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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Experiences of a Breastfeeding Father

During my office's Breastfeeding Awareness Festival, we were very lucky to have Adam Roxas as one of the resource speakers. Adam is husband to Velvet Escario-Roxas, a breastfeeding counselor. The Roxases are parents to 2 lovely girls J.Hye and Vo'gel (whose birth was the first recorded water birth in the Philippines). One of the complaints of dads is that they don't get to become close or share in the joys of parenthood when the moms are breastfeeding. However, as Adam shares, there are other ways that a dad can bond with and be close to his children, even without giving them a bottle.

by Jonathan Adam Roxas

My day-to-day job entails me to spend most of my time in front of computers since I am IT by profession. However I am more proud to say that I am a parttime nanny for my two daughters. My name is Adam and I am a breastfeeding father.

Like any profession, IT profession takes on a career path. You start in a cadetship program, then as a Junior programmer, then you progress to a Senior programmer, a Manager and so on and so forth. The hardest part is when you’re a fresh graduate learning the new ropes of the corporate world. Learning a new software language each time could be quite difficult. Over time it would get easier but trickier too.

My cadetship program started when I got married. Unlike most fathers, my sense of fatherhood began not when my wife gave birth but when we discovered that there was a new life inside of her. There was an overwhelming feeling of fastpaced change from being single to being married to being a father. Pregnancy was a new software language that I needed to learn.

We’re originally from the Visayas – originally from Cebu City and Maasin City, Southern Leyte. The downside to this was we didn’t have too many friends to support us and no relatives surrounding us. The upside to this was that we were on a survival mode. We needed to be equipped to be able to overcome this pregnancy stage. We read books, browsed the internet and went to childbirthing classes. Back then, we never thought of breastfeeding. My wife was terrified of needles and I was silently terrified of the expenses incurred during childbirth. At these classes, we learned breathing techniques, pregnancy exercises, fetal growth, stages of delivery and newborn care which included breastfeeding.

We set our goal to have normal deliveries and not even thinking of any back up plan in case there will be complications. To support the plan, I ensure that my wife follows her schedules for exercises, to take her vitamins and to eat nutritious foods. This is the portion where I turned into a nagging husband because of the lazy and stubborn lady I’m sleeping with. Birthing plan for our second daughter was more challenging since my wife decided to have the delivery in water.

Much to my surprise I became my wife’s birthing coach. The most important of which is to be her cheerleader. The only thing missing at the delivery room was my pompoms to remind her that she can do it! She successfully did Lamaze birthing the first time and waterbirth for the second child. I would to rate myself as an excellent birthing coach but my wife insists I wasn’t so because I forgot to massage her back or that I forgot the camera.

Just as I was getting adept at my wife’s pregnancy, I had to learn another new software language: breastfeeding. I needed to learn this new rope. Her pregnancy was easy, childbirth was like a pop in the balloon, however breastfeeding was another story. The most challenging part of breastfeeding was the first three weeks of our elder daughter’s birth. We sucked big time! My wife had nipple pains. She developed low self-esteem: she has low-milk supply, her stomach was bulging, painful episiotomy, there were black patches of skin on her body or any complain she could think of. I think it was just the hormones setting in and the adjustment of the new baby. So I would buy food to cheer her up or surprise her with something just to put a smile on her face.

For three weeks, we were mixed feeding. It was a difficult time for me. I had to work during the day and wake up at dawn to prepare a bottle. Plus there was all these hassle of cleaning the bottles and the shock of seeing the prices of formula milk. Now I was experiencing Freddie Aguilar’s song of ANAK (a very famous and multi-awarded Filipino song….) “at sa gabi napupuyat ang iyong nanay sa pag timpla ng gatas mo”. (“every night your mother hardly sleep just so she can prepare milk for you”). Though we have to change the word nanay (mother) to tatay (father). It was terrible time for me - lots of work and little rest. Fortunately, we met this breastfeeding advocate who helped my wife just by telling her that “you have milk.” Those were the magic words that sparked my wife’s enthusiasm. Three days after, she was exclusively breastfeeding. This was the Lord’s first Mother’s Day gift to her and I think her most memorable one since this was the day she never gave formula to her child. She became upbeat again! I was so happy because that was also the day I didn’t have to buy expensive milk or wake-up to prepare a bottle.

At night, I became my wife’s superhero since I help her reposition the baby because she wants to sleep soundly. During weekends at daytime, I turn into a supernanny. I feed my wife while she breastfeeds or give her pillows to make her feel comfortable. I bathe the babies or change their diapers. I wear my daughters on a babysling. I love rocking them to sleep and letting them rest on my chest. This is one great joy of fatherhood.

For the first time in my life, I was looking at breasts in a different angle. The only concern I had when I was new to breastfeeding was that my wife breastfeeds anywhere even in public places without a single hint of hesitation. The first time I was profusely sweating because I wanted to cover her with a full blanket. But she didn’t seem bothered, so why should I be? Breastfeeding should be an acceptable practice not to be scorned at. Society should begin to look at the baby drawing nourishment and love from the mother rather than her partially exposed breast.

I guess I felt a little jealous of the time that my wife and my daughter spend in breastfeeding. But I refuse to believe that I was not part of it. I just worked a little harder to inject myself in the picture. Mothers and children have a natural bond of nine months in the womb. They bond again through breastfeeding. So, where is the father in the picture? Fathers should not be discounted. After all breastfeeding will never be successful without support. Remember some silly reason of women why they don’t breastfeed is to preserve original form for their husbands. Boobs are for the husbands while breast are designed not only for husband’s pleasure but also for baby’s food. What is a few years of sharing compared to a lifetime of immeasurable benefits?

As the breastfeeding relationship got easier it, it also got trickier. First she was a tiny little baby and then she suddenly turned into someone with a horrendous appetite for breastmilk that she refuses to detach from my wife’s areola. To my knowledge, that was the growth spurt when she turned into a very fat baby. From a well-behaved breastfeeder, she turned into a gymnast. She breastfeeds at different indescribable acrobatic positions. Each stage was always a challenge but each stage has also its rewards. Because of my support and my encouragement, my wife has successfully breastfed our two daughters for five years and counting. We are truly a breastfeeding family- a triad: father-mother-children! Fathers should never underestimate themselves. Their attitudes will either make or break the breastfeeding relationship.

You always reap more than you’ve sown. My daughters are very attached to me. We love spending our Sundays playing at UP sunken garden. During playtime, they would prefer me over their mom because they like rumble and tumble. Unlike my colleagues who are always taking emergency leaves to bring their children to the doctors, my daughters’ immunity is in tiptop shape. They’re very easy to teach and quite smart as I might add. My vows of marriage were strengthened through breastfeeding. Through thick and thin, I was there to support my wife, loving her in so many different ways.

As a breastfeeding father for more than five years, I can say that I now belong to the upper managerial position.

1 comment:

cherry said...

ohh... how sweet n heart warming :)

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