Dear Mike Francesca, Boomer Esiason, and Craig Carton,

I have no idea who you are.

Really, I don’t.  Sorry.  I had to look up how to spell your names for this article.

But I heard what you said the other day about New York Mets player Daniel Murphy, and my husband knows who you are, so I thought it might be important to share a few things with you.  Since Daniel Murphy’s wife is still recovering from using all of her energy, courage, strength, and sheer determination to deliver an actual human being onto this earth, I figured I’d help a sister out.  In case you were wondering, here are 8 reasons why it’s actually helpful for women to have their partners present when they birth a baby, and in the days and weeks that follow.

1.  The last time I checked, my husband was involved in getting me pregnant.  Daniel Murphy might be a ball player, but I’m guessing he was responsible for getting his wife pregnant as well.  In an era of irresponsible, self-absorbed athletes who routinely embarrass themselves in public, I think it’s pretty wonderful that an athlete would put his family first.  As he should. He was 50% of the decision to have a baby.  I mean, at least I think that’s how it works.

2.  The woman carries the baby for 9 months.  Now granted, I’m sure that’s not as hard as running drills, batting practice, pitching, catching, spitting, traveling to different cities, and whatever else y’all do.  But let’s say it’s a close second in difficulty level.  I’m guessing that Mrs Murphy goes to most of Daniel’s ball games.  Perhaps she even travels to random cities so that she can be close to him when he plays.  Support goes both ways.  And when you’re in the hospital, sprawled out and in pain, terrified out of your mind, it’s always nice to have a friendly face around.  I mean, it’s not as hard as being booed or being on the bench I guess, but let’s call it a close second.

3.  When you said that Mrs Murphy should have scheduled a c-section, for convenience sake, women everywhere felt their stitches pull just a little bit.  You could clearly school me about how to hit a home-run and how to throw a no-hitter, but I have a curve-ball for you.  A c-section involves cutting your stomach open and removing your guts so that the baby can come out.  And then putting your guts back in.  While you’re awake.  I know, because I’ve had two.  It involves stapling your stomach back together, having a catheter in your ho0-ha, and being in the hospital for close to a week so that you can learn to walk, poop, and laugh again.  It’s a little more difficult then being hit by an errant pitch.  But just a little.

4.  Numerous studies show that women who have supportive partners are more likely to have success with breastfeeding.  When you said “There’s nothing you (Murphy) can do.  You’re not breastfeeding the kid”, you told women everywhere that the way a family chooses to feed a child is a solo endeavor.  I’m not sure if you know this, because you might have chosen to show up to work instead of showing up for your kid when they were first born, but the days and weeks after having a baby are absolutely critical for the long-term health and wellness of your family.  This might not be a popular thing to say in the locker room, but boobs are for babies.  Boobs provide nourishment, comfort, and important immunities to babies in their first few weeks (and far beyond!), and the best way to insure that your wife has success with breastfeeding (if that’s what she chooses) is to be there to help her figure it out.  It truly takes more than two hands to nurse a baby in the beginning.  And if your family chooses formula, your wife will need your two hands too.  Do you know how often babies eat?  Whether you’re helping to wash bottles or grabbing your wife a snack so that she can in turn nourish your child, you’re the pinch hitter.  She doesn’t want someone brought up from the minors, she wants you.

5.  You know what will help Daniel Murphy to play better ball?  Knowing that his biggest fan is healthy, safe, and able to care for his child.  You know how that happens?  Having a supportive, attentive, aware partner makes an enormous difference in identifying and treating postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.  Daniel Murphy has a responsibility to his home team, his wife and child.  When women are isolated from their partners in the postpartum period, they are stripped of their biggest support system.  Would you expect baseball players to play well without a coach?  Without fans?  Then why would you ask Mrs Murphy to play the biggest game of her career by herself?

6.  Dads deserve to have healthy attachments with their children.  This relationship doesn’t just begin when they can have a catch in the backyard.  It begins the moment a daddy first rocks a tiny baby to sleep.  It begins when a daddy holds his wife in his arms, and lets her cry tears of frustration.  It begins at 3 am, when he changes a diaper so mom can have an extra 3 minutes of sleep before nursing.  That is how babies learn to trust their fathers, and rely on them.  A child that wants to have a catch after dinner is a child that grew up knowing that Daddy would be around for all of the little moments in between.

