My youngest child, who we like to call Mr. T, is creeping up on the age of 7. He has been a surprise to me from the moment I gagged on my toothbrush, causing me to think, “Could I be pregnant?” Born just 14 months after his brother, his life has been a study in uniqueness, challenge, and wonder. In a culture very wrapped up in thinking boys should be focused on trucks and sports and bugs, want to know what his heart’s desire is?
This summer, we bought a membership to our local pool and I dutifully took the kids everyday. They are now at an age where I don’t have to supervise quite as closely and everyday, I had a few moments to relax while they wore themselves out jumping into the water over and over again.
This pool is a little “out of the way” and not very crowded so we were about 3 or 4 days into our trips before a mother showed up with a small baby. My little guy was right by this mom’s side in about 3 seconds flat. He cooed. He asked if he could stroke the baby’s face. He offered to fetch toys. He advised the mom on the best way to enter the water (“Just jump in from here!”). He was absolutely and completely enamoured with the little one. No more going down the water slide. No more swimming laps around his brother and sister in the water. All he wanted was that baby.
Recently, he’s been begging me to come on a consultation with me. As an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), I offer support to breastfeeding mothers who are having challenges by coming to their home to observe, problem solve and advise. Obviously, my professional obligations prevent me from having a 7-year old assistant…but that assistant was so persistent.
Finally, my dear friend, Lisa, with whom I have also worked in a professional capacity, offered for Mr. T to come along to our next consult. She and her baby sat down to breastfeed and she gently invited him to come sit alongside her. He gently touched the baby’s head as she latched on. He tenderly looked into that mama’s eyes and said, “If it hurts, you need to hold her closer.” (Get this kid some clients, STAT!)
These experiences with him over the past months have caused me to think about being the mother of sons (my little lactation consultant-to-be also has an older brother). Because I do the work I do, I am keenly aware of the challenges that new mothers face. AND new fathers face.
Many times, when I am meeting with a mother in her home, her husband will be around but not a part of our consult. I gently invite them in, but often (embarrassment? feeling like it isn’t their place? unclear expectations?) they don’t join us. I think that not enough is done to educate and encourage fathers in their “new to the world of parenthood” selves. Because of that, one of my goals as a mother is to raise boys who understand birth and breastfeeding’s function and purpose in a woman’s life and also to enable them to find their role in it.
I make no assumptions that my sons will be fathers. I certainly hope that it is the case as I truly believe that the role of “Daddy” will fit them well. They’ve grown up in a home with a Dad who has cheered on Mom in everything she tried, whether she rocked it out or was a complete failure. My husband has fetched water and food and laptops and glasses and any other thing I needed while planted firmly on the couch in our first weeks with a baby. He went shopping with me at Baby Monitor Town and did a quick research about the product before any purchase. He corralled toddlers while I was wrapping up feeds. He made many a dinner while I was studying for my lactation certification exam. He’s done bedtime and bathtime and lunchbox packing more than his fair share so I could answer one more breastfeeding question on my email. He’s been a lone parent while I went to teach other parents about breastfeeding. In short, he has been exactly what I hope my boys to be as the supporter of a mother and of a woman.
And if my boys don’t decide to take on the life of another little one, I hope I have empowered them to enter the world with their eyes well-peeled for the signs of injustice, lack of support and misinformation surrounding breastfeeding. And if they do become fathers, it is my total prayer that they will be everything their father has been for me.
P.S. – Mr. T’s teacher just let the class know that she will be having a baby in the spring. Please imagine with me for a moment his total glee in telling me when he came home that afternoon. His eyes sparkled and I asked him what he thought he could tell her about babies. He said, “I will tell her that if she needs help feeding her baby, she should call you!”
P.S. – In case you are looking for two year old boy birthday gift🙂