Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Getting things off my chest

OK, you were warned, you knew it was coming, and you almost certainly will be offended. This is the official anti-breast feeding tirade. The good news is the culture is on your side, not mine. I am a horrible mother, who has doomed her child to poor health and below average intelligence. You are Mother Teresa. So you win from the outset. But I have a blog, and this is America, so deal with it.

I hate breast feeding. It is the #1 reason why Charlotte was almost an only child. It is the #1 reason why I am angry at Eve (and God. I know she screwed up, but this is really a bridge too far.). When I see other women breast feeding, I have a deep, down, visceral, primal urge to run screaming into a nearby forest or maybe even a freeway. When I think of torture, I think of breast feeding. When I think of hell, yep, breast feeding. If heaven includes breast feeding, I'm relocating. If I found out Kim Jong Il disapproved of breast feeding, I'd probably move to Pyongyang and consider marrying him. There are many reasons why I hate breast feeding that are too graphic for this blog, but I will say that, in addition to being painful and exhausting, it made me feel like an animal and resent the hell out of my child. And my husband. How convenient that, even though he just yearns to do it, he is unable to get up five times a night so a screaming baby can suck the life out of him. As a a feminist of sorts, I have a real problem with that.

If I am truthful, however, a big reason why I hate breast feeding is that I sucked at it, pun intended, and as much as I milk (wow, on a roll here) the self-deprecating routine for its comic value, I am actually not that accustomed to failure. But I was definitely a failure at this. My breast feeding efforts ended with tearful pleas to Kevin in the Babies R Us parking lot to flee with me to West Virginia and let his mother raise our child, a nervous breakdown in the pediatrician's office, and our lactation consultant's pitying verdict that "maybe this isn't going to work out for you." When the lactation consultant is telling you to quit, you know you are a disaster. It was certainly all I needed to hear. I got me some formula, some sleep, and suddenly, I was reborn. I loved my husband again, didn't start crying every time my daughter woke up, and wore a real bra. It was liberation, baby. But I still felt like a failure. When I went to the mom's group at my church, which is a virtual breast feeding society, I imagined the other women looking down on me from behind their matching Hooter Hiders as I brought out the only bottle of formula most of them will ever see in their lives. (Rationally, I know they probably weren't looking down on me because they are all better people than that, and I know that because some of them read this blog. And, of course, they all breast feed.).

Naturally, I became a militant opponent of breast feeding, because when you have failed at something, the only reasonable thing to do is attack and belittle that which has defeated you. But I probably would be much tamer in my opinions if breast feeding advocates weren't so nazi-like in theirs. The insane lengths these people go to to convince women they MUST breast feed their child at all costs sends me into equally hyperbolic rage. Some of them even argue that adoptive mothers should take hormones so they can nurse their adopted children (which obliterates a major argument in favor of adoption in my view). They distort scientific facts, which are that breast feeding offers only marginal improvements in health and intelligence, findings that in fact cannot be submitted to a classic double blind scientific study and cannot account for individual, genetic differences even among siblings. For instance, my child, who barely got any breast milk at all, has thrown up twice in her life (once when I accidentally gagged her with a toothbrush), whereas my friend's son, who was exclusively breast fed for at least six months, is constantly ill. In addition, formula now contains DHA (the intelligence link) and other fortifications that replicate many of breast milk's benefits; a recent study actually found that premature infants fared better on fortified formula than on breast milk itself.