7.  When my husband and I got married, our vows included “for better or for worse”.  I consider looking into the eyes of a human being that we created “for better”, and having my insides stitched back together “for worse”.  At no point in our vows did we tell our friends and family that work would come first.  That love and marriage and creating little human beings was going to be awesome, but not as great as our careers would be.  In the game of life, it’s the moments where we meet the people who speak to our souls that matter.  And there’s no seventh inning stretch when you’re a parent.

8.  Money talks, until it doesn’t.  My husband might not play baseball (to his chagrin), but he works in a demanding field that requires him to show up every day and be in charge.  I have the pleasure of being the stay-at-home parent, because my husband works long hours to make enough money for all of us.  Truth?  We still need him to show up at home.   Cars, universities, family vacations, and a pretty new house mean nothing if we aren’t together.  My kids don’t care about their new toys if Daddy isn’t home at night to play with them.  When they get dropped off at preschool, it doesn’t matter that it’s the most expensive one in town.  What matters is that they got to show Daddy their art project when he dropped them off.  The only way to raise kids who will make it to the best university that money can buy, is to give them the gift of your time as they grow.  Or not.  And then they might grow into entitled, self-absorbed, politically incorrect assholes who think that baseball is the most important thing in life.

The first few weeks of parenting a newborn are like the World Series.  Everyone is watching.  The stakes are high.  You realize that your biggest dreams are coming true.  And you wonder if you’re good enough to make it.  Just like the World Series, there are no second chances.  Well, until next season, but you know what I mean.  And for most folks, the opportunity to play in this game, comes once in a lifetime.  Parenting may not bring in the big bucks, but there are many of us who believe it to be the great American past-time.  I might not know much about baseball, but I could teach you a thing or two about how life-changing it can be for a mother and child to have their Daddy around.  As you well know, you only get three strikes before you’re out.  And Daniel Murphy’s little boy is sure to be his biggest fan.  So play ball!  And stick to what you know best.  I think Daniel Murphy has this parenting thing down just fine.

Now could someone please pass the cracker jacks?

Sincerely,

A fan in the bleachers

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I brought my baby home from the hospital when he was five days old.

Even though it was only ten months ago, I can’t quite remember what day of the week it was.  In my heart, it was a Monday.

Mondays are for new beginnings.  Mondays are for starting over.  Mondays are for reinvention, and renewal.  Mondays are about redemption.

We took a family photo as we walked through the front door that day.  The newly minted big brother, the proud but exhausted Daddy, and me.  Me, with a relieved half-smile.  Me, with a still bulging belly.  Me, with one hand on my sweet, almost four year old, and one hand gripping the car seat that Ben was tucked into.  This wasn’t our first dance.  No one survives the first four years of parenting without figuring out a few tricks.  But it was a Monday.  And there were too many new beginnings whistling their cat-call from just beyond the front door.  I had known all along that I would need to outrun them, but I thought I’d be better rested this time.  From where I was standing, on the warm bricks of my front porch, I could see the shadow of postpartum depression hiding behind the nursery door.  I knew that just down the hall, breastfeeding was waiting for me, ready to prove that I wasn’t strong enough, or good enough, or healthy enough to succeed this time.

Until you arrived.

I’ll never know what Sean said to you when he let you in that day, but you knew where to find me.  Nestled into the depths of our old brown rocking chair.  Nursing pillow, spit rag, wet ponytail, maternity yoga pants, nursing tank top.  I was a hot mess.  I was holding a mewing Ben.  My fresh-faced, soft-cheeked, days old newborn was swaddled tight in a crisp receiving blanket.  As you walked in, his tiny lips found my breast and latched.  Then unlatched.  Then half-latched.  Then missed my breast all together.  

You moved towards me as my tears spilled over and my eyes grew wide.  You whispered that I was doing a great job.  You rearranged my pillows, brought my water cup to my lips, gently pushed my shoulders back and brought a stool over for my feet.  You smiled.  You smiled and hugged me.  When I thought that I was failing, you told me that I was incredible.

You taught me how to breastfeed.

