Dear old Dad

14 Jan

NB: I’m going to tell this story my way. My wife may have a different opinion of the woman, and she would probably suggest that I’m not being very gracious. Or nurturing. I would in turn suggest that wordpress makes it incredibly easy to start your own blog, where you can write anything you like…

When a lactation consultant (internationally board certified! unable to diagnose thrush!) came by a couple weeks back, she exuded all kinds of earthy Park Slope vibe. The baby was premature, she said, though the baby was born at 37.5 weeks. The baby’s neck muscles are affected by the epidural, she said, and suggested a baby massage to help BB ‘work out his issues’ (the good news is, since he has so few, it could be worked out in hours rather than weeks, as it would be for an adult!). Listening to her, I can’t help wondering if these issues are our fault. She clearly thinks so.

She was helpful in suggesting some adjustments to baby mama’s positioning, decrying the Boppy pillow as not designed for breastfeeding (and suggesting a device called ‘My Breast Friend.’ I thought I was her breast friend!). And she brought along a scale to make certain that the baby was actually eating during the breastfeeding sessions.

During this two and a half hour, $200 home visit, she made baby mama out to be the latest in a long line of warrior women, breastfeeding their babies, eschewing bottles, opting out of pacifiers. The night feedings are the toughest, she noted, when it’s you alone against the long, hard night.

“My husband actually wakes up and keeps me company during the 4am nursing,” says my wife. And the woman looks at me and says to her, “he is a lovely man.”

Ok, I’ll take it. I am. A lovely man. But I’m also raising this damn kid. And despite knowing in my heart and my mind that fathers get both overvalued (aww, what a great dad, taking his kid to the park!) and undervalued (my uncle told me in passing that I must be loving that wife is breastfeeding, since it means that I’m off the hook for so much of the infant’s early needs – ‘you must secretly be thinking, ‘YES!'”).

We’re making a turn at the moment, towards thinking about what happens when baby mama turns back into a working pumpkin, and my work kicks back in, and what we’ll do with this precious bundle of poop and cry when we emerge from the cocoon of newborn infancy. It is true that body-wise, she’s taking the brunt of this thing. But I’ve been around this operation long enough to see that I’m putting in sweat equity to keep Joint Parenting, LLC in business. Calling me a ‘lovely man’ is only going to piss me off on that front…

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2 Responses to “Dear old Dad”

  1. Alan January 14, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    Yet again you made me think of “manhood for amateurs” by Michael Chabon. The second short piece in there is about how he got called a “great dad” just because someone saw him with his kid in the grocery store. And of course (claims that) he is…but the low standard annoys him too.

  2. Peter January 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    I meant to give you props, too, Alan. Your ‘because he’s a baby’, which I thought were going to be fightin’ words, has in fact been a great response to nascent arguments about why baby does X, or why baby isn’t doing Y. I was completely wrong, and I stand corrected.

    I’m getting the Chabon, too. I’m learning to heed thy words.

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