It’s 2:00 AM one night. Max is tossing and turning. My left eye is half-open. I see that Max sits up in what seems like a drunken stupor. “Drunk Fu”, we call it. He looks like an old Shaolin Master trying to recover from a concussion. Or The Undertaker trying to get up from an F–5.
I pretend to be asleep (even though I practically am).
Char wakes up from her own half-sleep. It seems to be the only kind of sleep she gets these days. Max sees that she’s awake—“awake”—and snuggles up to her chest.
“Okay, okay,” my wife concedes. She picks him up, pulls up her shirt, and Max feeds.
I go back to sleep, relieved.
It’s 11:00 PM on another night. Char has just “tagged” me—it’s my turn to step in and watch the baby. She just finished breastfeeding Max, so she’s supposed to be done for the night. I carry Max and sing to him. Dear Theodosia. It’s Quiet Uptown. There’s a Little Wheel a-Turning in my Heart. Max struggles with his sleepiness. He loses, and falls asleep. I take quiet little steps to the bed, when suddenly, Max wakes up again. He looks at me, looks around, and then looks at his Momma, and lets out a cute little whimper.
Char gives me a blank, defeated stare. I smile, sheepishly. I let Max down on to the bed, and he turns and crawls swiftly into his mother’s arms.
I go to sleep, relieved.
It’s 10:30 last night. Max is asleep. I had dozed off without brushing my teeth. Eventually I couldn’t stand it, so I quietly slide off the bed, sneak to the bathroom, and I brush and I floss. I sneak back to my bedside and plug in my chargers. Then–smack— I accidentally tip over a bottle of Lavender and Peppermint linen spray.
The sound wakes up Char, and then slowly wakes up Max. Char
destroys me with an optic blast gives me the evil eye. She picks up Max, and breastfeeds again, and then says, begrudgingly, that I should go to sleep.
So I do, relieved.
If I was asked what I think about when I think about breastfeeding, I would be lying if I didn’t first talk about the absolutely selfish relief I feel whenever Char has to breastfeed. Look, I try very hard to share responsibility with Char in caring, protecting, and raising Max. I am absolutely allergic to the thought of being a deadbeat Dad, or a lousy Father. It’s 2017: old ideas about stereotypical (read: irresponsible) manhood should be dead and buried. I believe real men should do chores, cook, wash dishes, and put babies to sleep. Real men should be able to—and be glad to—do anything and everything women can do for their families1. So, that’s what I try to do for Max—I should be able to do anything Char can do for him.
But I can’t breastfeed. Unfortunately, Max also absolutely prefers direct feeding over bottle or cup feeding: it’s the most foolproof way of putting him to sleep. If Max refuses to sleep in my arms, and he starts showing signs of wanting breastmilk2, really, what’s a man to do? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I have to admit that the relief extends to the fact that I literally can’t breastfeed. But I do hear from very excitable breastfeeding social circles that men can actually do it. There isn’t any scientific material, though—or at least, no guides or workshops or YouTube tutorials that can teach me how to do it. Of course, if such materials were in fact available, it would be my moral obligation to actually try to learn it so I can share in the responsibility along with my wife.
But those materials are not available3. I guess I can just go back to sleep, relieved.