He Feeds Her

He loves his babies. Always has. His hands perfect for holding small heads. His long flat chest a place to rest and hear the thump-tha- thump just like it was in mommy’s tummy.

I hated breastfeeding. Never enough milk. What did come was so often vomited back onto those bags I lugged heavily on my frame. She’d scream with acid pain and empty belly.

He’d soothe her patiently.  Rocking, and shushing and swaying. Cooing, and patting, and humming.  Loving her with every inch of himself.  She’d sleep fitfully. Reluctantly convinced into rest.

Midnight feedings were hazy nightmares. He wanted to help.  But the best milk was in me.

Breast is best. Breast is best.  Breasts are beasts. Breasts are beasts.

After each feeding, I’d wake him, saying, “Take her.  I can’t do this anymore.”  He’d rouse himself. Sweep her up in the darkness. Pour sweet nectar into her ears.

Delirium twisted mother’s milk into mother’s bane.  But the shame, the shame seemed worse than this.  The shame and the failure:

A stay-at-home mom who does not breast feed.

Unspoken damnation whispered into my mind’s eye. “You’re a bad mother. Selfish. Weak. She will suffer forever. It’s all your fault.”

He said, “You don’t have to. It’s OK.  Don’t listen. I love you. You’re good. You’re good.”

No. You’re good. I am bad.

He said, “I want to help. Let me help. Let me feed her. You can rest. You can sleep. No more pumping. No more soreness. Let me help.”

Every day for months, we three danced this way.  And I felt myself pushing away from the child so waited for. Now, so hungry, always so hungry.

And me with nothing left to give.

So I let him help.  Knowing I was bad. She would suffer. He would leave me.  All good things, as they say, would come to an end.

But instead.

When the clock struck 10 I’d be fast asleep. A night-owl, he stayed up for the midnight feed.  And I, the early bird, took the 4 am, happy to be with my girl.

So rested, body mine, no pumping, no resentment.  Just the everyday trials of new parenthood – shared equally by two.

My burden had lifted.  And his was increased? Would his baby love stay so strong in the face of the feeds?

When I asked,  he said, “You don’t understand. You have given me a gift.”

“I hold her in my arms, bottle in hand, and she looks at me.  I see in her eyes something different, something new, something real.”

“‘You feed me.’ she says, without words.”

“I am her father, and I feed her. Don’t you see? We men are not supposed to feed. But I want to feed her. I need to feed her.”

He feeds her. To this day, he feeds her.  And she knows it.

And we are all free.

 

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Amy P said,

    July 24, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. You’re right – it needs to be told and heard! I was also a stay at home mom of three and none of them lasted more than one month before they were switched to formula. And I felt horrible about each one. Breast may be best … but its not always the RIGHT answer for every child and mother.

    • July 24, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      Thank you Amy for sharing your story and adding your voice. It always helps to know we are not alone in struggles.

  2. Marisa said,

    July 24, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Your words so beautifully capture what we are all taught should be easy and natural, yet for many women turns out to be a nightmare of pain and guilt. I am a (former) obstetrician who told my patients for years that we are lucky to live in a time and a place where safe and healthy alternatives to breastfeeding exist; that their babies need mothers who are connected and bonded to them more than they need breast milk; that though breast is best, it is not the answer for everyone; that bottle feeding does not make you less of a mother or mean you love your baby any less. And none of that could have prepared me for my own struggles when my daughter was born, the tears and the total feelings of inadequacy and failure.
    I too was saved by a warm and nurturing husband and father who loved me and loved his child and loved being able to help both of us. I smile as I read this because, though I do not know you, I know your husband, and even when I met him at the ripe old age of fourteen he was an incredibly gentle, bottomlessly kind person. His response surprises me not at all.
    So thank you for this piece. I hope many women (and men) read it and take its message to heart.

    • July 24, 2014 at 10:35 pm

      Marisa – I am glad you too had a partner who could help draw you out of the pain and back into the love right where you should have been all along. Thanks for your comment.


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