Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.
Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They also are not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.
This week’s FFF Friday guest post comes from Lindsay, who blogs over at You Are The Roots. When I chose the title for her post, I worried for a minute that it would come off like pandering to the formula industry, and I knew that was not at all Lindsay’s intent. But then I decided to go ahead with it, because I join her in wanting to give thanks. I may not be comfortable with the way formula companies always promote their products, but I also have a lot of gratitude in my heart for the products themselves. When my milk was making my child sick, they gave me an option. And in Lindsay’s case, they gave her the gift of being able to feed her child when her body wasn’t able to to. I think about it like this: I really dislike how antidepressants are marketed, because those tv commercials make it sound like anyone who is having a shitty day should be medicated. But the drugs themselves? They can be lifesaving to those who truly need them. Bad marketing tactics do not necessarily mean a product is inherently bad- and this concept seems to be widely accepted as truth except in the case of formula.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
I’m a planner. Scratch that. I’m a control freak. I am terrified of the word ‘spontaneity’ and am pretty sure it causes me physical harm to have it enter my life. When I was put on bedrest during my pregnancy, it gave me ample time to make blueprints and life plans and map out what we needed and when we’d do things and how things would be and when my baby would sleep and what dinners we’d be eating and – well, there was no stone unturned. Such a militantly planned life doesn’t always go hand in hand with severe preeclampsia and many weekly appointments with specialists who consult with your doctor and tell you at the end of that appointment if your baby gets to continue to bake or you’ll have to make the hospital your next stop. There was a lot of unknown in my life at an already trying time – my first pregnancy – and I wasn’t handling it well. I think I reminded myself to mind my blood pressure at least twenty times a day, trying to turn my mind off and stop letting it wander with thoughts of all that randomness unable to be put on a to-do list to be planned and properly executed.
The one thing I knew – even if I didn’t know how many weeks I’d be when I delivered or if my baby would require the NICU or anything else that I thought I knew but no longer did – was that I was going to be a breastfeeding mother. I am guilty of being that mom who rolled my eyes at mothers mixing formula in the mall, on television, at the grocery store. All I knew was that babies were supposed to be nursed because that’s just what is supposed to happen – I mean, that’s why women produce milk, after all – and it made me so angry that some people tried to sidestep their responsibility as a mother to do the best thing for their babies. My hospital bags were packed and toted around with us from doctor visit to doctor visit, containing tons of nursing nightgowns, nursing bras, breast balms and creams and milk teas. I circled on all of my hospital paperwork that I planned on breastfeeding, underlined these words and highlighted them, daring anyone to bring a bottle near the mouth of my baby.
And then, you know, I got the last laugh. My son was to be born at 36 weeks, unexpectedly, because my body just couldn’t do pregnancy anymore. He came, my blood pressure couldn’t be regulated, I was on all types of anti-seizure drugs that render me unable to remember more than 2% of my son’s first two weeks of life. To this day, my husband will laugh and say “remember when…” and I try to mask how distraught I am that, no, I don’t remember. I remember worrying that I would die and never get to hold him and I remember falling to pieces at my 8 week check-up that I didn’t produce any milk. How could I be a mother? How could I be a woman? I wasn’t. I wasn’t worth being called either because my body had failed me again. The doctors, the nurses, the lactation consultants explained to me with all the patience and love and sympathy in the world that it was the medications, that I had to be administered these medications so that I could be here and be the mother to my son that they knew I could be, but their words fell on deaf ears. I wasn’t a woman, I wasn’t a mother, my body had failed me again, I couldn’t do anything right and my son was going to fall into that pile of obese, stupid formula fed kids I kept reading about on the internet.
Fast forward to a year later. My son didn’t fall into that pile. Mostly because that pile doesn’t exist. My son is healthy, intelligent, a wonderful eater, maybe not the best sleeper, meeting his milestones and existing as the happy, magnificent, beautiful boy that he is. And me? I’m thanking the formula companies for nourishing him when I couldn’t. Not that it was an easy road to get here to this place of solace and confidence. It wasn’t. I lived through a mother commenting on my formula-mixing, noting that it was “poison” I was feeding my child. I lived through people giving me sympathy as if I left the hospital without a child, without some limbs, as if I was fighting for my life. I lived through it all and, really, I learned. I learned that how or what you feed your child is simply a choice. I learned that the children who are starving, who are physically abused, who are sleeping on the streets and who don’t know what it means to be loved – they are the ones who need our sympathy, our compassion, our charity.
Mostly, I learned the only thing I regret are those days I wasted crying and hating myself instead of realizing how beautiful life was, and how beautiful my son was, and how lucky I was to have him here, so healthy, so happy. I regret the time I spent thinking that I was doomed, that my son was doomed, that my family and reputation and life was doomed.
Because if you have to formula feed or if you choose to formula feed, you are not doomed. Your life, your child, your family, your reputation – none of these things are doomed. I get to kiss my son’s beautiful face when he wakes up each morning and throws his arms out towards me, yelling “mama! Mama! Mama!”, and then I sit back and wonder what I ever worried about. I have everything in the world and my everything? He has me.
Join the party- you know you want to. Send me your story: firstname.lastname@example.org