“So, tell me about your mother,” I said in my best Sigmund Freud accent as Mr. S sat across from me in a quiet, dimly lit coffee shop during a Friday evening date. I was joking, of course, but it tickled me to open our nursing conversation like that, considering the fact that there are a lot of misconceptions regarding mother-fixation and the adult breastfeeding relationship. Mr. S knew that I had come across a derogatory comment directed toward a nursing man that read: Apparently, someone was not loved enough as a child, and it became very important for me to hear a man’s point of view on “mom issues” and ANR.
He got it–and laughed. “Ah, Dr. Freud, I presume. Let me guess…you think my love of nursing must stem from an unresolved Oedpius complex.”
“Now that was impressive!” I said with a smile. “I think those psych classes have really paid off.”
“You knew my mom very well for many years. What do you think?”
“Well,” I replied after a moment’s consideration, “when I compare myself to her, I would definitely have to say that Freud’s theory of the unresolved conflict leading to, at the minimum, the marriage to a partner resembling the opposite sex parent, has just been blown out of the water.”
Mr. S grinned. “To put it mildly. I really couldn’t have married someone more different from my mother.”
“Do you think you did that on purpose?” I asked. “I mean, your mother was a good woman, but she certainly wasn’t…well, warm and fuzzy, I guess is a good way to put it. I have to admit, I’d never really met anyone like her before, and she was sort of intimidating at first, but maybe that’s just because I was young…and she was so different from my own mother.”
“She was one of a kind, all right.”
“Remember when she started calling me Prissy? I thought it was an insult…”
“That was because you looked so soft and girlie,” said Mr. S. “She just didn’t know that you could get down and dirty and clean a toilet and grow a vegetable garden and hammer a nail with the best of them. In her own way, I think it was actually a compliment.”
We laughed for a minute, and then I said, “Do you think you married me because I’m so different from your mom?”
“Maybe,” he said, “but if so, it was a subconscious action. You know me…I’m not someone who overthinks many things. I don’t think there’s always a deeper meaning behind something. Affection was never my mom’s thing, but it didn’t bother me, because she was just who she was. I never felt that something was missing, or that I was mistreated. Mom was just Mom, and that was okay.”
“I can appreciate how you were raised, even if it was a little different from my own upbringing because it made you who you are, and I wouldn’t change one thing about you…except, maybe, your hook shot when you toss your dirty socks toward the clothes hamper. It needs work, Loverboy.”
He laughed and set his coffee cup down. “This is getting kind of deep.”
“Maybe a little,” I agreed, “but you have to admit, this is a subject that comes up a lot, particularly when people find out that men enjoy nursing. Suddenly, it becomes a mom thing, an obvious Oedipus complex.”
“There’s one problem with that,” he said. “The Oedipus complex has nothing to do with breastfeeding.”
“Right. It involves jealousy between a child and his father.”
“And there’s another problem with that,” said Mr. S. “The people who throw that phrase around usually aren’t qualified to make a diagnosis. These are probably the same people who believe that I spend my down time wearing diapers and using a pacifier.”
“Only you would put that out there so bluntly!”
“I don’t mean to be crude or offensive,” he said. “But I think it’s a very real misconception, and I just wanted to set the record straight. The AB lifestyle has nothing to do with our particular ANR. Besides, that fear might be something that holds a man back from even trying to nurse, all of those concerns and “hidden meanings” that were never there in the first place. If you hear something enough, you may begin to believe it–even if you know it isn’t true.”
“Infantilism and the AB lifestyle are two very different things,” I said, “and neither have a direct correlation with ANR. As a matter of fact, very little is known about those lifestyles, and there has never been one conclusive study on ANR to show why two consenting adults enjoy breastfeeding.”
“That’s my point,” he said. “Since there are no facts, people just automatically assume that the lifestyles intersect. Oh, you’re a grown man and you like to nurse? Hmm. Babies also like to nurse and they nurse from their mothers. So, you must be an adult baby who thinks your wife is your mom. It all makes so much sense now! See what I mean?”
“It sounds so silly when you say it that way.”
“Doesn’t it?” he agreed. “But I’ve noticed over the past 15 months that it seems to be a common connection.”
“Our ANR re-opening has made you think a lot more about our lifestyle choice, hasn’t it?”
“Yes,” he admitted, “but not in a bad way. I understand now that there’s a lot more negativity concerning nursing than I ever realized, and that, no matter how much advocacy is out there, this is never going to be socially acceptable. There are too many armchair psychologists who want to label this and make it wrong. Nobody wants to get to know the individuals behind the lifestyle.”
“I think it’s difficult for some people to understand that, for many adult nursers, the experience is about love. Maybe it just seems too simple.”
“Maybe,” said Mr. S. “I do know that nothing is going to make me change my mind about this, nobody is going to make me question our decision to nurse. Nobody, no matter how negative they are or how roughly they judge or label me, is going to make me see this as anything but right.”
“Doesn’t it ever bother you that people think you have mother issues?” I pressed. “Don’t you find it offensive?”
