Penelope and Clementine are 6-months old. When they were first born, the pediatrician extolled the virtues of nursing, but acknowledged the difficulties and limitations that mothers face today. The pediatrician concluded her spiel by encouraging Michelle to stick it out for at least six weeks, at which point the girls would have received most of the known benefits of breast feeding. For the past four months, Michelle has been managing her psychology practice, while pumping in between patients. There were many days when she was exhausted, but resisted another cup of coffee for the sake of the girls. There were also many evenings in which she wanted nothing more than to settle down with a glass of wine, but had to continue nursing and pumping to keep up with the increasing demand. She wanted to stick it out for a full year, but I told her that she was overdoing it — milking the boobs at both ends, if you will. As the stay-at-home parent, I’ve been slowly transitioning the girls from boob to bottle. After sacrificing her body for 15-months, Michelle is finally free to ingest caffeine and alcohol at will. The feeling is bittersweet, I’m sure. Clementine seems content with the transition, but Penelope isn’t going down without a fight.
“Daddy, I gonna miss nursing with mom.”
“Sweetie, we’ve been supplementing for months — you guzzle it down just the same.”
“Daddy, it’s not about the f****** milk!”
“Then what is it, sweetie?”
“I’m afraid I’m gonna forget.”
“Forget what, sweetie?”
“Nursing with mom!”
“Oh, like the actual activity? Oh yea, you’re totally gonna forget about all that.”
“But I want to hold on to it so bad, daddy.”
“Sweetie, you won’t remember the time you shared, but the bonding experience will live on through the ages.”
“Really? What about all the teenagers I see disrespecting their mommies?”
“Sweetie, children often turn on their parents in adolescence. It’s just a fact of life — no matter how much you love your mom.”
“Not me, daddy. Not after the way she sacrificed her body for me and Clemmy.”
“Trust me, sweetie, you will — but no matter how ugly it gets, your mother will love you just the same — even when you’re slamming bedroom doors with audible sounds of teen angst.”
“Of course she will, daddy — because she’ll always remember me as that vulnerable little baby suckling at her teet. By the time I’m forming long-term memories, my first memory of mom will probably be an image of her smacking me in the face or washing my mouth out with soap.”
“Oh, honey, now you’re just being ridiculous.”
“Can’t mommy just keep nursing till I’m forming long-term memories?”
“No, I’m sorry, sweetie. That’d be practically impossible. Most breastfeeding moms stay at home. Your mom’s working full time, and simply can’t pump enough to keep up with demand.”
“It doesn’t have to be a lot, daddy. Just enough to get a sip from her boob each day.”
“Either way, sweetie, your memories won’t be solid for at least another five years — nursing school age kids is not socially acceptable.”
“Pfft! F*** social conventions, daddy! Whatever happened to ‘breast is best’?!”
“Mother’s milk definitely has its benefits sweetie, especially in the first months of life… but after that the science is inconclusive.”
“Ok, forget about nursing. Can I at least continue napping on her boobs?”
“I’m sure we can arrange that, sweetie, but her boobs are about to shrink. They definitely won’t be the giant pillows you’ve become so accustomed to.”
“OMG! How could she do this to us, daddy?”
“Sweetie, this transition isn’t easy for anyone — especially your mother. She has treasured every moment of nursing.”
“I get it, daddy — nursing is a special time for mother and baby, alike.”
“You know, I have my anxieties too, sweetie. At some point, I won’t be hanging out as much with you and Clemmy — I worry that you girls won’t remember all the good times we shared.”
“You mean you don’t want us to forget all the sacrifices you made as a stay-at-home dad?”
“Oh, I’m sure you won’t let us forget, daddy.”
“Hey, I have an idea that may ease your mind, sweetie. We’ll make up a rhyme about nursing.”
“A rhyme? That just sounds silly, daddy.”
“Actually, sweetie, it’s a time honored tradition. Our ancestors used folktales, ballads, and chants to transmit oral history prior to the invention of written language.”
“Whatever, daddy. Let me know when it’s done. For now, I’m gonna watch some baby nursing videos on YouTube. There’s nothing better than tandem feedings. OH YEAH! That’s the stuff!”
AN ODE TO NURSING
The day you were born, your mom whipped out her jugs.
One for you, and your sister too.
Your hands gripped like razors, with sharp little tugs.
You’d stick out your tongue, and your mother would swoon.
She’d pull you in tight all day and night.
Her boobs kept expanding like milky balloons.
At nights you would cry and your mother would stir with barely a peep.
Feeling like a helpless rube I’d place you by your mother’s boob.
I’d get you to latch, and then you would feed, all the while your mother lay sleep.
Three months later she was working full-time.
She pumped during breaks and even through headaches.
The milk she brought home was simply sublime.
Occasionally at night your mother would drink.
Later she would pump, and then usually dump.
Alcoholic milk is not for kids, but let me tell you, it doesn’t stink.
They say breast is best and the children thrive.
Your mom wanted to keep going but the milk stopped flowing.
She’s not superhuman, but she kept you alive.