Forget burning bras in a demonstration for women’s rights, for me, emancipation came in the form of a bottle. Not a bottle of gin (you may be surprised to hear) but a bottle of formula.
One of my favourite bloggers about pregnancy and childbirth has been The Honest Dad. His posts are pragmatic and most importantly, straight from the heart. He shares the experience of bringing new life into the world through the eyes of a Dad – often a perspective that is sidelined in the cacophony of opinions and advice on this subject. But the truth is, there is so much that Dads can do to support and help their partners during this time. And for mums, allowing your partner to help, can transfigure their experience from that of a powerless bystander to a valued member of the team.
The Honest Dad recently posted a blog about breastfeeding. This post resonated with me and the experiences that I had when Baby G was born: The frustration of realising that babies have to learn how to breastfeed (how can this be a progressive evolutionary trait??); the self-doubt triggered by the advice that “it shouldn’t hurt when you do it right”; the feeling of loss when a sensual, private part of your body suddenly becomes very public and transactional.
One of the best pieces of advice we were given at the time by a friend, was to encourage Gubbins to take a bottle from his dad at least once a day. She recommended using formula, and she recommended that Dad took over one of the evening feeds. This advice is completely contradictory to the resounding cry from all and sundry that “Breast is Best”.
As a result of this mantra, I really struggled with the guilt of denying Baby G the boob once a day. But the truth of the matter is that he is a well loved, well fed child and this small relief in my motherly duties resulted in a massive boost in my mental wellbeing. Firstly, I knew that I had a window of time each evening to do something for myself and by myself and secondly G’s dad enjoyed the opportunity to bond with him in a meaningful way.
Liberation for me was knowing that I could take some time out when needed and sink below the surface of a hot bath without worrying that I would be imminently in demand. Equality for us was knowing that we both had the means to take care of Baby G’s basic needs when called upon to do so. Keep it up all of you Honest Dads out there, your support for your partners is praiseworthy.