With great power, comes great responsibility… or something like that.
It can be said of superheroes, as well as women and moms. You hold the power of the breast.
It can used for good and evil, but mostly good.
Perhaps it’s a little odd for a man to be writing an article paying homage to World Breastfeeding Week, but maybe not. We all have our personal relationships with breasts over the years and I’m no different.
I don’t think I really started ‘remembering stuff’ until I was about five or six years old and I’ve used polaroids and vintage-toned Kodak pictures to connect the dots before my memory actually started kicking in.
I’m guessing that I was a pretty big fan of boobs almost as soon as I was born. They were a lifeline for me, a comforting bosom to snuggle up to, provide warmth and a snack, much like base camp on Mount Everest or a bus stop in a small town on a cold, rainy night.
As I weened myself from the breast and entered early childhood, I had better things to do then be concerned with boobs. I was beginning my life adventure, seeking out the deliciousness of fruits and vegetables, grains and pasteurized dairy. I had the innocent stylings of Hanna-Barbara and The Justice League on Saturday mornings. I was playing baseball and jumping into a freezing pool at 7am all for the sake of earning a patch of our local Swim Team to put on my hoodie.
Only adults had boobs, they had no consequence on my life and their value seemed vague and insignificant.
Then one day, something weird happened. I had a hair growing out of my face. My voice started creaking like a floorboard of a Civil War-era farmhouse. I had become a real-life, Peter Brady, with my voice cracking every time I opened my mouth. Almost overnight, girls started looking different to me. They weren’t wearing baseball hats so much anymore, punching me in the shoulder on the playground or stabbing me with sticks.
They were combing and styling their hair, wearing dresses and smelling really good and aromatic. I started folding up intricate origami notes in the middle of English class, asking them to put a check mark in some hand-drawn boxes to indicate how much they potentially liked me, if at all.
I watched less and less ‘Airwolf’, ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ and ‘Knight Rider’ and much more ‘Who’s the Boss’ and ‘Punky Brewster’, because Alyssa Milano and Soleil Moon Frye, although somewhat tomboy-ish initially, had captured my heart and were holding it hostage inside of my sweaty, awkward teenaged body.
My friends and I were no longer riding our BMX’s through the country, with fishing rods strapped to the handlebars–and if we did, it was just a ruse. We still had our ‘Stand by Me’ moments, but instead of seeking out the legend of dead bodies, we ditched our bikes and hiked into the woods to an old abandoned vegetable cellar. We had found where the older kids were stashing their dad’s Playboy magazines.
From there on, I had subconsciously made it my life mission to see as many boobs as possible.
They were fascinating. I was forming a collection of images in my head and the slideshow was permanently playing. My hormones went to hyperspace. I don’t think I was the only one. We talked about them privately amongst friends. Who had the coolest ones. Who had the biggest ones or smallest ones. They somehow became the Holy Grail of my adolescence.
We worried about the moment we would first be faced with the opportunity of having access to one or perhaps, both.
And then one day you leave middle and high school, head off to college and it was like someone had fired a missile into the Hoover Dam, unleashing a flood of breasts as you get swept down the river, grabbing and hanging onto as many as you can, only briefly coming up for air.
I spent years becoming an expert on the various shapes, sizes and colors. It could almost be thought of as one of my life works, like I was some sort of legendary biologist living in the jungle, cataloging them like butterflies.
Then one day, I matured a little bit more.
And a little more…
I realized that I didn’t want to just ‘date’ girls forever. I sought out not just a physical connection, but an emotional one as well. And then I met my wife.
For so long, these magical orbs were sexual in nature, but life was evolving. My wife gave birth to our first child and she was overjoyed by the fact that she would be able to breastfeed and experience such an incredible bond with our baby and I was there to be as supportive as possible.
I would love to suggest, that as a man, making this mental transition was easy, but alas, it wasn’t. It was as if some wires inside my head were crossed and they were zipping and zapping, forcing me to twitch like a malfunctioning robot.
I recall being out to eat at a restaurant for the first time after Ava was a few weeks old and my wife decided to nurse our daughter. I remember being concerned that someone might get offended and to make matters worse, thinking that every guy in the place was trying to sneak a peek at my wife’s chest. I went on the offensive, tracking eyeballs and staring down potential peeping Toms.
I was having trouble disseminating the difference between breasts in the recreational sense and breasts as a form of sustenance for a young life. I was constantly flying from the shadows like a matador, tossing blankets and scarves over my wife’s shoulders, which eventually became tiring. I hadn’t yet fully realized that I needed to compartmentalize my feelings, that breastfeeding is one of the most natural, beautiful things about motherhood.
Almost five years have passed since and my attitude couldn’t have changed more.
We now have three kids and nursing couldn’t seem more nonchalant. I’ve become an avid parenting blogger and all of our friends now have families of their own. There isn’t a week that goes by without my wife or her friends casually popping a boob out at the park or while we’re watching a movie together.
I actually attended a ‘The Great Nurse-In’ on the front lawn of the nation’s capital building with my wife last year (2 years ago? Everything bleeds together these days) and did an interview with a local news station to show support.
I’m a father.
I think breastfeeding is an amazing opportunity for moms (dads are jealous) and their children to strengthen an already inseparable bond. It’s vital to their development and isn’t something that anyone should be embarrassed of or hassled about in public.
Let’s dismiss the haters. Leave that crazy-looking shower-curtain-photo-booth-looking thing you wear around your neck at home.
A boob is a boob is a boob and they’re here to stay.