“Nope,” he said. “Because I don’t believe I do. I know who I am and what I’m comfortable with doing. I can’t worry about what others think of me when, in all honesty, I’m not going to be able to change their opinion anyway. I am very aware that you’re my wife…I am never more aware of that than when we’re nursing. I’ve learned to appreciate you and all that your body can do even more over the past 15 months; you never fail to amaze me. On the other hand, I do find it very arousing that you’re the mother of my children. Is that Freudian?”
“No,” I said with a smile. “I think it’s normal, and it reminds me of my favorite Elisabeth Elliot quote: I believe in order to be a good wife, a woman must be, among other things, both sensual and maternal.”
“That suits you,” he said, “and it’s one of the things that I find most attractive about you: how well you care for our kids and me.”
“Well, you take good care of us, too,” I replied. “That has always been such a mutual part of our marriage. It seems that men are the ones who get accused of suffering from mom issues more often than women, but I wonder what people would think if they knew that I actually embrace my maternal side, or that nursing you really fulfills my natural need to nurture?”
“It would be a little more acceptable, I think,” he said. “Nobody would question it as much because certain things are ‘expected’ from women that aren’t ‘expected’ from men. I was guilty of that, too, when we first met. I think some of that had to do with the fact that my parents were older and came from a different generation.”
“Much of what we learn comes from upbringing and environment,” I said. “But thinking can be changed.”
“Only on a personal level,” said Mr. S. “That’s the most important thing anyway: to change your own way of thinking because you sure can’t change the world.”
“I remember the first time you nursed. E was three weeks old, and, somehow, I could tell that you wanted to try it.”
“I don’t think I ever would have come right out and asked, though. I’ll be honest: the whole time you were pregnant, I wanted to try it.”
“You’re kidding me,” I said.
“I’m serious,” he said. “I remember when it hit me, too, right out of the blue. It was sometime in December, before Christmas, and you were so excited when I got home from work because you’d felt the baby kick for the first time and you’d let-down.”
“I remember that! I was excited! I couldn’t believe what I was feeling…or that I was actually making milk. I wish I’d known how you felt. I would have nursed you.”
“I think I was surprised by my reaction to it,” he admitted. “I’d never felt the desire to breastfeed before, so I wasn’t exactly sure why I was feeling that way. I figured I was just caught up in the moment, but the desire never went away. It got stronger, and I’d start thinking about it at work, while I was driving home, and at night when we were in bed together.”
“Did it ever make you think there was something wrong with you?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “It seemed normal that I would want to nurse from you. We’d been through a lot together by that point, and the whole idea of breastfeeding just felt like one more thing we could share as a married couple. I really didn’t care why I was feeling the way I did–I was too busy trying to figure out how I could get on that breast.”
I laughed. “It’s a good thing I suggested it, huh?”
“Yes,” he said, “but you know me…I probably would have figured out a way to latch on eventually, even if I never came right out and asked for a nursing session.”
“You’re the McGyver of breastfeeding,” I said, which made him grin. “I do remember a conversation we had after we’d nursed for the first time, what you said after I asked you why you’d wanted to come to the breast. Remember how you told me that you wanted to feel what the baby was feeling?”
“I remember,” said Mr. S. “It was after he was born that my feelings on nursing started to change. Looking back on it now, I think a lot of it was sexual. I was very attracted to you when you were pregnant. All of those changes that your body was going through was exciting. But, then, I watched you breastfeed our son and it was different. It was soft and loving…and you two were bonding in a way that I really couldn’t understand. So, yeah, I did want to connect with you on his level. However, none of that meant that I wanted to be him.”
“I understand,” I said. “And I love you for your honesty. Thank you for being so open about this. I know it isn’t always easy for you. I hope it helps other men realize that nursing doesn’t have to be a mom thing.”
Mr. S glanced at his watch. “It’s almost time to go if we want to make our dinner reservation, Prissy.”
“Final thoughts before we go?” I asked.
“My decision to nurse is not a need. It doesn’t come from a repressed part of my childhood, or because I was bottle-fed. It isn’t because I’m lacking in any way or because I didn’t get that ten speed bicycle when I was nine. It is something I want. And it comes from a very adult standpoint. I love every part of your body and everything it can do…and that includes its ability to make milk.”
“Thank you, honey,” I said.
There was a brief pause. I truly should have known that something else was coming.
“Oh, and I really love your boobs.”
Well, you can’t get much more honest than that!
A note from the Milk Maid:
Mr. S has been my loyal and constant companion for 17 years, and over the course of our marriage, we’ve had the chance to share many long conversations filled with feeling, honesty, and a lot of laughter. If someone were to ask me what I love most about this man, it would be hard for me to answer because I love so much about him, including his straightforward approach to every situation. He is one of the most honest people I have ever known, and over the years, I have come to admire his direct (or is that blunt?) manner, and his genuineness. Yes, he is indeed one of a kind, and, yes, he gets it from his mother. ❤️
If you want to read Mr. S’ thoughts on the not-so-complicated dynamics of ANR, please click HERE.