When it comes to parenting and almost every other aspect of our relationship, I'm happy to report that my partner and I are (usually) on the same page. Sure, we disagree from time to time and are different, individual beings who have our own set of beliefs, but we operate under the constant assumption that we'll both strive to understand one another and show empathy when we can't. However, there are more than a few breastfeeding moments my partner just can't understand, which in when the aforementioned empathy (as well as support and acknowledgement of my own feelings and circumstances) becomes ridiculously important.
Now, this isn't a shot at my partner. I mean, he's a cisgender male, so he simply cannot understand what it's like to breastfeed a child because he, you know, physically can't breastfeed. Just like he couldn't understand pregnancy and he couldn't understand labor and delivery, and just like I can't possibly understand what it's like to watch your partner go through something you really and truly don't have any control or knowledge of. And, of course, my partner didn't need to live through breastfeeding himself in order to be the kind of supportive partner I needed. Instead, simply listening, showing solidarity, researching and educating himself to the best of his ability, and accomplishing the parenting responsibilities he was physically capable of doing, made it easy to consider breastfeeding "my thing" while simultaneously knowing we were still an equal team.
I guess, if I'm being terribly honest, it would have been nice for my partner to really and truly know the following. Then again, there's something to be said for enjoying a moment that only you can live through and experience and overcome and find happiness in. Sometimes I really loved the fact that breastfeeding was something only my baby and I shared. It was "just us" for a little while there and, well, that was nice.
When Your Baby Latches For The First Time
That feeling is best described as surreal, and even that description doesn't do it any justice.
I'll never forget the first time my son latched on and started breastfeeding, a few moments after he was born. Even after going through 40 (more or less) weeks of pregnancy and 23 hours of labor and delivery, it wasn't until I was breastfeeding my newborn that I felt like an actual mom. It was truly an incredible moment, and a strange feeling that changed me in ways I'm still learning about.
When You Equate Your Ability To Be A Mom To Your Ability To Breastfeed
The pressure on mothers if nothing if not unfair, not to mention relentless and downright detrimental. Still, as long as gender stereotypes dictate that women are the "default parents" in hetero-normative relationships, our culture is going to continue to create quantifiers as to what constitutes a "good mother." Breastfeeding is definitely on that list.
Which, of course, is something my partner just couldn't understand. He didn't have the "Well, are you breastfeeding?" pressure constantly hanging over his head. I truly did think that if I couldn't breastfeed my son for any reason whatsoever, I was failing as his mother.
When You're Openly Judged For Breastfeeding
Now, my partner was present when a few people openly shamed me for breastfeeding in public without a cover, but he wasn't the target of that shame so he didn't know what it was like to be attacked for simply feeding your child.
It's an odd, infuriating feeling, in only that this country seems hell-bent on essentially forcing women into motherhood by taking away their reproductive rights. If raising children is what the conservative right expect of women, why is it that mothers are judged and shamed for doing what is necessary to, you know, raise their children? Seems kind of backwards, right?
When You're Breastfeeding In The Middle Of The Night
Now, my partner was an active participant in night feedings, even though he couldn't actually feed our son. In a sign of solidarity he would wake up with me and, while half-asleep, rub my back or remind me that I was doing an incredible thing while I fumbled around in the dark and attempted to feed my son for the seventh time in a few hours.
Still, it was one of those things he simply couldn't experience for himself. Even in his half-asleep-haze, he really wasn't the one actually doing any of the work.
When Breastfeeding Becomes A Sexual Assault Trigger
Of course, this isn't something every breastfeeding woman can relate to (thank goodness).
However, an estimated 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and many of those women will go on to become mothers and, as a result, many of them will breastfeed. While breastfeeding can actually help mothers heal from past traumas, I found breastfeeding to be extremely triggering. Sometimes it was hard to feed my son, as that simple act would send me back to a night I have tried tirelessly to forget. That's something my partner just couldn't comprehend, as he has never been the victim of sexual assault. This is when endless support, self care, constant vigilance when it comes to your mental health, and even outside sources of support come in handy.
When You End Up With Mastitis
Yeah, no one understands this special kind of hell unless they've experienced for themselves. It's honestly that simple.
When You Love Breastfeeding But You Want To Quit Breastfeeding...
Breastfeeding is weird, you guys, in that it can provide a slew of juxtaposing feelings and emotions that you have to deal with simultaneously. I vividly remember, on more than one occasion, loving breastfeeding while simultaneously hoping it would end. I remember instances (especially in the middle of the night) when I cherished those beautiful moments but also kind of hated them.
It is such a strange feeling, to love something and kind of not like something at the same time. Then again, that kind of sounds like motherhood so, yeah, it makes sense.
...And When You're Ready To Quit Breastfeeding But You Miss Breastfeeding
My son surprisingly started self-weaning when he was 7 months old, which was both heartbreaking and, honestly, a little bit of a relief. I was excited to enjoy complete bodily autonomy again, but I knew I was going to miss our special breastfeeding moments.
That combination of emotions that seemed at war with one another, but seemed to live with one another in perfect harmony, is something my partner can't really understand.
When Breastfeeding Leaves You Feeling Touched Out
This one, honestly, had my partner thrown. He really couldn't understand why, after breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping with our son, I wouldn't want him to touch me. He actually took it personally for a while, assuming I no longer found him attractive now that we were parents.
But, honestly, it was simply because I wanted some damn space, and that's hard to come by when you're spending every waking moment with a tiny human being essentially attached to your body. It took a while for my partner to understand that it wasn't him, it was my need for anything even closely resembling bodily autonomy.
When Breastfeeding Gives You A Beautiful, Tranquil Moment With Your Baby
Now, that's not to say my partner didn't enjoy a few beautiful, tranquil moments with his son, too. He did, plenty of times over.
However, there really and truly is nothing quit like watching your baby being sustained by your body, all peaceful and serene. There's nothing like holding your baby and knowing that by you simply existing, your baby can continue to exist, too. That's something every breastfeeding mother can hold onto for the rest of your life, and it truly is an incredible thing.