It was late. I was lounging in the living room when the Wife came out of the bedroom after finally getting our newborn daughter to go to sleep. After a couple of minutes of blissful quiet, I heard a dull, rhythmic drilling sound.
As I’d had a long day, the last thing I wanted was to contend with a neighbour doing renovations at 11pm on a Sunday night. On looking up, I saw the Wife using a handheld electric breast pump that was making a dull, rhythmic drilling sound.
We can both laugh about her encounters with nursing now, but I remember all too well how stressful the initial experience was for us both. Then, the Wife had a very difficult time providing enough breastmilk for Xander, our firstborn.
By the way, friends, relatives, and sometimes, even strangers, claimed that breastfeeding was “the easiest, most natural thing in the world to do”. Therefore, they did not, or refused to appreciate that this supposed “easiest, most natural thing” was what was tearing my wife — and our family — apart.
My wife stopped trying after three months. But for three years after, she kept beating herself up for not trying harder, sometimes to the point of tears, while I could only stand by helplessly, not knowing what to say or do.
As much as we want to, most fathers aren’t quite able to empathise with women’s obsession with breastfeeding their babies. I have friends and family who both nursed or took their milk every other way — and everyone turned out fine. For that matter, I have yet to hear any medical practitioner asking a patient if he or she were breastfed, formula-fed, or organic soy milk-fed as a child.
If our parenting style doesn't agree with your way of thinking, I beseech you to please mind your own business — just as we’ll happily keep our opinion of you to ourselves.
But, oh, we have heard — as well as experienced — the putdowns made by overzealous nursing advocates who criticise struggling new mothers for “wasting liquid gold”. These are the same people who’ll deliver their disparaging comments with a generous dose of self-righteousness.
As the husband of a woman who has nothing but love for the children she brought into this world, I would like to state that absolutely no one has the right to force anyone else to subscribe to any beliefs.
While I am on the subject of breastfeeding Nazis, mothers aren’t the only ones who have to deal with the guilt that’s inflicted on them by the overzealous advocates. Indeed, as husbands, we have to pick up the broken pieces of our wives’ spirits as well — spirits that have been torn apart by the insensitive and callous words of others. And as men, we are handicapped because we can’t breastfeed, so we can’t fully empathise with what our loved ones are grappling with.
But as a couple, we can only try our level best to take care of our kids in the best way we know. So, if our parenting style doesn't agree with your way of thinking, I beseech you to please mind your own business — just as we’ll happily keep our opinion of you to ourselves.
Every mother has a different breastfeeding tale to tell. Some just can’t breastfeed, while other women just seem to be able to do it for years. As every story is personal, we should not be judged or judge others. And that's how it really needs to be.
Winston Tay, 38 a marketing manager, is dad to Yvie, 2, and Xander, 7.