There is definitely a reasonable argument for breast feeding. The argument that kept me at it for as long as I did was that breast feeding helps you lose your baby weight (you may recall I gained 50 lbs, so I was DESPERATE. But I did find Weight Watchers is a much less painful route, however). I also don't doubt that breast feeding has health benefits, that makes intuitive sense (then again, so do beets, and I'll die young before I eat a bunch of those). For another thing, it costs less. If you use formula, it's probably for the best your kid turns out dumber, because you're not going to be able to afford Harvard after shelling out for Enfamil anyway. If the economy really goes apocalyptic, I'm stockpiling formula, not gold. I would certainly sell some organs and throw in my soul for free for a can. And we could probably erase the national deficit by forcing mothers on welfare to breast feed. I don't know if they grind up diamonds and put it in there or what, but that stuff be pricey. Moving on...I don't really buy the intelligence argument; if you are dumb, you can breast feed your kid til they are 25 and they will probably still be dumb (and certainly my formula-fed child is a genius, I don't think there's any doubt about that). But let's say it makes kids smarter. If that's the case, breast feeding advocates would be wise to keep that to themselves in this competitive, information-based economy. The more formula-fed kids there are, the greater chance their kids will become President of the United States.

But they don't keep it to themselves, and they don't make the reasonable argument that breast feeding has some benefits and some (deranged) women actually enjoy it, but formula these days is pretty awesome, too, and if you are facing a choice between mental illness and Similac, your child is better off every time if you go with the latter. Not a big deal, ladies, not a big deal. Instead they opt for a slightly less relaxed line: You are irrevocably and forever harming your child if you give them the poison the evil, money-grubbing formula companies are doling out, in addition to bringing emotional damage to your relationship with your child, and therefore you should endure any hardship you may encounter--to include a starving infant, nipples oozing with puss, human slavery, excruciating pain, depression, an impaired sex life, hell on earth--to make it work. And I don't really appreciate that. Being a mother is hard enough.

The logical conclusion to this tirade would be to courageously declare that I, Holly, am taking a principled stand, based on my firmly held convictions, and will not even attempt to breast feed my new baby, knowing that it will once again end in disaster. That would be the logical conclusion. But human beings, and especially guilt-ridden mothers who have been brow-beaten by the evil Breast feeding Brigade, are not entirely logical. Come December, I'll likely have a baby's head in my palm, desperately stuffing flesh into its mouth like some kind of sado-masochistic chef. I shudder at the thought. But you mark my words, I am quitting at the VERY FIRST sign of trouble. Take THAT, La Leche League.

PS Please respect my property and do not leave me pro breast feeding sermons in the comments section. They will be deleted. And I may never speak to you again. Just kidding, but barely.

5 comments:

  1. I love this post ... duh, I love them all. I think we get opinionated, then pack it with guilt and don't do one bit of good in the process. I breast fed because it was easy for me and cheap ... except for the time my nipple almost fell off. That was neither easy nor cheap. That's possibly too much information, but I'm pretty sure that line has already been crossed here! When you bring a bottle of formula to mom's Bible study, I'll still sit by you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your posts always make me laugh. You KNOW I'm a proponent of breast feeding for ME. I don't care what you choose to do and you won't hear any sermons about your choice on this topic. To each their own (at least on this subject). :) --and I applaud your intent to try it again after having such a horrible experience the first time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. you crack me up! i am so with you on the hellish torture of the experience, but guilt pressured me to soldier through the first month both times, and it amazingly got easy... after excruciating engorgement and bleeding nipples....
    now little girl just got her first teeth and it's been pretty bad all over again! not to mention what my boobs are starting to look like....but i guess all that money we saved on formula can go to the breast augmentation ;) --ali

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, Jessica :)
    Kenna, it hasn't happened yet, so don't applaud. Honestly don't know if I can even attempt it again.
    Ali, as the La Leche League will tell you, breastfeeding does NOT wreck your boobs. That is a complete myth. Breast feeding can only make you more beautiful as a woman. If your boobs are looking bad, well, maybe you're just getting old :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. So you hate beets AND breastfeeding? I wonder if anyone from your 'gourmet' club is reading this?

    I'm a pumper and proud! I give boob and bottles when in public. Daddy gives bottles when I can't face another moo-session or I need to drink. Do what's right for you in Dec. I'm a genius and was born to an unwed teen-aged mother who fed me (probably free-WIC) formula.

    On the upside, the baby-weight was off after 4 weeks...what's my excuse now? ...Probably that possibility of a 10-pt IQ gain for people with particular biomarker, but I"m not sure.

    ReplyDelete