by Abby Weingarten
Today, I watched my husband feed our miraculous, 16-month-old daughter a bottle, as he has done since she was a tiny infant.
And for the millionth time, I thought to myself, “What could be more precious than this picture?”
As you’re reading this, you might have questions. Maybe you’re confused about why a father instead of a mother is feeding a daughter, why our baby is not breastfeeding, or why I am somehow making excuses for that fact.
It’s OK. I know exactly how you feel.
Before our little girl was born, I had a plan. I had so many plans. I had decided how and where she would be delivered, and how and what she would eat. I assumed it was my responsibility, and my husband’s, to cement these items before her birth. I guess I never considered our daughter’s opinion on the matter.
As it turned out, my birth and breastfeeding plans, despite all my protestations, did not unfold the way I’d envisioned. As much as I tried to avoid an emergency C-section, it happened, and our nursing attempts were equally traumatic and ultimately failed.
For months afterward, I couldn’t evade the inner voices. “You should’ve tried harder!” and “Don’t you care about your daughter?” echoed tirelessly in my brain.
Yet, all the while, my serenity—the moments that pulled me out of those remorse spells—were the times I peeked in on my husband, our baby, and their magical bottle.
Those feeding times, as he rocked her in her nursery chair, meant everything to him. He would stay up all night with her while I recovered, and he’d happily tend to her every whimper. I know how incredibly important it made him feel.
Many of the most profound, beautiful and nurturing moments in our daughter’s life have been with her dad and their bonding bottle. To this day, the idea of weaning her off of it is too emotional a step for him, and neither of them is quite ready.
They often say that, if food is made with love, you can taste it and feel it. I know our daughter can and always has.
I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if things had gone according to “the plan” and it was only me that ever experienced that invaluable closeness with our girl.
For us, there was another way. For you, maybe it wouldn’t have been the right one.
But I’ll never erase that image in my mind of dad and daughter and the food that has inseparably linked them.
Whether it comes from a breast or a bottle, love is love. And our daughter, I know in my heart, is full.
Editor's note: This is a story that needed to be told. Much like the evidence supporting natural childbirth, the evidence supporting breastfeeding can be overwhelming to a fault: those that can truly not sustain the relationship, for whatever reason, must fight feelings of inadequacy that can even lead to postpartum depression in some cases. This story is another case-and-point: we should all be striving toward healthy practices for birth and postpartum care as a society. And we really should support each other. Period.