Women Rally Around Widower to Breast-Feed Infant Son

Filed under: In The News, Amazing Parents, Breast-Feeding

Just six months ago, Robbie and Susan Goodrich of Marquette, Mich., were expecting their second child.

Now Robbie Goodrich is the single father of two young children as he mourns the death of his wife while some two dozen women visit his house in shifts to breast-feed his infant son.

Nursing Moses
Robbie Goodrich, center, and his 6-month-old son Moses, surrounded by some of the women in the community who are wet nursing Moses, at Goodrich's home in Marquette, Michigan.
Susan Tusa, Detroit Free Pres / MCT

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Life turns on a dime, Goodrich realizes, but this crosses the border into surreal. "I've spent the past few months getting used to the fact that this is reality now," he said.

He certainly never expected to become famous. Yet his story has been written up in everything from his hometown newspaper, The Mining Journal, to the June 15 edition of People magazine. Reporters keep calling him for quotes. At least six television producers have approached him about starring in a reality show.

"It would be a really boring show," Goodrich said.

Besides, he said, there's no way he would be put his infant son, 2-year-old daughter, and 11-year-old stepdaughter through that media meat grinder. "It doesn't care who you are," Goodrich said in an interview with ParentDish. "You're just a commodity."

The idea of two dozen women taking turns breast-feeding a widower's baby is apparently a sensation.

But Goodrich said it all began in a blur. He and his wife were professors at Northern Michigan University. He taught history, and she taught modern languages and literature. Susan Goodrich died Jan. 11 from an amniotic fluid embolism after giving birth to their son, Charles Moses Martin Goodrich (called simply Moses).

No words can describe how he felt, Goodrich said. "It was pure blackness."

Both Goodrich and his wife were strong advocates of breast-feeding. Laura Janowski, a family friend who was already nursing her own 4-month-old daughter, asked if he would like her to breast-feed Moses as well. Almost instinctively, Goodrich said, he answered yes.

Marquette is a college town of about 20,000 on the shore of Lake Superior in what Goodrich said is not so much rural as "rugged." The community is close. Everyone knows everyone else -- or least knows someone who knows someone. Plus, as a professor, Goodrich has a high profile.

His story spread quickly. Susan Goodrich's best friend, Nicoletta Fraire, took charge of organizing the team. Now some 25 women drop by the house to either nurse Moses personally or provide pumped breast milk. They've become a community.

"They don't just drop by for five minutes and leave," Goodrich said. "These are loving, nurturing women. They're proud of what they're doing. They're proud of the community, and they're proud of their new micro-community."

Team member Carrie Fiocchi told the Savannah Morning News in Georgia on Aug. 17 she realizes Moses isn't her baby, but the bond is inescapable. "He definitely feels like family."

"I felt like I was doing this for Susan," team member Kyra Fillmore said in the same article. "It's really emotional because, while it's nice to hold a newborn, I think to myself, 'It shouldn't be me.'"

Although the women's love for his son touches him, Goodrich said it is bittersweet for him. "Every moment of joy has sorrow in it." He still grieves the loss of his wife, but tries to put on as brave a face as possible. "The crying goes on in private," he said.

He echoes Fillmore's feelings about the breast-feeding. "It's a reminder of the loss," he said. "They're doing something that Susan would do."

Goodrich said all the publicity makes him and the women in his newfound extended family a little uneasy -- especially him. "They're the ones doing something special."

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.