As Emily has observed, many of the FFF Friday submissions start with the words “I always wanted to breastfeed.” I know I’ve personally said those words too many times to count.
But that’s not the only story out there. There are many women who feel as Emily did, and that is just as important and valid to talk about – perhaps more. There’s this idea out there that as long as a mom “tried to do her best”, she should be immune from judgment. This is, in many way, just as judgmental and limiting a script as any other uttered in the infant feeding discussion.
What is “doing your best”? Is it martyring yourself, like so many of us have, in the name of exclusive breastfeeding? Is it having a medical excuse? Being *this* depressed, *this* sick, *this* abused?
Or is doing your best really doing the best you can as a parent, in the best way you – as an individual – think you can?
I prefer the latter definition. By that logic, we’ve all “tried to do our best”. Sometimes our best does not mean breast.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
I’ve heard a lot of formula feeders start off by saying “I always wanted to breastfeed.” My story starts with “I never wanted to breastfeed.” I remember not being comfortable with it when I was a child and never did feel comfortable about it, even when I considered it as a logical adult. The thought of having a baby or machine sucking on my nipples just made me cringe. Some have made assumptions that I was sexually molested or have daddy/mommy issues (I wasn’t and my parents are awesome, thankyouverymuch), but there really isn’t some reasonable answer to why I feel that way. And no, I don’t consider boobs to be only sexual objects. It just is what it is.
My son had been an unexpected surprise. I was still waffling about if I wanted to have kids at all when I found out I was already pregnant, and up until he was a couple of days old I was unsure how I felt about him (and then, of course, I fell madly in love with him). When I was reading about how freaking amazing breastfeeding is I was filled with dread. I deeply feared that I’d have to endure it, but then as I was considering the bonding aspect of it, it occurred to me that with being already unsure about him the last thing I needed to be doing was giving myself more of a reason to experience negative feelings for him. Whatever else I felt, I had determined that I was going to do right by him. Nothing I read in true scientific studies suggested that he wouldn’t be perfectly fine on formula, and I was truly terrified that I’d end up hating him if I made myself breastfeed him. That’s not doing right by a child, I don’t care if breastmilk really is all that and the cure for the common man-cold. It made sense to me that the best choice for us was actually formula.
People I know and encountered in real life didn’t give me any grief about it- in fact the nurses at the hospital asked me which way I was going just so they’d know to send me either a lactation consultant or some of those spiffy 2 oz. premade nurser bottles. They even gave me a few extra packs of those to take home. It was only when I got online that I was immersed into the dreaded mommy wars. You go on to these mommy communities because, let’s face it, it is possible to get a lot of really good advice about everything from getting those darned teeny socks to stay on a baby’s feet to a plethora of breastfeeding info. It is my habit to research the heck out of things, especially when it comes to my children. Seriously, it took me two weeks to decide on a convertible carseat when my son was outgrowing his infant carrier. I’d already researched breastfeeding on my own for well over a month during my pregnancy, but with these communities I know way more about it than I really ever needed to. The most insulting assumption was people saying I must be one of those moms who doesn’t give enough of a damn to educate herself, if I chose formula from the get-go. The very idea was just unfathomable to them. 2 and 2 do not go together, you can’t love your baby if you never even tried. The only time I ever felt regret for not breastfeeding was from these women. It was not all of the moms there, but just a handful were more vocal about how strongly they believe in the importance of breastfeeding.
Sometimes, for an hour or two, I’d fall into their trap about not loving my son enough to sacrifice my feelings on the altar of motherhood and do it for his sake. Then my son would low-crawl over to my stack of magazines and giggle as he happily shredded them, and I’d move on to the next topic. Something like, “What solids have you done so far?” Every once in a great while I’d read how a mom who felt as I did succumbed to the pressure to do it, and what she’d describe is exactly what I knew my experience would have been. Resentment of her child every time she had to lift her shirt up, the cringing, discomfort, distaste, and dread in between feedings- in other words, she was almost completely devoid of the joy of having a baby. The joy that that was always there in my own breastfeedingless experience. It makes me immeasurably sad that there are those who would say that breastfeeding is more important than that, and if you really love your baby those terrible feelings are just something you’ll live with. Why the hell do we lend any credence to people like that, anyway?
These days both of my kids are too old for me to care about what people think of my choice. I do still get to enjoy the occasional shock and outrage when I answer The Question simply with “I didn’t want to.” No remorse. No trying to explain it away. I really don’t give a crap anymore about what my kids ate the first six to twelve months of their lives. They are alive and vibrant, and they know that they are fiercely loved. My son just started tae-kwon-do and my daughter is trying out preschool ballet and her first fall soccer this year. He is sweet as can be and she is my diva. He loves video games and is fascinated by his father’s military career, and she will throw on cowboy boots with her princess dress and go ride their Powerwheels 4-wheeler. We are taking him to an air show two states over just to nurture his dream of becoming a jet fighter pilot. To bystanders they are the same every day kids as every other kid, and everything, all that truly matters in my world, to me. I am not usually one to be able to not care what people think of me, but the happiness my kids bring me enables me, in this case, to rise above it.
Want to share your story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.