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From Smashing Pumpkins to Winnie-the-Pooh

By Mike Brenchley
Guelph Ontario Canada
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 15 No. 1, January - February 1998, p. 18-19

The other day, a friend of mine made a face and said, "You're not going to tell me about breastfeeding, are you?"

The truth of the matter is, I was. I had forgotten that some people are inexplicably sensitive about the topic. In my elation over becoming a father for the first time, I forgot that, in our "enlightened" society, a significant number of people still see the simple, natural act of breastfeeding as something vulgar that should be hidden away and not discussed.

But my friend had asked me what fatherhood was like and I was trying to tell him. I told him how it was an overwhelming mixture of elation, anxiety, wonderment, and fatigue. And yet, at the same time, how it caused everything to seem clearer and brighter; senses seemed heightened and sights, sounds, and smells seemed more intense. I told him how our priorities had changed and life took on new meaning. I was just starting to explain how the simplest things seemed so perfect, for instance when my wife is giving our little bundle a drink and ...

I suppose I should have known better. My friend is a few years younger than I am. His "downtown" single lifestyle is light-years apart from my suburban, married one. Although our days at work are similar, his evenings are taken up with dates, parties, night life, and movies. Mine are now filled with diapers, bathtime, and stories. He listens to Smashing Pumpkins. I listen to the theme from Winnie-the-Pooh. I should have guessed that he would have no comprehension of the astonishing feelings invoked by watching your child receiving nourishment from his mother.

I guess I can't really blame him though. I honestly never expected these feelings to be so strong. Sometimes I wonder if I am the only father who feels so moved by the experience; everything I have ever read about breastfeeding was written from the point of view of the mother and none of the other fathers I know have mentioned it. Certainly the pure, instinctive feelings shared between the mother and child during breastfeeding are totally unique. I can only imagine those feelings - at least until science devises a way for me to take part.

But there are other, more subtle, yet strangely wonderful feelings which I have when I watch my wife feeding our son. During those warm afternoons when the sunlight slants through the bedroom window and the three of us lie sleepily on the bed together, there is an overwhelming sense that everything is good in the world. My wife and I lie facing each other with our son between us asleep. When he awakes, he seems to know instinctively where to find what he is looking for. We have heard and read about those people who have had the misfortune of not being able to breastfeed. Luckily for us, our son was blessed with a strong sucking instinct and my wife was blessed with the necessary attributes to easily provide what he wants. When he latches on, he seems to enter a state of ecstasy; he becomes completely relaxed, his eyes close part way and his entire being is focused on the task (and obvious pleasure) of drinking. Then the only sound in the room is his soft breathing, regularly interrupted by an almost inaudible "glug" when he swallows another mouthful of warm milk. During these peaceful times, all of the problems of the world fall away. Time stands still and I feel as though I could stay and watch forever. There is no better feeling than to know that right here in this room, my son is receiving everything he could possibly need in his new life.

One night, my wife expressed some milk while I watched TV upstairs. We were to be away during the weekend and the milk would be stored in the freezer to be used by my wife's mother while babysitting. When she finished, my wife called me in and handed me a small plastic bag half full of the pure white liquid. I took it from her cautiously, so as not to spill any of the precious contents. As I held the bag in the palm of my hand, I was suddenly overcome by the magical sensation of its warmth and weight. Here was a mere three or four ounces of liquid, yet it was life for my son. What on earth could be more pure, more natural, more wholesome?

My love for my newborn son sprang from my heart the moment he was born and seems to grow stronger every day. But my love and respect for my wife is growing stronger, too. Every day I seem to learn more about her; I see her strength of character, her patience, her instinctive and deep-rooted love for our son. And I see her natural ability to feed him, providing him, in this one simple act, nourishment, comfort, warmth, and love. I always imagined she would be a wonderful mother; now I know for sure.

Yes, my downtown friend is a long way away from looking at life the same way I do. Sometimes he asks me if I ever long to return to a lifestyle similar to his. I tell him that, having experienced all of the wonders and joys of a brand new life and everything that surrounds it, I wouldn't trade places with him for the world. And I'll take Winnie-the-Pooh over Smashing Pumpkins any day.

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