Today’s guest post comes from my husband, Matt Gallagher, who is indeed my biggest supporter, in all things. I credit him as the one who saved breastfeeding for me when we had our first baby. He paid attention to the hospital lactation consultant when I was too overwhelmed and emotional to do so and was able to help me when we came home. He gave me breaks when I needed them, and reminded me of how well breastfeeding was going when growth spurts hit and I sobbed about how she obviously wasn’t getting enough and we should give her formula we got free from the hospital. I’m lucky to have him.
My wife posed a question to her readers that caught my attention. She asked, “Who is your biggest breastfeeding supporter?” I suppose I expected the breastfeeding moms of Facebook to say Facebook. Lord knows that’s where you all hang out, supporting, agreeing, disagreeing, arguing, etc. You’re having a great time.
But most said it was their husband. It’s true. Not because we’re so great, and supportive, and willing to wait outside of a mother’s room at Babies R Us, holding your purse and cart-sitting like an idiot, but because it really can’t be any other way. For mothers who are blessed enough to have a partner in life, that partner is their partner in all things. They are their first backup. They are their first responders. They are the first one women go to for advice, or with new, scary ideas in these things that affect their lives together. Everything a partner does, doesn’t do, say, or doesn’t say, cuts a huge figure in a new mother’s head.
This is marriage-wide, of course, but it is especially true about motherhood. A new mother is scared. Sure, they may be confident, brave, competent, overjoyed, all of that. But they are scared. They are growing this thing inside them, that metaphorically looks like the control board to a nuclear reactor in both its complexity and danger to nearby townsfolk. A new mother has no idea what’s going on, and it’s true that her partner is just as clueless, but a partner is ultimately an outsider; the mother is the ultimate insider, because the baby is INSIDE HER.
Some partners check out. Some get their hands dirty. Some do whatever they’re told. Everyone is different. The point is, no matter what you do, you are going to be her biggest supporter, because you have no choice. You are the biggest thing in her life, right next to the thing that is coming out of her vagina, and that thing doesn’t usually have a lot of sage advice.
When a new mother is in this state, which begins right after she sees an extra line on a stick after peeing, she is highly susceptible to suggestion. Both she, and her partner, will usually cling to anyone who looks like they’ve got a clue, and if they’re wearing a lab coat, all the better. So what is your role as a partner?
I could say, “Study,” but let’s be honest: you won’t do that.
So here’s what to do. Back her up. Believe her. Trust her. Neither of you may know what you’re doing, but the chemicals being churned throughout her body are flipping switches in her brain that are tens of thousands of years old. Instincts awaken. This doesn’t mean you throw away common sense, but if your wife wants to squat down and have a baby on your good rug, say, “Great! Let’s find a way to make that happen. Should I rub your back?” If she says she has to feed this baby right now and she can’t wait to find a private place, say “Great! I’ll hold your purse and cart-sit like a happy idiot.”
And if she says she’s scared, and she doesn’t know what to do, and all the doctors are telling her one thing, and all the Facebookers are telling her another thing, and she feels tired, and judged, and angry, and her nipples hurt like a bitch, and she just wants this baby to shut up and eat, then you sit by her, run your hands through her hair (if she can stand being touched), listen to everything she’s upset about, leave the room, come back with a margarita, and before you say anything at all, remember that: yeah, you’re not that smart. You don’t know what thrush is. You’re scared of the baby’s teeth too. And no, you’re not her best breastfeeding supporter, but no matter what you say or do, you are her biggest. You don’t have a choice. You just are.
So be good to her.
Matt Gallagher is a Twin Cities writer, creative consultant, cigar box guitar enthusiast, and local gadabout town. Matt has worked in television, web, and print media, and currently has numerous projects in various stages of development.