I would like to just take a moment to extend two emphatic middle fingers to the woman who I dealt with this past weekend. She was shopping off of a baby registry for a much younger friend/family member (It definitely wasn’t her daughter but she mentioned that the registrant lived with her at one time) and was having a hard time finding a gift she liked on the registry. The woman was nearing the curve that connects middle age to whatever comes next and was apparently trying to use makeup, hair dye, and condescension to keep herself firmly tethered to her younger days. We’ll call her Madge. In the interest of not trying to be a total bitch about this I will admit that yes, my opinion of her appearance is skewed heavily by the idiot comments that began tumbling out of her hot pink mouth the second we began our conversation. Also full disclosure, Madge 110% reminded me of a particular meddlesome and opinionated but misinformed person that I sometimes have to deal with and really can’t stand. So that probably didn’t help. I digress.
Perusing the registry with her ever-discerning eyes Madge loudly, openly made judgment of each item. “Nope, don’t like that. Ugh, pink, really? What was she thinking?” Smile plastered firmly across my face, I asked if I could help. “Well,” Madge began, “I’m just going to have to find her something that’s not on her registry. Look at this, she’s got too many bottles on here and I am ALL about breastfeeding!” Um. Ok. Sorry Madge, you’ve lost me. Blankets are over there, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
Honestly it wasn’t so much the comment that cut me, it was her tone. You may have had to have been there but the judgment and condescension that she put behind the last half of her declaration was forceful. She may as well have followed it up with “Because I was a MUCH BETTER parent.”
Here, nearly a year and a half after my own breastfeeding journey began, with a healthy and vibrant little boy, hearing someone openly judge an expectant mother for wanting access to bottles turned my stomach. And at least 20% of me wanted to punch her in the face.
I know that my visceral reaction to the comment has a lot to do with my own breastfeeding experience. Baby A was a preemie and, like most preemies, had feeding issues. But he was also hungry. So hungry. Because he came so early the nurses started me on a pump almost right away to try to build my supply. Luckily, my body was ready and I was able to produce plenty of milk, but A still had a horrible time trying to actually nurse. When he did latch he either got no milk or my letdown was so strong that he couldn’t deal and ended up choking. It was so painful for me and so frustrating for him that even five minutes on the breast had both of us in tears. We saw our lactation consultant (Diba, who I dearly love and am indebted to for the rest of my life) and visited a support group several times a month.
The questions and comments that came with it were equally painful. A few questions came from friends but a surprisingly large number came from strangers or distant acquaintances. “Are you breastfeeding?” Are you his doctor? No? Then MYOB. “Just give him formula.” Yeah I will, if I need to. Kthx. “I loved breastfeeding.” That’s awesome for you, I hate it. “Breastfeeding is so important.” Mmhmm thanks for that, I needed extra guilt to keep me on the milk train another day. Glad I ran into you. “You should try (fill in the blank).” Oh yeah I already did. And that. And that. K nice talking to you, gotta go pump. “Breastfeeding? Gross!” Yes that actually happened. An adult said it. Was he kidding? I sure as hell hope so. But hearing that in my fragile state just about broke me.
Let me just tell you, if a mom is breastfeeding and wants to talk about it, she will bring it up. If she doesn’t, PLEASE just keep your comments to yourself. We know it’s important, we have tried all the fixes that you idiots have come up with, and sometimes there is nothing to do but get through it. If there is a new mom in your life, just tell her she is doing awesome. Tell her that she can ask you questions if she needs advice. Tell her how beautiful her baby is and that he has her nose (but only if she has a cute nose). And then shut up. Better yet, bring her Subway and THEN shut up.
So I pumped and bottle fed. Wait, let me rephrase. I pumped and pumped and pumped and THEN bottle fed. We were released from the hospital on the condition that he would eat every three hours around the clock. Twenty minutes on the breast, whether he actually nursed or not, then at least 20 ml of pumped breast milk, then I had to pump for at least twenty minutes when we were done. It’s called triple feeding. If you’re a mathy person, you will know that if it takes him 10 minutes to drink the bottle of pumped milk that’s at least 50 minutes per feeding session. And that leaves only two hours and ten minutes between feeding sessions to put away the milk, clean the pump and bottles, nap, shower, eat, or try to feel at all like a human being.
My son ate nothing but breast milk from a bottle for the first six weeks of his life. You hear that, Madge? From a bottle. By six weeks he was finally big enough to latch and breastfeeding was much easier after that, but the pump and the bottles (the evil, evil bottles) were the only way that my very tiny and very hungry baby was able to eat. At six weeks, I still pumped once or twice a day but the majority of his feeding was breastfeeding with him latched on like a champ. By three months, we were dealing with nursing strikes and started supplementing with formula. If I had gone back to work, this is also when my maternity leave would have run out, so unless he was just going to not eat all day he would have been switched to a bottle by this time anyway, Madge. By six or seven months, he had discovered people food and just wanted sweet potatoes and bananas and goat cheese for the rest of his life. At eight months, he quit nursing. He just stopped. I was still trying to nurse him to sleep at night and he wasn’t interested. I decided not to pump and just supplemented his people food meals with formula until his first birthday, when he started getting cow’s milk in a straw cup. That was the end of our breastfeeding story.
What I’ve learned from sharing my story and talking to other moms about their breastfeeding experiences is that I am not at all unique. I definitely know women whose babies latched on and fed with no problems from the beginning and I know women who had issues like me. Some are able to fix their issues quickly and some aren’t. Some keep with it and nurse their babies into toddlerhood and some stop. Some formula feed from the beginning. We all have stories. There are no badges of honor. None of these women are deserving of judgment. None of these women love their babies any more or any less.
Madge picked out her gifts and continued to regale me with stories about how she is a baby miracle worker and how when another friend had her baby at a local hospital they sent “this woman” in to help with breastfeeding but “she just got the mom and the baby all riled up and frustrated and finally I just told her ‘I’ve got this’ and she left the room and I had that baby nursing before visiting hours are over.” GOOD ON YA, MADGE. She also talked about how she used “the diaper service” with her kids because she wasn’t going to put “nasty disposables” on her babies but how this friend that is pregnant now won’t even consider using cloth diapers. Thumbs up, Madge. In the category of motherhood dick measuring contests, you are clearly the biggest dick.
So what began as a blog post about an annoying interaction with a rude human being turned in to a therapy sesh. NBD. I feel better and that’s what I came here to do. But one last time, dear Madge, a giant GOOD RIDDANCE to you from me and my breastfed/bottle-fed/formula-fed offspring. Buhbye.