The Daily News

LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Designer Knockoff Children at Bargain Prices! (Children and Boobs Mentioned)

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. 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.


KatieMc said...

Oh my goodness, I laughed and cried at the same time. Thank you! I start my first round of Clomid today, yippee skippee, and this post cheered me to no end.

mandolyn said...

Ugh. There's always gray area. My mom breastfed me for a few months and just couldn't with my brother. I'm fine, he's fine, we're all fine. I like your motto of "natural is nice..."

KE said...

Thanks for the much needed laugh. I like the idea of A.R.T. babies being "designer"! If we manage to conceive through IUI/IVF, I want to make sure everyone understands just how special and wanted our baby was. It takes a special level of dedication to go the A.R.T. route!

Dr. Grumbles said...

There are definitely lactation nazis out there. Breast is best, but not always possible. Feeding the baby is what's important, not how it's done.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my-- I also laughed and cried at the same time, because I know all too well the whole breastfeeding saga. Also had twins, also didn't have my "milk come in" as quickly as I was promised it would by the lactation consultants. One doctor hinted that she thought my issues with breastfeeding/milk may have been related to my infertility (hypothalamic body doesn't produce the hormones it should). Nice reminder that my body is messed up.
My babies were losing weight quickly, getting frustrated at the breast, and we were all insanely unhappy. I ended up hating the lactation consultants, hating anyone who looked down their nose at formula, and hating myself for hating breastfeeding. When I finally let myself realize that the most important thing was that my babies were fed and growing, I stopped caring about everyone else and did what I (and my husband) wanted, to h&ll with everyone else. Four and a half months later, my kids are happy, healthy, and if I may say so myself, pretty darn smart. Bottom line, you need to do what works for you. Don't let a National Breastfeeding Month make you feel any less of a mother than women who breastfed their kids.

Elle said...

The same rule applies whether it's for breastfeeding, potty training, letting them cry or picking them up, choosing schools etc etc.

You are the parent. You know best. They can do with their children whatever they want, as long as they let you get on with yours.

Ignore the opinions from so-called experts, 'friends', and other mothers (the worst!!).

The ones that matter don't care, the ones that care don't matter.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post, on all fronts!

I agree wholeheartedly about the "breast is best" campaign. Which is why when people ask me if I will breastfeed, I always say that I'm going to try. Some have gone so far to say that trying isn't good enough, you must keep at it and prevail, no matter the uncomfort or inconvenience. Because that's how those "easy lactaters" see it -- they keep at it and get the job done. Much like the easy breeders, huh? Damn people, I'm not even 4 months pregnant yet, save the guilt for later (or never!).

And the twin thing is just infuriating, and I'm not even pregnant with twins. I heard one of those "natural" moms say not too long ago, "Mine are natural, twins run on my husband's side of the family." HA! Nice explanation, easy breeder! I wanted to break the news to her that twins don't run on the husband's side -- his genes don't have anything to do with how many eggs you pop a month, but I didn't have the heart.

Anyway, fantastic words, thanks again for being such a great place.

~ Lisa

GLouise said...

Loved your take on the "designer kids." Too funny!

Maya said...

You put into words what I have always felt. My future child will definitely never have to question if they were "unplanned" or "unwanted" by both parents for sure. If I were an ART baby, I would feel so incredibly loved and desired!

Anonymous said...

When People ask me if Iam going to Breastfeed. I look at them blankly and say.. Well I'll have to wait and see if I can not only get pregnant again but manage to carry this one to full term. But yeah sure breastfeeding is really something on my mind right now.. NOT ! Great post!

TeamWinks said...

And all of the infertiles stand up in unison, throw their arms in the air, and shout at the top of their lungs, "Amen!"

Anonymous said...

There's a special circle in hell for certain lactation consultants. I was given the same push: just relax, oh, and buy an industrial hospital-grade pump, and take these herbs, then pump every hour... I felt like a complete failure when I stopped at one month. But I had to - I wasn't enjoying my child, and that had to stop.

p.s. I think your twins are "natural". Last time I checked, IVF uses only naturally occurring ingredients!

Anonymous said...

My mom was a maternity nurse during the switch from formula to breast as the preferred method. She hated the breastfeeding only type nurses. One of the new mother's felt so pressured that when she was having issues, the baby was tired and lethargic, she refused intervention until it was apparant the baby was starving. My mom said it was just awful.

Anonymous said...

I conceived #1 at the hands of two bumbling nurses and #2 with the help of a dorky doctor I couldn't understand, but it worked! I get annoyed with women who talk about the special romantic night when IT happened. Ladies, by candle light or fertility-clinic fluorescence, it's still a magical moment.

Sarah P. said...

I always wonder (as an adopted child) where the "natural is best" idea leaves me (and my mom) on the "good mother/baby" scale.