I recently googled “breastfeeding” and “jealousy” to see if my issues were common among new dads. Many men, it turns out, feel jealous watching their partner breastfeed, but it’s not what I thought at all –they’re jealous of the baby. They don’t want anyone else sucking on their wife’s nipples. Even if it’s their own child and that sucking is what’s keeping that child alive. That’s some hardcore jealousy right there. No, my jealousy is a little different. I won’t say I want to have boobs (my pectoral muscles have degraded into something similar enough). And it’s not quite right to say I wish I could have that nourishing bond with my newborn (I’ve seen Kate breastfeed –there’s not a ton of emotional outpouring going on between the two parties). No, what I’m talking about is something a little different.
Maybe it’s best to describe it using a real life example.
The other day, I came home from the neighborhood pool with the two older kids in tow. It was hot as hell and the kids had just spent the last 20 minutes of our walk home (we live a block and a half from the pool) complaining about the flavor of popsicle they were just treated to at the pool. I walked in and found Kate sitting on the couch watching TV. In the middle of the day. With no guilt whatsoever.
“You’re watching, TV?” I asked, incredulously.
“What else am I going to do?” She responded, pointing down at the baby suckling at her breast.
I looked at the baby, then at the TV, then back to Kate. I tried desperately to come up with some retort, some reason why this was just unacceptable…but I had nothing. Kate had the best excuse to sit on the couch and watch TV in the middle of the day anybody could ask for.
I wanted that. I really really wanted that.
When I sit on the couch and watch TV in the middle of the day, I feel really guilty about it. For hours I feel terrible guilt.
No, truthfully, I hardly watch any TV, even at night. But it’s only because I feel guilty that I’m not doing something that will in some way help me get a career going in…something. The closest I get to guilt-free anything is when the baby is asleep on me.
I’m always trying to get him to go to sleep on me.
But he rarely does because… it all comes back to the breastfeeding. My role, as dad, is to change Theo’s diaper. Kate’s is to breastfeed him. He likes breastfeeding a hell of a lot more than getting his diaper changed. A month into our routine now and he pretty much cries whenever I pick him up. He smells it on me.
This leads me to another odd tidbit that I came across while doing my google search. Apparently a lot of men get jealous of their partner’s ability to instantly soothe a crying baby with their boob. I read many accounts of men refusing to hand over the crying baby because they wanted the satisfaction of soothing the baby on their own. This, to me, is almost weirder than being jealous of a baby for getting to nurse. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a dad who didn’t very readily and willingly pass their baby off to its mom when it started crying (whereupon it’s usually accompanied by “I think he’s hungry.”)
So then I guess it goes both ways, this manipulation of the boob. Tit for tat you might say. If you were really clever.
But what happens when the boob war turns sour, and one of us (Kate) starts abusing her boob privileges? Take, for instance, the other day when I announced a much-needed family cleanup. (By “family” of course I mean Kate and I because the kids are completely useless (but I yell at them to help anyway because it seems like something a father should do). And by “cleaning up”, I should add, I mean relocating piles of crap we don’t know what to do with to other parts of the house.)
So, as I announce this, I see, out of the corner of my eye, Kate reach for Theo. Sure, he was fussing a bit. But was he necessarily hungry? She quickly threw him on the boob and looked at me like, “aww, rats, sure would like to help but…”
I wanted to call her out, call bullshit on this, but the image of my neighbor, slumped, picked apart and dressed in sweats, a victim of new baby bickering (see previous post), popped into my head.
I heroically held my tongue and instead just gave her a look that said, “keep up the good work, you deceitful, backstabbing wh…ife.”
So, I went back to my business of relocating crap and eventually, again, passed through the room where Kate was breastfeeding Theo. As I walked by, I glanced down and caught Kate basically stuffing her boob into Theo’s dead asleep mouth.
Sometimes it’s really hard to bite your tongue. You know nothing good will come from what you’re about to say but for some reason you just say it anyway. I suppose there’s a fine line between masochism and just a healthy desire to unburden yourself.
“Just keep jabbing it in there, eventually he’ll wake up.” I said, as I walked by.
I wasn’t expecting Kate to laugh, per se. But she’ll often give me a smirk if the assholeish thing I’ve just said is vaguely clever. This comment here was a good example of something she’d normally give me a little smirk for.
But new mothers, I’ve determined, suffer from a temporary loss of sense of humor while breastfeeding. Perhaps it’s the plump parasite on the other end of the breast that’s sucking it out of them. (However, this theory may be disproved by the complete and total lack of a sense of humor in my three week old. He refuses to smile even when I do the funniest things.) Or maybe it’s the hormones –the ones that help release the milk are the same ones that clog the synapses of humor-receptor cells. Just the Either way, breastfeeding has become in our house a good time for Ben to shut his mouth.
The other thing you should know is that Kate can get really mad, like Hulk mad, and when she gets Hulk mad she likes to throw things at me. My mother used to do this with her shoes if she couldn’t catch us to spank us with them. Needless to say, I’m used to getting things thrown at me and my reflexes have grown quick out of sheer will to survive. Kate now had that same look in her eye. I assumed my ready stance. We looked at each other then we both looked down at the baby. My first thought: She wouldn’t throw the baby at me would she? In her eyes I could see her thinking, “I can’t throw the baby at him, can I?” Kate is usually quick to regret throwing things at me. I felt pretty sure she would really regret this one. I even considered for a second throwing her something to throw at me.
Thankfully, Kate’s maternal hormones kicked in and successfully overrode the Hulk ones. She held onto the baby and, instead, began to cry. I was impressed by how fast she was able to bury her anger and convert it to sadness. It’s taken me most of my adult life to do that. Still working on it.
Anyway, later, when the calm had settled back into Kate’s eyes and the baby back into her loving lap, I asked her if she considered throwing the baby at me back there.
“I considered it.” She said.
She thought for a moment.
“He’s gotten so fat though, I doubt I would’ve been able to throw him very hard.”
“You’re also pretty out of shape right now,” I added.
So, yes, the baby is good and getting fatter by the minute (with near-constant breastfeeding). He’s sleeping well and starting to discern day from night, thus coming around to the normal sleeping schedule of a diurnal mammal, which we’re pleased about. He seems to be progressing at a normal rate though I’m still holding out hope for signs of freakish genius. I’ve always wanted a prodigy and I think I might just keep having babies till I get one.
In other news, George got into the school across the street. We’re excited about that. He’s a little unsure though only because, up till now, all he’s seen of the school are the disabled students who are walked by our house several times a day. Most are pretty severely autistic. I see that look in his eye when we cheerfully talk about him getting in there, like he’s trying to be excited too but kind of wary and wanting to ask, “do you really think I need to?” I’ve tried to talk to him about it and I think he gets it now. It’s a great school from what I can tell. And it’s across the street. I’m going to get to work on the zip line between his bedroom and his classroom.
All else is pretty good. Whatever you want to say about the stay-at-home dad thing, it has its perks –Kate and I get to be home together with no real schedule for a good two and half months. It also, of course, has its downside — Kate and I get to be home together with no real schedule for a good two and half months.
Some recent pics: