I recently came to the conclusion that I although I carried and birthed a real, live human being, I am apparently not an actual, female woman.
Why, you ask? Because I chose to give….gasp… formula to my son.
There is no question that causes to me cringe more than, “Are you breastfeeding?” There are many reasons why it makes me first uncomfortable and then angry. First, it always comes flying out of the mouth of a woman who is neither a doctor, a lactation specialist, and on a few occasions she doesn’t even have children, nor are they even on her life’s radar. Second, I never know what to say. Sometimes I think I should just lie and say, “yes.” After all, I did it for a short time, so I can fake it though a conversation about clogged ducts, poor latching and expressing in the shower. Then I remember that I’m a terrible liar. And why should I? I’m not the fist woman on Earth to give it up. And then I immediately get mad. Why the hell does anyone other than my husband and my pediatrician care how I feed my child? I don’t start conversations with, “Your dog is adorable! Do you give him glucosamine? Joint pain can be a bitch for those yellow labs, ya know.”
I gave up breastfeeding after a quick stint because we were having a horrible time getting Parker to latch properly. This lead to weight loss and a bout of Jaundice that got worse after leaving the hospital. (BTW – Did you know babies get rid of Jaundice mostly NOT by sitting in the sun, but by drinking and thereby peeing A LOT? I didn’t either.) For over a week, I sat in a cushy rocking chair on my tender nether regions, crying my eyes out alongside my newborn, who also cried inconsolably as we tried every way under the sun to learn how to breastfeed together. I cried on the phone with the lactation specialists and nurses. My doctor. His doctor. My mother. I didn’t sleep. I barely ate. I had to make my husband remind me to drink water or else I wouldn’t remember to. I was in a constant state of half-undress in that stupid chair, which is so unlike me it is almost comical.
In the end, after a frantic call to the pediatrician at midnight – my God, they have the best answering service I’ve ever encountered – my husband went out and bought a medicine syringe, and rifled through the bags of free products from the hospital to find the sole container of Similac in our house. We fed Parker two ounces of formula drop by drop and for the first time in over a week he stopped crying. I have tears in my eyes right now just thinking about what a relief it was to all three of us.
In the days to come and with more supplementing by syringe, the jaundice died down, and I made the difficult choice to switch to formula completely. I knew that I would be transitioning him to formula by the summer’s end, because as a teacher, I have one hour a day that I can devote to pumping. Some women will tell you that I am selfish. Most of these women are not high school English teachers, and don’t understand the link between prep periods and not grading at home if possible. For me, this was the best choice. I can devote more time at home to my family. I think this makes me a good mother, not a bad one.
But I’d never tell anyone that whole story.
First of all, any woman who has nursed for any period of time will not care. She’s been through it too. If they’re anything like me, they empathize with women who complain about the after-delivery pain, the sleepless nights or any other of the multitude of not-so-awesome traits of mommyhood, but they certainly don’t feel bad. Sorry, ladies. If you’re having trouble transitioning into motherhood, you are looking to the wrong person for sympathy. We all made the conscious decision to have babies and raise them, even if we had no clue that the shit we were getting into. Second, why should I have to justify my decision? Plus, there are maybe five people on the planet who have seen me cry. Nobody wants to envision that scene I just described. I make jokes out of roughly 97% of the situations I find myself in, so of course I’d make a joke out of that shitty week too.
I’m more than pretty sure my kid will grow up to be a healthy, active, funny and handsome little man, despite the fact that I’ve been forcing him to drink formula against his nature. He will play sports, have a fierce imagination, get at least a few good grades in school – although probably not in English, and eventually get a girlfriend who is hopefully only a little bit slutty looking, when I let him out of my grubby paws around age eighteen or so.
I know that “breast is best.” As an intelligent woman, I am supposed to know better than to go against this mantra. But the truth is, we have somehow come to live in a society where woman are made to feel like real assholes for not breastfeeding. Like I said before, I gave birth to a human being with ten fingers and ten toes! Give me some credit!