the emotional bond that comes from not only bringing a life that your body made into the world, but also sustaining that life with nothing more than what you can offer of yourself. That also has to be one of the greatest of gifts that a child can give you as a parent– to know that they are completely dependent on you to bring them through the difficult first few months of their delicate life. It is your responsibility as a mother to provide, specifically, all of the building blocks their developing bodies require. At the end of the journey that is breastfeeding you will have successfuly nurtured them into the wonderful stages of toddlerhood– their very survival being attributed to a mother who cared and gave whatever she could, whenever she had to.
Is that not also the ultimate gift from a wife to a husband? Your betrothed, who puts up with your snoring, leaving dirty dishes in random places, and the half-finished bathroom remodel that was only supposed to take a couple of months, considers it her right and duty as a mother to provide the foundation of your child’s growth and development. She offers herself completely to the care and nourishment of what will be both of your legacies. What is that worth in terms of the parenthood partnership? I try to do what I can, when I can for my children. But is there anything I could ever do to equal the devotion of the woman who I am so lucky to have as the mother of my children?
Breastfeeding is a selfless act that sustains life and creates an everlasting bond between mother and child. I guess having a whole month dedicated to mothers who breastfeed isn’t unreasonable. (I originally typed that sentence to say “dedicated to breastfeeding mothers” but quickly realized that it might sound like I wanted to make August the month that grown moms go back to feed from their mothers’ boobs. Ewwwwww.)
Shortly after we got home with our fourth child, my wife and I were in bed around two in the morning. We had settled into a normal routine of her waking up to her alarm every two hours to feed our child, while I stirred momentarily, grunted, farted, then went back to snoring. This time, however, I noticed something. My wife, the mother of my children, the tireless creator of our offspring, was visibly exhausted. She hadn’t had more than two hours of sleep in a little over two weeks. She sat upright in our bed, suckling newborn at her breast, oblivious to the wonderment with which I now looked at her. Probably oblivious to pretty much everything except the hungry infant she currently clutched to her. In that moment, I felt….useless. There wasn’t a thing I could do to help her. I could crack a joke. But she’d probably punch me. I could rub her back. But she’d probably fall asleep. Then the milk-starved minion would probably roll out of her arms and onto the floor. Then she’d probably punch me. What could I do to help her? I tapped her on the shoulder. She looked over at me, surprised that I was awake. I thanked her for being the wife and mother that she was. I told her how grateful I was for the beautiful children she had given me. She teared up. Then she punched me.
To all the moms who breastfeed their kids– thank you.