Despite what Ben Stiller said in Meet the Parents, it is not, in fact, possible to milk anything with nipples. Believe me, I’ve tried. But this is not a tale of medical miracles. Nor is it one involving one of those ridiculous machines. No offense to any guys using those ridiculous machines. But that’s not exactly what I meant by breastfeeding my daughter. My experience was much more surreptitious. Accidental. Lucky, I guess. Let me explain.
I think I might have to back this up a little further, to begin with a minor confession. I’ve always been a little jealous of my wife’s ability to breastfeed. Sure, it’s an incredible burden, a selfless commitment, and a gift if one’s body is able to cooperate in the first place. I’ve heard the ‘If you had to do this just one night…’ rebuke more than I care to share. But despite the sleep lost, having to pump at work, etc., she will still tell you it is one of the most incredible things she’s experienced. And I believe her. I’ve seen it.
HP actually strokes my wife when she feeds her before bed. She only does it at that pre-bed feeding, like she enjoyed the day that was, but is even more grateful for the opportunity to sleep it off. She lies in my wife’s arms and puts one hand on my wife’s upper chest and physically strokes her gentle sign of approval. It is so sweet, so precious, so unfair. It’s just something I just can never hope to achieve with my plebian little BPA-free bottle and fast-flow nipple.
Anyway, I mentioned a while ago that Thursdays are pretty miserable. Long days for everyone, my wife gets home after HP’s bedtime. It is the one day of the week that I get to put her to bed. At first I was excited. Though it would obviously be different, I thought we could bond in our own little way, create some father/daughter Goodnight, Moon memories.
Turns out, she didn’t see it that way. She viewed me as more of a scab, an impostor she just wanted to belittle and boo and throw bags of flour at. I went through the whole routine the first time, just like Mommy. Tried to give her the bottle. Shun. Capital S. Refused to eat it, cried whole-heartedly. Though dismayed, I chalked it up to over-tiredness, didn’t take it too personally. She finished my bottles all day, every day. Isolated incident for sure.
Second time was a repeat. As was the third. By this time, I tried mixing things up, different angles and such. Tear-fest after tear-fest. I told my wife, dejectedly, that she should just go in, wake her up and feed her when she got home. Stroke stroke stroke, love love love. We even had a good friend babysit one night, and I’m half-snickering to myself as we walked out the door, ‘Good luck feeding HP!’ She gave her the bottle without so much as a whimper; I didn’t have the heart to ask about any strokage.
So, it’s me, then…
Well, then we had a breakthrough, finally. Same thing, cry cry cry at first. Then I wedged her in the crook of my arm, and she seemed to mellow. For some weird instinctive reason, I pulled my shirt up, thinking maybe she just wanted more skin-on-skin contact. Okay, yes, I was trying to dupe her, fine. I was a desperate man.
So she put her hand on my chest, and…she started eating! I had done it! I held my breath for the next few minutes, too afraid to make eye contact and blow the whole ruse. In hindsight, I think she may have just been supremely famished.
Because then she started patting around with curious Little Red Riding Hood digits, sensing something was amiss. You’re much hairier than I remember, Mommy! Then she yanked a tiny handful of my chest hair. Mother of Pearl, THAT IS NOT STROKING! I yelped. She cried. And that was the end of that. All good things must come to an end, I suppose. Even the first (and last) time I breastfed my daughter.