Sunday, April 25, 2010

Where Does a Dad Fit into the Picture?

To my love, my partner, my son’s father this is for all the things you didn’t do.

Begging Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s pardon…

“How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways”

My husband never said, “Wouldn’t it be easier to use formula?”

My husband never looked at my small breasts and said, “Are you sure you can make enough milk?”

My husband never said, “If we used bottles I could help out more.”

My husband never said, “If we used bottles I could feel closer to Joe.”

My husband never said, “Are you sure you know what you are doing?”

My husband never said, “My mother didn’t breastfeed me and I turned out fine.”

My husband never said, “My dad’s really uncomfortable with you nursing. Maybe you shouldn’t nurse while we are visiting my parents.”

My husband never said, “He’s too attached to you. He needs to learn how to be independent.”

My husband never said, “I want my wife back.”

My husband never said, “I want my life back.”

My husband never said, “What are you doing taking Joe to the barn? It is too dirty and dangerous there for an infant.”

My husband never said, “You’re going back to teaching riding? But Joe is only 5 weeks old. You can’t go away all day. What if he won’t take these bottles of breastmilk while you are gone? What am I to do?”

My husband never said, “I don’t think I can do this.”

My husband never said, “I don’t want to do this.”

My husband never said, “I don’t want my talking, walking son to breastfeed. It’s perverted.”

My husband never said, “The pediatrician said you can’t know if Joe has a dairy sensitivity. I believe the doctor. He is the expert.”

My husband never questioned my commitment or ability to breastfeed our son. He felt that it was the very best choice for my son’s health and future development. If he sometimes thought I didn’t know what I was doing he never let it show. He has always been my devoted partner in the great adventure of parenthood.
Six days after my son was born we left our tiny rented house in Shell Beach for our first family walk. The love I felt for the tiny bundle I was carrying in the Snugli Sack on my chest was overpowering. I had never felt such a strong emotion. As we walked back from the ocean’s edge I confessed to him my need for his help.

“I’m going to need your help because I’m never going to be able to let him go. I love him too much.”

“What do you mean?” he answered.

“Well you know how I feel about all my animals and that is nothing compared to how I feel about him. Can you imagine how devastated I would be if Spot walked in one day and said, ‘Well I’m going now. Thanks for taking care of me.’

“I know” he said.

“I mean I understand that the goal is to raise him so he CAN go away and I want to be a good parent. I want him to be successful and grow up to be independent, but it feels wrong. I don’t know if I can do it.” I added.

Putting his arm around me he replied, “I’ll help you”.

And he has. He has allowed me to be free to focus on nurturing and closeness while he has lead each step of Joe’s moving away from us. He has been the rock I can lean on. He creates an ever enlarging safety net under Joe so that I feel ok about letting him go. Whether it is scouting, or backpacking, or hiking to the top of Mount Whitney, I know I can count on Mike. Now college and on to traveling in Europe, I know I can count on Mike. He stood by my side when I gave Joe a hug and said good bye after dropping him off for his freshman year at college. He knew how hard that moment was for me. Then he drove for 3 days to get us home while I sank into a deep sadness. He was patient with me; waiting to see what would happen next. And what happened next was that I learned I could live without my son, although it still feels as if part of me is missing. And I also learned once again how much I love my husband.

To my husband on Father’s Day,

How Do I love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways..."
    By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.                              
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;                          Click here to read a birth story which includes
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.                            this amazing dad!
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

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