I shifted on the carpet trying to get comfortable. I was sitting just outside the circle of breastfeeding mothers. No matter how I sat, I couldn’t quite get comfortable–but I don’t think it was the flooring. I tried hard to keep my glance from falling on any of the bare breasts, and if (God forbid) I accidentally had one fall in my gaze, I averted it with a quick snap of the neck. Fortunately, my breast-detection skills had been honed as a teenager. Only now, those skills were being used for avoidance.
And that was the last time I went to a breastfeeding class with my wife.
I thought I might have gotten out of it by talking my wife off a ledge about her quest to be The Perfect Breast-Feeder®. I thought she was doing a great job already! Also, after a mere six weeks of maternity leave (beginning the Monday after our son was born, which was a Saturday), my wife had to return to her job as an elementary school principal. For that reason, the number of groups she could attend grew quite small. Would she still want to go? Yup.
But the nail in the coffin was probably my poorly cloaked lack of enthusiasm to go with her to the class. Up to this point, I had been present at every appointment, every group, every parenting class at the hospital–everything. But she would end up going a few more times to this class on her own before dropping it.
I went in the first place because the breastfeeding consultant had encouraged dads to go and I was unwilling to sacrifice my perfect attendance record. Wow, I naively thought, I love our egalitarian era! I’ll go and hang out with the other dads! Apparently, the other dads had smelled a rat that my ideology had covered up. I was the only dad there.
It’s not that I can’t control myself at the sight of a breast–or that I’m disgusted by breastfeeding. No. The problem is, I’m worried that the other mothers will feel uncomfortable, that they will want to cover up more, that they’ll think I’m a pervert. I felt like I was ruining some ancient ritual that young mothers shared.
This was only a few weeks after my son was born, in the fall of 2010. I figured it was a brief hiccup, an alienation limited to our puritanical society’s inability to be casual about the exposure of breasts. But, a year and a half later, it turns out that was only a preview of what was to come in the adventures of a stay-at-home dad.