I’ll tell you a secret.  Dozens of months ago, Sean and I were wide awake at midnight, talking about having another baby.  Or rather, I was talking about having another baby, and Sean was talking about what a bad idea it was.  We barely survived the first year with Max.  And when we finally came up for air, we knew that our curious, active, kind, funny little boy was the greatest child that had ever been born.  How would we ever love another baby as much as we loved Max?  How would we ever make it through another first year?  Would we fight?  Would it eat away at the foundation that we were just now starting to rebuild?  What if I couldn’t breastfeed again, and the weight of that sent me back into a spiral of depression? We whispered together that night.  We made promises to each other.  We allowed ourselves to dream.  And we said yes.  But only if we accepted help.  So as Sean slept, I Googled.  I researched.  I emailed.  I remembered a conversation that we had on the porch of an East Coast summer home with a dear friend.  And I decided we would find a doula.  A full year before Ben was even a poppyseed growing in my belly, I knew that I would need you.

What I didn’t know, as I lay awake that night, lying under a blanket of hope and fear, was how much I would love you.

When I found you, I knew.  I knew that I didn’t have to be a crunchy, natural birth mama for you to support me.  You helped me put my birth plan into words.  You told me about the power that I had in my body.  You reassured me that I could do it, that I had the right to try, and that you wouldn’t leave my side.  I wanted a VBAC, and you helped me advocate for one until I absolutely had to have a c-section.  I knew that I didn’t have to be strong, or know all of the answers.  You met me in the recovery room, and eased right in to the role of making introductions between Ben and I, even though his entrance didn’t happen as I had planned.  You put him on my chest.  You put him to my breast.  You sat behind me, and gave me the birth experience that I thought was out of reach.

And you kept coming back.  Even though you didn’t have to.  Even when the avalanche of breastfeeding catastrophes hit.  Even as you had new clients who needed you.  You came back.  You came back to Ben’s nursery.  You found me in the old worn rocking chair.  You changed diapers so I could feel what it was like to sit without a baby in my arms for 3 minutes.  You brought tickles for Max and magic healing potions for me.  You reheated plates of my mom’s casserole and brought a fork to my lips, because you knew that I hadn’t been eating.  You helped me to brave first baths and dried up belly button stubs and midnight hormonal fevers.  You brought articles about tongue tie and thrush and plugged ducts, and you sat next to me on the floor as we read them together.  Our knees touched as we talked about depression.  You asked me the questions that everyone else was afraid to.  You made it ok.  You rescued me from all of my self-doubt.  You made me feel like I mattered.  Like I was visible, even though I hadn’t slept or showered or had a meal that lasted longer than 3 uninterrupted minutes.  You helped me to find my way back.

I needed a village, and you created one.  I needed a guide, and you became one.  I needed to know that I could do it, that I was capable, and courageous, and you promised me that I was.  That day in the rocking chair?  That was my breaking point.  I was sure that I was failing.  I was sure that I didn’t have any milk to give my baby.  That my body would fail me, and that I would sink back into the chair and get swallowed by the shadows of my past.  Not good enough.  Not strong enough.  Not healthy enough.  And then you arrived.  And my breaking point became my turning point.

Jessica, Melissa, and Cindy, you gave me back to my little boys.  You gave them their Mom back.  You helped me to be a healthy, happy, capable partner to a husband who was terrified that we would start to drown again.  You created a calm, healing, hopeful space where Sean could exhale, and tell me that bringing Ben into our lives was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.  You sat with me on a Monday, and you helped me to find redemption.  You honored my desire for a second chance.  You knew how badly I needed to begin again, and how steep my learning curve would be.  You were by my side as I fell madly, deeply, head over heels in love with the beautiful little boy who completed our family.  You supported me as my first sweet son curled up behind me in the rocking chair.  You told me that we would all start healing together.  Here we are, ten months and many Mondays in to this journey, and I still think of you when I am nursing Ben to sleep at night.  You helped me to heal.  Not just from a bad latch, but from the pain of my self-doubt.  You weren’t just our doulas, you made doula a verb.  Love is an action word.  The sharing of strength is an action.  Teaching is an action.  Holding someone up, weaving a family together, answering the phone in the middle of the night to be awakened by the symphony of fear and excitement that accompanies a rush of contractions….your love, your commitment, your kindness, your wisdom…those are actions, that I am eternally grateful for.

You have shaped my motherhood.  Happy World Doula Week, my sweet doula friends.  My boys and I love you, we honor you, and we appreciate you.

Thank you for being my Monday. 

boyssnuggle

baby_airline

 Super amazing comic by my friend Eliza Kinkz

I wasn’t going to get involved in the debate about nursing on airplanes.

