I was a boy inside a dream just the other day...
"Here I come to save the day."
All of us have those symbols of childhood we carry with us a reminder of the days of our youth. Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, Barney the big-purple-dinosaur and maybe even our fuzzy-red-friend-with-the-big-eyes, Elmo; they are the icons that serve as anchors to the time of our innocence. Free from the stains of politics, scandal, gossip or tabloid exposes these cartoon heroes are lifetime reminders of the super-friends who inspired us to our own acts of goodness as we slowly grew up into adolescence. It is important to our psyches as adults that these icons remain unsullied. After all, if they are toppled we are left only with a cynical belief in the impurity of the world as viewed by Fox News.
So we’re all sitting in class with our wives and the lactation counselor picks up just where she left off before the ten minute break. The major line of discussion between schedule feeding and demand feeding eventually winds down and our counselor decides it is time to cover new material. It is time to learn about the actual techniques of breastfeeding.
“In order to properly breastfeed it is important to understand how the milk factory works.” With that being said she reached into the cardboard box and pulled out a single breast.
It was an average looking breast topped with a nipple the size of a chocolate kiss covered with cloth skin that folded back to reveal a network of blue veins running vertically from milk node to milk node. She carefully explained how milk is produced and how it is stored in the breast. It was all very fascinating stuff. Then she reached into the box and began handing out breasts to everyone in the class.
As husbands we were very careful to show only the highest form of respect for our new hooters as we held them up to our chests and chortled to each other. I took the high road of course, holding three breasts up to my chest and in my very best Cone-head voice said, “I am from France.” One guy held up a breast on each side of his head covering his ears and we all laughed. What a boob ... It was great fun but soon our wives were elbowing our sides and stepping on our feet until we were forced to settle down a bit. (Women just never know how to have fun.)
“How many of you have been told by friends, relatives and other new moms how painful breastfeeding is?” The counselor surveyed the room and noted that just about every female in the room was holding up a hand. “That is because they’ve either never seen someone doing it correctly or they’ve never taken a class or worked with a lactation specialist.” Then she reached into the box, withdrew our fuzzy red friend, put her hand into the opening of the puppet Elmo’s head and moved it in such a way that he seemed to look around the room.
Little did we know that at that moment a train of events of events had been set in motion that would not stop until it pulled into the station of wrong and yet once more left the men writhing blindly upon the floor in the throes of horror. It began innocently enough as the counselor began the next part of her lecture.
“Quite some time ago as I was preparing for one of my classes I discovered that all of the practice babies were already in use by other instructors. Well, I didn’t know what to do until my eyes fell upon the Elmo doll that I sometimes used to entertain my daughter when she happened to be visiting my office. We all use we can in a pinch so I grabbed Elmo and brought him to class with me. Once I discovered how effective he was in demonstrating proper attachment techniques I’ve been bringing him with me ever since."
Yes, there were a few puzzled glances exchanged back and forth across the room at this point, but it was, Elmo. How bad could anything involving Elmo possible get? Then the danger of that question dawned upon me and I knew we were in serious trouble. I thought about slowly walking out the class as if I was heading towards the men’s restroom, but we’d just come back from break and I knew no one would believe me. I knew if I simply bolted from the room every other male would panic and in their zeal to exit there might be injuries to some of the women.
The counselor cupped one of the practice breasts in her left hand and placed it over her own left breast. “I always recommend that new mothers hold the breast when feeding the baby during the first few months. This helps both the mother and child facilitate the feeding experience with as little difficulty as possible.”
Now, some of the younger men began to squirm a little uncomfortably, after all it is one thing to hold a practice breast as part of an educational learning experience and quite another to look at one topped with a large chocolate nipple while it is being cupped in the hands of a woman who is not your wife. We as married men have been conditioned to avoid such voyeuristic tendencies at all costs. Oh, but the worst was yet to come.
“Now, with the baby in the football carry you want to lay the infant horizontally across the chest and guide the nipple towards the baby’s mouth.”
I tried to scream but the horror of what I knew was coming paralyzed my lips and I could only manage a tiny squeaking sound.
“Place the areola of the breast against the lower lip of the infant like this. When the baby opens her mouth to find the nipple, push it in about a half of an inch.” And that’s when the great black gaping maw of Elmo's mouth opened wide and chomped down upon the practice breast and began to nurse. “Notice that the infant is not attached to the nipple but is attached to the areola surrounding it.”
It was at this point the room seemed to spin and darkness seemed to fall across my eyes. I may even have gone blind for a minute, I’m not sure. The counselor started walking up and down the rows of seated couples demonstrating the proper attachment technique. Elmo’s mouth worked the nipple drawing the milk of human kindness deep into his hungry puppet belly. It was horrible and it was as unnatural an act as I’ve ever seen. My mind reeled from the wrongness of what was happening before my tortured eyes.
The moment came when the lactation specialist paused before Felicia and I to give us our look at the proper attachment position. Again, I knew what was coming before she even opened her mouth to speak and I prayed to the entire pantheon of deities in the known spiritual cosmology of man that I was in error. I was not to be spared. As the only man present to have attended and participated in every single pregnancy class I had been selected as the chosen one.
“Mr. Bauman, would you be so kind as to take the baby and demonstrate for us the proper attachment technique?”
My mind whirled and spun out of control. I knew that I stood upon the precipice of something important but I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. There before me was Elmo, a breast with a chocolate kiss nipple and a woman asking me to participate in an important bonding experience and then it hit me like a bolt of red and yellow falling from the sky.
“Here I am to save the day!”
It was Mighty Mouse and he looked resplendent in his heroic uniform of red-tights, yellow-shorts and shimmering cape. I knew in that moment I’d either suffered a major L.S.D. flashback or I was on the verge of fainting and was therefore suffering hallucinations due to lack of oxygen in my brain. At that moment it didn’t matter; I needed help desperately and would have accepted it from any source from which it sprang.
“Do you think Popeye never said no to, Olive Oyl? Do you think I always said yes to, Pearl Pureheart? Surely you realize that even Underdog said something to, Sweet Petunia other than, “Fear not, Underdog is here.” Mighty Mouse stood before me in all of his rodent glory as I thought about his words.
It was true. I felt it in my heart. There was more to being a cartoon hero than always saying yes! Sometimes a hero was defined by his saying, “No!” It was an epiphany moment and as if in recognition of the significance of the vision the clouds parted upon the ceiling of the classroom and a ray of light shone down from the second floor and clothed me in a holy radiance. I stood up from my seat and struck the pose of every Saturday cartoon super hero ever to flash across the television screen.
“No, ma'am! No I will not nurse Elmo at the practice breast of my imagined feminine side. I have been willing to participate in every instance of imaginary contractions. I’ve performed C.P.R. on lifelike rubber infants. I have watched films of unimaginable horrors. I have changed diapers on demo babies until I can perform the task in my sleep. This is where I draw my line in the sand and will proceed no further. You may return Elmo to the hell-box from which he was spawned, foul-lactation-specialist-of-Satan”
I was shaking in my fearful anger and my knees felt weak. I’d done it. I’d stood up to the women and now the chips would fall where they may. The silence in the room was palpable. Then one man rose and began to clap his hands, slowly at first, but then with greater enthusiasm. Soon another man stood followed shortly thereafter by another until all of the men in the room were on their collective feet cheering and clapping.
Yes, it was one small victory but one very big lesson in my journey into parenthood. I learned that day that saying no does not make me less of a father. There are limits to what any man can endure. Saying no does not make me a bad dad; it just makes me more of a real man.
I think so at least.
"Am I right honey-pookie-lips-of-love-muffins?"