"I signed us up for breastfeeding class because if I have to go, then you do, too. You need to see what I have to go through. Maybe you'll even learn something to help me as I ... as I transform from a human into a ... a goddamn milk factory. Class is Wednesday at eight. Leave from work and meet me there."
That's how my wife let me know I'd be attending a class titled "Everything You Need to Know About Breastfeeding Your Baby."
She could've given me the Twitter version: "Breastfeeding class, Wed. at 8 pm. Me, you, and the Chick-fil-A (disgusting morals, delicious chicken) you stop to get on your way down!!!" It's the same information in a mere 101 characters, but her exposition served a purpose. My wife was making it clear that it wasn't in my best interests to question whether I really needed to go to breastfeeding class.
When we arrived, I immediately noticed I was the lone dude in class and tried to make a lame joke. "Looks like I'm the only serious dad in this group..." but my wife shot me a look that said: Cut that shit out right now.
Clearly, there was nothing funny about breastfeeding class. Understanding that any attempts at humor wouldn’t be looked upon favorably, I set out to learn everything I could about breastfeeding my baby.
And I learned a lot. Everything – from the colostrum to let-down reflex to the god-awful possibility of mastitis – was news to me. Before class, I thought all moms did to get this breastfeeding thing going was put the baby up to the boob and nature would take care of the rest.
But nothing about breastfeeding is simple – not even the feeding positions. There were so many different holds, and our instructor went through each of them – using herself as the example.
Our instructor, Susan, was a 67-year-old retired maternity ward nurse. She was the epitome of a sweet, cartoonish grandmother, from the puffy white Brillo pad of short curls on her head to the pink crocs on her feet. I wasn't prepared to watch Susan manipulate her ample, well-worn breasts for nearly three hours.
I still have a clear picture of Susan walking up to me, holding a practice baby to her left breast with one hand and squeezing mercilessly on that boob with the other. "Sometimes you gotta take a big ole handful and feed it to the baby like a sandwich," she said casually, breast in hand, while making direct eye contact. Despite all of this, I didn't even giggle.
Then came the pumping. Thankfully, Susan didn't demonstrate the process in person, we watched a video. I was shocked to see what happened to a woman's nipples in that torture-chamber disguised as a medical device.
I watched in awe as angry red nipples – expanded two-to-three times their normal size and morphed into giant red carrots. All I could think of was my childhood Gumby toy, how it seemed impossible for anything to stretch that much.
During this horrifying visual, I heard muffled laughter. Initially, I was too busy wondering what kind of a sick bastard would laugh at something so awful to realize the sound was coming from my wife. But there she was, the woman who warned me about taking the class seriously, desperately trying to hold back a flood of laughter. By the time everyone noticed, my wife had buried her head in her hand.
She was making a whimpering sound and there were tears streaming down her cheeks, so it was natural to assume she was crying at what her breasts would soon have to endure. But when a woman offered her a tissue, she couldn’t contain it any longer and the most epic laughing fit I’ve seen from my wife to this day commenced.
The laughter had a domino effect, and before I could help it, I too was laughing so hard there were tears in my eyes. For a full 10 minutes, our laughter was interrupted only by lame apology attempts, which caused even more laughter.
Susan actually paused the video until we pulled ourselves together enough for the class to resume. When our fit finally passed, she said “In the 20 years I’ve been teaching this class, that was a first,” but her tone said, “Maybe you two should consider giving the baby up for adoption.”
I can only imagine how we looked, two soon-to-be parents unable to watch breastfeeding video without cracking up. I wonder if our classmates thought we were high. I would.
Regardless of appearances, the breakdown was a much-needed release. Between the insomnia, constant migraines, and the pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel, carrying a baby had taken its toll on my wife. She didn’t laugh nearly as often as she did before that fetus rented out her uterus.
For me, the class offered an invaluable lesson, too. Whenever I desperately need to make my wife laugh, all I have to do is show her a video of boobs being destroyed by an electric breast pump.