I'm just going to say it. I don't care if I get twenty nasty comments from lactation consultants (mostly because I can delete every one of them from the comments section). I have to say it. I hate National Breastfeeding Week.
And not just for the obvious reasons--who wants to be accosted by story after story about babies on boobs when you can't even get a baby into your uterus? I hate it for many other reasons that are all tied to infertility. Because...my dears...I can ALWAYS tie it back to infertility.
I have nothing against breastfeeding--just National Breastfeeding Week. In fact, I tried to breastfeed my children. I took the class when I was pregnant and practiced holding a doll to my breast in order to experience the different holds. I purchased a twin breastfeeding pillow. I spoke to countless women about breastfeeding. I was gung-ho, raring to go. Get sucking!
And then the kids were born and the milk never showed. I would pump eight times a day in order to get one ounce. Total. From both breasts. A man could probably produce that. Come on--go send your husband over to the hospital and test this for me. Let them hook him up to a Medela Lactina and see how much comes out. Probably the same amount. At the same time, my children were being fed with a nasogastric tube and the lactation consultant was telling me that we were making a terrible mistake by allowing the hospital to feed my children formula. She thought jabbing a two-pound baby with needles and keeping him on an IV was a better idea. Until my milk came in. Because it was going to show.
Because that's the message of National Breastfeeding Week. Your milk will show and breastfeeding will happen if you don't quit. Breast is best (and in case you can't remember that catchy slogan, the hospital has helpful posters in the maternity ward every few feet). Except...
At what cost?
Truly, is breast best if the child gets breastmilk but the mother is depressed? Or the child gets breastmilk but the mother feels ill and can't take care of him? Or the child gets breastmilk, but the marriage crumbles because of the stress of trying to push something that isn't working?
In our case, breast wasn't best. It wasn't even an option. Bloodwork finally revealed that I fit into a tiny category of people who had normal prolactin levels prior to A.R.T. but whose pituitary gland shut off during the subsequent pregnancy. I could have pumped forty times a day and I still would have never expressed a useable amount of milk.
The message given by the three lactation consultants we tried--just relax. The same maddening advice we received during fertility treatments was doled out for a problem that was equally unfixable with rest and relaxation. I was told to sleep more, rest more, eat more. With the blame always on me--it was something that I wasn't doing that was affecting my breastmilk supply. I obviously couldn't get pregnant because I was a stress-case and I couldn't breastfeed because I wasn't sleeping enough. There was room in my OB's world to say, "something doesn't seem right here" and send me along for testing. But there was no room in the lactation consultants' message for "wrong." There was the sole goal of "don't give up."
In the end, the reason I hate National Breastfeeding Week the most is the message slammed into the listener--natural is better. Not, natural is preferred, but synthetic formula is just as good and may be your only option. It isn't presented like directions to the store--you can take either this route or that route: both will get you to the store, but this one is probably easier. Instead the formula container is looked at as if it were filled with rat poison. I mean, you can feed that to your child. If that's how you feel about him.
And take that one step further. Natural is better. So are my children, who are far from naturally conceived, not as good as an easy breeder's children? Are my children inferior to Katie Holmes' Suri (um...just for the record, let's check at age two if Suri can add to four. Because my children can--shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhdamn!)?
It all goes back to the twins question I mentioned a few weeks ago, the subtle message that is given when someone asks, "do twins run in your family?" More interesting is the phenomenon in the multiples community. People will add, "mine are natural" into the conversation just to let you know that they didn't use some backhanded way to get their twins. Their twins are the result of a freak-of-nature, thank you very much, and not some skanky unnatural fertility treatment that involves multiple embryos. As if it makes a difference. Because aren't we all just twin parents with multiples to love? Does it really matter how they were made?
My mother likens it to my sister's wedding dress, which was immortalized in a series of famous perfume ads by Elizabeth Hurley. Or...I should say that the original Vera Wang dress was immortalized in the ads. My sister's dress was a designer knockoff that cost a fraction of the price for essentially the same look. If Elizabeth Hurley was ever out on the town, dressed up in her designer wedding gown and bumped into my sister who was also dressed in her wedding gown (my sister is far prettier than Elizabeth Hurley, so Elizabeth would probably become extremely jealous instantly and bitch-slap her), Elizabeth would probably want to point out how hers was the real deal. Or purses from carts in New York City. It may look like a Prada bag and it may smell like a Prada bag. But people who really have Prada bags want you to know that yours isn't a Prada bag.
When I presented this idea to someone recently, she countered that in this analogy our children (her twins were also the product of A.R.T.) were really the Prada bag or the Vera Wang gown. Our kids were the ones that cost thousands of dollars vs. co-payment cost kids (which is what I've decided to call all naturally created children from now on--CPCBs or co-payment cost babies). Of course I feel like my children are the designer children. They were created with super-sperm and super-eggs that were carefully coaxed and coddled with drugs and love. But I don't think many parents of CPCBs would agree that I got the designer children. Not just because it would mean that their own children were the inferior ones. Because if you start in a place of natural is better, there isn't room on the same plateau for A.R.T. babies and CPCBs to stand together.
Which is why I recommend throwing out that whole notion and start from this place: natural is nice. But any method that helps you reach your goal is best.