I don’t even fly Delta.

My baby is 9 months old now, and it’s pretty rare that I can convince him to nurse under a cover.

I’ve flown other airlines and breastfed Ben discreetly in my seat.  I pull my blouse up and my tank top down, and my baby eats.  Because he gets hungry.  Just like you and I do.

So when the brouhaha started over Delta’s response to a nursing mother on Twitter, I was a little surprised.  Not because they told her that she had to cover her breasts and her baby as she fed, but because she even asked in the first place.  Do you ask if you can bring a ham sandwich on board to eat while you’re flying somewhere over the Rocky Mountains?  Never.  Do you call ahead to make sure that you can sip your Starbucks latte while you’re headed to Vegas?  Nope.  So why would someone tweet an airline to ask if they had permission to feed their baby while flying?  Especially when nursing in public is protected by law?

She must be looking for attention.

So I stopped paying attention to the whole story.

Until someone tagged me in a chain of tweets, along with the other cofounders of the I Support You campaign.

Shit.  So much for staying out of the fray.

I figured that I should read some of the tweets and articles before giving my two cents.  And perhaps I was a little flattered that anyone even wanted my two cents anyway.  So I read.  And researched.  I paid close attention to what other nursing mothers were saying.  And suddenly I realized exactly why someone had mentioned me in those tweets.

I have said very publicly that I support you, no matter how you choose to feed.  I have said that I will not be ashamed when I nurse in public, and that you shouldn’t feel ashamed either.  And when I stopped to think about how emotionally loaded breastfeeding can be, how scary and foreign it can feel at first, and how sometimes it seems like the eyes of the world are watching you…..I realized exactly why someone would tweet at an airline to ask them if it was ok to nurse on board.  It’s the same reason why I still toss a “Sorry, do you mind if I feed him real quick?” out into the air when I’m on a playdate.  It’s the reason why I cover in certain situations.  It’s the reason why my cheeks get red when a dad walks in to the “nursing mothers room” to change his child’s diaper.  Nursing in public isn’t accepted yet.  It isn’t commonplace to see a mother feeding her child without a cover.  People still throw phrases like “whip it out” and “needs attention” and “feeding your baby from your genitals” at women who use their breasts for what nature intended them for.  No wonder she asked.  She was afraid.

I made a promise to Ben 9 months ago, on the day that I first held him in my arms and tried to feed him.  I was so scared.  I had no idea what I was doing, and our amazing Doula sat behind me and helped me to latch Ben’s tiny lips to my breast.  I was terrified that I wouldn’t make milk.  I was sure that I was doing it all wrong, that my body was broken, and that I would never be enough for the tiny boy whose little hands were curled into my chest.  In the first few weeks, I cried every time he latched on.  I was terrible at breastfeeding, but we kept going.  And with a lot of help, we learned together how to do it.  I made a promise to my sweet son on that first day, that I would not be afraid.  That whatever happened, I would try my best, and I would feed him with love.  I understand so well what it feels like to be afraid.  I am still afraid, on many days.  I’m afraid that my milk supply will dry up.  I’m afraid that Ben won’t gain enough weight.  I’m afraid that someone will ask me when I plan on stopping.  I’m afraid that I’ll offend someone when I unbutton my blouse.  Even though we are nine months in to a relationship that has been more amazing then I ever imagined it could be, I am constantly afraid that I will do something to screw it all up.  I’ve lost this chance before.

But I’ve learned that my fear doesn’t matter.  Ben matters.  My tiny boy, who has grown into a laughing, standing, crawling, healthy 9 month old, is thriving.  He is thriving because I wasn’t afraid.  And if we are going to create a place where all of us can feed our babies without fear, then we need to stand together and say out loud that we are stronger than the voices that try to cover us in shame.  Feeding our babies, comfortably, is more important than feeling embarrassed.  Nourishing our little ones is our job, our beautiful responsibility, and we don’t owe anyone an apology for that.  Our babies are worth it.  Our self-esteem is worth it.  And the mom who is holding her tiny newborn to her breast for the very first time tonight, is worth it.  To that mama, and to the mama who tweeted at Delta airlines, and to the mamas who are nursing their babies in public whenever their little one is hungry, I say “Well done, Mama.”  Let’s be fearless together.

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Photo courtesy of Richelle Wetzel at LissyMack Photography

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