A few nights ago, The Wife came out of the bedroom and joined me on the living room sofa after Yvie and the confinement nanny had gone to sleep. It was about 11pm, and I was preparing for bed myself.
After a couple of minutes, I heard a dull, rhythmic drilling sound that seemed to be coming out of the walls. It had been a long day, and the last thing I needed was to contend with a neighbour about not conducting renovations at 11am on a Sunday night. So I turned my head up and around to trace the direction of the sound, and saw The Wife seated to my right, with a handheld electric breastpump that made a dull, rhythmic drilling sound whilst attached to her left boob.
We both laughed hard about my reaction, but unlike with Yvie these days, we didn’t see as much humour in trying to breastfeed Xander. It was a very stressful time, and in between the crying and the screaming in the house (which, in truth, was coming from everyone else in the household except the baby), The Wife was having a very difficult time expressing what she felt to be enough milk to feed Xander. It didn’t help that we had a select number of mothers and advocates both young and old, related, acquainted or otherwise, that we’re guiltily her into something they kept describing was the easiest thing in the world to do, but I saw as the one thing that was about to break the very spirit of the woman I loved, and potentially our family.
With Xander, she stopped trying after 3 months or so. And for 3 years after, she would periodically beat herself up for not trying harder (Sometimes to the point of tears, even after so long), and I would stand by helpless, not knowing what to say or do.
As much as we want to, many, if not all of us fathers aren’t quite able to empathise with our wives’ obsession over breastfeeding vs formula feeding vs whatever the hell else you’d want to put in a newborn’s diet. I have friends and family who grew up feeding one way or another, and everyone is as healthy as everyone else could be. And seriously, has the state of your health ever been determined by a doctor with an initial compulsory query of “Were you breastfed, formula-fed, cow-fed, or organic soy milk fed?” I’d like to just point you to a good dad-turned-amateur pediatrician of mine, who offered these sensible, wise words at the peak of his frustration with dealing with breastfeeding/formula feeding fanatics (we are at present unable to determine if said fanatic was his wife) when he said: “When taking care of the baby, look at the baby, don’t look at the number.?If he pee ok, poo ok, happy everyday, don’t worry! Most important is to have a happy and healthy baby.”
Then we have this fine specimen of a human being, who left the following comment on another mom blogger’s post about contending with breastfeeding in the throes of her possible post-natal depression:
Wow, indeed. Did you stop reading when you got to the part in her post about throwing her milk away? If not, and if this is your idea of helping women with maternity issues such as breastfeeding, baby care and baby blues, “petrina”, I’d rather take Andy Lee of Sengkang Babies to be my preferred lactation expert any day. How you would think one wouldn’t mind when you decide to dedicate 66 carefully chosen words to be published in the comments section of an open blog to put down a mother struggling with the stress of being a young new mother for “wasting liquid gold”, just shows how ineffective helpful comments like this can be when served up with such a generous, healthy dose of utter self-righteousness, never mind that certain long-term benefits of the method Petrina has chosen to faithfully advocate have recently been put into question.
But lest we judge prematurely, perhaps Petrina, like the mom blogger who was the target of her ire, may have had her own inadequacies with amassing her own liquid gold. Perhaps she, like the Mother of Xander, took to blaming herself for being unable to produce enough. Perhaps she decided she needed to learn breastfeeding techniques the right way, by going to classes, reading books, massaging her breasts in the prescribed manner, taking much-discussed supplements, practising correct latching methods, and ultimately, if she had another child since her internalised “failing”, finally succeeded in creating that liquid gold for the benefit of her child, thus building her confidence, not only in offering her treasured nectar to her newly produced offspring from now until the end of time, but to help other mothers to do so by preaching her tried-and-true knowledge to other mothers, and chastising those that she sees to have erred.
Update: Petrina shares her story in the comments section of The Kam Family’s blog
. I wasn’t too far off the mark, it seems. Kam
Okay, The Blogfather has done lesting his judgement.
Petrina, you are a prick. I thought the nurses and the counsellors we saw at the hospital were bad, but you have taken maybe three whole cakes and a dozen strawberry muffins to boot. I sincerely hope you have at least a couple of decent people left in your social circle whom you might have what little humility you have left in you to allow to teach you a thing or two about empathy, because you sure as hell won’t get any from anyone who’s read your comment today.
I will say this for the zealots that think they’ve been endowed with the power to change lives by adamantly shoving their own staunchly-held principles, feebly masked as “help”, into the faces of people who would otherwise rather not be talking with you: absolutely no one has the right to force-feed his or her own prescribed beliefs on anyone, much less talk down to people who do not subscribe to said beliefs. The parents in the thick of seeing their children through school have spoken at length about how this method of teaching doesn’t work any more in our own education system, so how the hell do you think your holier-than-thou attitude will push your point across to anyone effectively?
People like this don’t just make hapless mothers suffer with even more guilt than they’ve already weighed themselves down with; we, the husbands, have to try and pick up the pieces you leave behind when you break our wives’ spirit with your callous words. And, especially when it comes to things like breastfeeding, a lot of the times, we don’t know how to, for the simple biological reason that we don’t have actively producing milk ducts like our wives, so we have absolutely no way of knowing what our loved one is grappling with. All we know is that we’re trying our fucking level best to take care of our kids in the best way we know, and if it doesn’t agree with the way you want us to subscribe to, well, on behalf of all the husbands and fathers that have ever stood by their wives throughout the labour, recovery and parenting process, The Blogfather would like to invite you to please go back to whatever hole you crawled out of, and make yourself a crown of liquid gold to wear on your bigoted head so you can royally go fuck yourself.
… um, yeah. I let go a little there. Sorry.
I wrote this post in support of the breastfeeding blog train started by Madeline of Mad Psych Mum, and currently going on from the mom blogger’s community, whose stories extend from not being able to breastfeed to taking their breastfeeding journey all the way up to 4 whole years. Every story is personal, and none are judgmental; that’s how it should be. The button below will take you to all their stories.