My husband and I were both in our early 30’s when we got married. We loved festivals, Sunday movie marathons, and traveling; neither of us was set on having kids. Married for 9 months, we decided to roll the dice and stopped using birth control.
My doctor assured me it would take some time for my body to regulate itself after nearly 20 years on birth control.
Yeah, not so much. 7 weeks later I was pregnant.
I realized I was preggo pretty early. The pill I was taking stopped my periods, so I was used to that, but this time something felt off. My husband joked, “maybe you’re pregnant”. I laughed, but suddenly realized that was a real possibility.
I took the test.
One drop of urine hit that stick and it lit up like the Vegas skyline. I was dumbfounded, so much so that I made my husband go buy more tests (those things are expensive!!)
After peeing on 4 sticks, I was still pregnant.
Holy s#&t, I was going to be a mom!
Pregnancy Glow – I call BS!
A woman typically feels like one of the following when pregnant:
A. Radiant angel
B. Beached whale
I was a card-carrying member of the beached whale club. When someone said they loved being pregnant I wanted to vomit, and not from morning sickness. I was huge and uncomfortable. Who loves that feeling?
What is rarely talked about is how a woman gives up complete control over her body when carrying a child. Suddenly she is a vehicle for another human life. While for some that is a beautiful thing, for others it is not.
In my case, it was a struggle. Having wrestled with an eating disorder for over half my life, I was fixated on having full control of my body. Being forced to relinquish that control overwhelmed me and it pushed my anxiety to epic levels.
Geriatric Patient – Wait, What?
I was 34 when I first walked into the OB’s office. She immediately blasted me with the news that since I would be 35 when my child was born, I was considered “geriatric” by medical standards. Hold up – I thought the 30’s were the new 20’s?!
Seeing the horror on my face she just laughed. This was the first of several red flags in our relationship. I ignored them and to this day regret not finding a new doctor.
6 months into my pregnancy I realized I didn’t want to breastfeed. I was already being denied control over my body, and I saw breastfeeding as an extension of that. I brought it up to my doctor expecting a professional medical conversation. Nope, all I got was another red flag. She tried to shame me, saying I was irresponsible for considering this and had no choice but to breastfeed.
Really? Because there is an entire aisle at Target filled with formula that says otherwise.
Shoving aside that conversation, I continued to do my own research. You know what the internet said? It told me “breast is best” and you’re going to be a horrible mom if you don’t suck it up.
Now I was really freaking out.
Swaddling a Cabbage Patch Kid.
Since neither of us had infant care experience, my husband and I took a series of baby classes. We swaddled, fed, and diapered my childhood Cabbage Patch Kid. The instructor was a lactation consultant who presented formula feeding and breastfeeding as viable options. She laid out the benefits and drawbacks of both, never once pulling for one side over the other.
FINALLY! Someone was saying what I’d been thinking - a fed baby is a happy baby.
When the classes were over, I made my final decision, I would not be breastfeeding. My husband, and the Cabbage Patch kid, supported me. The medical community and other moms…not so much.
The Stork Arrives
My water broke in Sports Authority. Having never been pregnant, and seeing it was a month before my due date, I didn’t quite realize that’s what was going down. I had a textbook labor experience, and my “preemie” was a 7lb baby girl.
As they do, the nurses immediately laid the baby on me for skin-to-skin time. At that moment it was just the two of us. I couldn’t even tell you where my husband was (right next to me) or how much pain I was in (a lot). That was gone in a flash when a nurse tried to get the baby to latch to my breast. I explained I would not be breastfeeding and suddenly the mood changed. They became cold and standoffish, trying to coerce me into changing my mind. They even rolled in a breast pump, but I stood my ground.
Shortly after the first standoff, my baby was taken to the nursery for a bath and checkup. Once I had eaten and gotten cleaned up myself, we went to visit. Through the window, it was clear something was wrong. A doctor came out and told us that our daughter had low breathing saturation and needed to be transferred to a NICU for additional care (we were at a hospital without a NICU). In an instant, the papers were signed, and an ambulance took her away.
Standoff number two commenced. Tired, scared, and in pain I argued with the staff to release me. They refused because it had been less than 24-hours. Were they kidding? My first-born child was just transported in an incubator to the NICU and they wanted me to lay in bed eating Jell-o. Nope, not happening (also, I hate Jell-o). I looked right at them said either they signed the papers, or I’d walk out against doctor’s orders.
Six hours after giving birth I was handed a Vicodin and I waddled to the car. There are no words to describe the feeling of leaving the hospital, knowing you’ve given birth, but not carrying a baby.
One of These Is Not Like the Other
My daughter was the biggest baby in the NICU, weighing in a full 3lbs over any other patients. She looked a bit out of place, but thankfully her low breathing saturation quickly corrected itself. Now we could go home…just kidding; she had jaundice. Since she was already in a NICU they convinced us to let her stay for treatment.
We didn’t miss a single visiting hour that week. Again, I was confronted by nurses and doctors about breastfeeding. They pressured me into meeting with the hospital’s lactation consultant; I agreed thinking it would get them off my case.
Guess who walks in…the woman who had taught us to swaddle a Cabbage Patch Kid!
She asked me to try a breast pump and I relented. Two minutes in I was sobbing. She took it off and I explained everything…my eating disorder, my anxiety, my doctor trying to shame me. She stood up, left the room, and gave those nurses an earful! She explained that my mental wellbeing was just as important to my baby as breast milk and even went as far as to give me tips on how to get my body to stop producing breastmilk (that involved lettuce in my bra…for days I kept asking my husband if I smelled like a farmers market.)
The nurses never mentioned breastfeeding to me again, but it was clear they didn’t approve. It didn’t matter, someone had finally heard me.
The Judgement Stops Here
Medical professionals shaming patients is never acceptable, but you know what’s even worse? Moms shaming other moms. I’m going to say that again because it is worth repeating. Moms shaming other moms is never acceptable.
Being a new mom is hard enough; having the outside world belittle your choices is enough to break anyone. Whether you agree with their decisions or not, it is never ok to disparage or demean someone because their parenting journey is different than yours.
I often think about women who cannot breastfeed and what they must go through. I was in control of my decision, but what about the women who are not? What about…
· Women with underlying medical conditions.
· Moms who require lifesaving medications that cannot transfer to their children.
· Ladies with low breastmilk production.
· Babies who reject breastmilk.
· Those suffering from post-partum depression or extreme anxiety.
You have no idea what someone is going through. Formula feeding your child does not instantly make you a bad mother. It makes you a mother who cares enough to nourish your child.
Stop judging. Stop shaming.
TBH, I’ve called myself out before. We know a family who openly preached “breast is best”. The mom constantly gave me shade when I pulled out a bottle. She was always spouting the facts about illness, brain stimulation, etc. In fact, she was such an avid believer that she breastfed both her children until they were nearly 3.
Yep, you read that correctly – they were 3.
Personally, I think if your child can come up, lift your shirt, and pull down your bra then it might be time to ween them. I am not ashamed to admit I had to come to terms with the fact that it was her choice to do that. I needed to take my own advice. Stop judging. Stop shaming.
There is one part of this story that secretly made me feel validated. Those breastfed 3-year olds were constantly sick. Runny noses, coughs…you name it. So, tell me again about the immunity-boosting power of breastmilk?
What about my formula-fed baby? Today, she is a 7-year old pint-sized powerhouse. She does not struggle with weight, is rarely sick, and her imagination is off the charts. Even when adulting is hard, I am proud to be her mom every day.
“Breast is best”. Whatever. I call BS.