There' nothing easy about becoming a motherhood and finding yourself suddenly responsible for providing your child’s nutrition. Because I chose to exclusively breastfeed, it kind of messed with my mind a bit. On one hand, I felt like a hero for being able to feed my child with just my body. On the other hand, I'd never done it before and was freaking out that it could all go wrong instantly. So I might have occasionally acted unkindly, and I might have said some passive aggressive things to my partner when I was breastfeeding.
In hindsight, I think it's remarkable that I committed to breastfeeding my two kids for over two years, each. When I see new moms doing it now I just want to throw them a parade. In fact, when I think back and consider all those hours I spent breastfeeding, I think I would have liked a little more appreciation for what I was doing. While nobody goes into parenthood thinking it’s a surefire way to gain respect, I do think, as a society, we don’t give moms enough credit for all the effort it takes to make breastfeeding work for them and their babies. I’ve dealt with my daughter’s refusal to eat and an extreme case of oversupply when my son was a newborn, and it really made me question my ability to even be someone’s mother.
All this to say that my confidence as a breastfeeding mom would often take a dip. In those moments, I’d take it out on the one person who was truly by my side for the whole experience: my partner. It wasn’t fair, but he was there. Even though he wasn’t navigating the same path through parenthood as I was, he at least understood that it might be hard for me to be polite when I had a baby in my arms for the last three hours without a break. He was a trooper, and played it cool when I would say these passive aggressive things to him while I was breastfeeding:
“Now’s Not A Great Time”
This was putting it gently, and in response to basically anything my husband said. Though it looked like I was just sitting there (and I would occasionally nod off for a minute), breastfeeding requires me to be an active participant in the whole "feeding my child" thing. It takes energy and brainpower and a concerted effort to not let my arm fall asleep when it's pinned under my baby’s body. I just didn’t want to deal with anything else than what was literally on my lap. So even if the question seemed as innocuous as, “Can I ask you something?” I didn’t want to hear it at that moment.
“Sure, Let’s Discuss Our Wills Right This Second”
I appreciated my husband’s proactivity in preparing for our new baby’s future, should the worst of the worst happen to either one of us, or both of us. I just hated the timing. I’m pouring life into my baby’s mouth, and he wants to discuss who we think should raise her if we die? I can’t even.
“No, That’s OK. I Can Reach The Remote With My Foot.”
My usual breastfeeding spot was on the couch,in front of the TV, but the remote wasn’t always in reach. Having to ask for it, frequently, was lowkey annoying. I even proposed my partner and I keep the remote in a specific spot, so that I could always have it within arm’s length. While my partner agreed that was a great idea, it was not one that stuck in his brain. So I’d resort to passive aggressive comments that would hopefully send the message. It did, but he didn’t appreciate my tactic.
“The Phone Was Ringing? I Couldn’t Hear It Over The Baby Screaming In My Ear.”
No, I can’t get the phone, or the door, or shut off the stove burner when the tea kettle is boiling. Why? Oh, you know, because I am committed to satisfying my baby’s hunger without the risk of dropping her while I move around the house, performing one-handed tasks. Let the call go to voicemail. We hate talking on the phone anyway.
“Is ‘Milking’ How All The Dads Refer To Breastfeeding?”
Bless his ignorance as a first-time father, but would it have killed my husband to have paid attention to the terminology in the myriad of breastfeeding material I had lying around? If he answered the phone while I was breastfeeding, and it was for me, I’d hear him say, “She’s milking the baby now. Can she call you back?”
It was so sweet of him to protect my time nursing the baby without interruption. And it was so alarming to hear it described in those terms. (Admittedly, it was also kind of funny to me… the first time.)
“Can I Have Some Water Also?”
Breastfeeding made me so thirsty. Like, really thirsty. And since I was often rushing to settle in for our nursing session with a fussy baby, rooting around vigorously to latch on, I would usually forget to pour myself a beverage to have handy. Over time, my husband learned to offer me water or tea when I nursed, but until then I would just wait until I heard him take the pitcher out of the fridge and make him feel bad about how easy had it when it came to quenching his thirst.
“Oh, Is That Pizza?”
Partners, if you’re making food for yourself and the mother of your child is breastfeeding, make her something to eat. Even if she doesn’t ask. Even if she turned down the same offer three hours ago, ask her if you can get her some food and if she says yes, note her specific order and be overjoyed to do this for her. The baby has to eat, and so does she.
And (because my partner needed this reminder) please don’t forget to bring napkins too.
“Is This The Same Sweatshirt That Was On The Couch Yesterday, Or A Different One?”
Being stuck in the same spot breastfeeding for hours and hours, days on end during my maternity leave, left me regularly scrutinizing our surroundings. Turns out, things didn’t get put away with as much vigilance as I thought. Since I wasn’t fleeing the house every morning, dashing to work, I was much more observant of my partner’s level of tidiness. Understandably, he started to look forward to me going back to work.
“Can You Take The Baby When I’m Done?”
Look, we had never parented a baby before. We were both figuring out how to keep the kid alive, in a cooperative way, that didn’t stress our partnership beyond capacity. It was new territory, so I understood why I had to overtly ask for what I needed when I was breastfeeding. In the end, my partner simply didn’t know. I didn’t expect him to read my mind, but I was hoping he’d realize that after spending 40 minutes in lockdown nursing our kid, I deserved a break immediately afterwards. That I had to ask for it, until he caught on, was borderline infuriating. Learning how to communicate with a kid in the mix took time, and it’s still a skill we’re trying to improve.
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