Sunday, May 25, 2008

Why some mothers don't breastfeed

Breastfeeding is a brilliant invention of evolution, isn't? Mammalian mothers can magically nourish their offspring with food produced by their own bodies, and that food turns out to offer optimal nutrition.

But sometimes it doesn't work. If you have ever had a scornful thought when you saw a woman feeding her baby with a bottle, please read Julie's post, "The breast-laid plan," and the comments thread. When nursing works out, I hear it's a lovely thing. But for the unlucky women for whom it simply doesn't work—for a slew of reasons, including low milk supply, pain, poor suck, medical complications, and prematurity—the societal pressure to breastfeed can exert a huge psychic cost.

If you have never known the tyranny of the breast pump (and not the pumping-at-work set-up—I'm talking about round-the-clock pumping), you are lucky. If your body actually produced enough milk to meet a baby's nutritional demands, you are lucky. If breastfeeding was natural and beautiful, you are lucky.

I was not lucky. I had problems that were addressed by four separate chapters of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and one or two more problems that the book didn't cover. There was no chapter entitled "What To Do When There's a Perfect Storm of Problems and It's Simply Not Working Out"—the message was that quitting is not to be contemplated, even when it's ruining a woman's quality of life.

The pumping/lactation phase of my life lasted only about two or two and a half months eight years ago, but it remains the most traumatic period of my life. I think Ben's early months would have been much less stressful if my doctor had said, "Listen, your body is in no shape to make this work." But that didn't happen, and I put so much pressure on myself. On the bright side, Ben thrived despite our rough start, and he thrived when he got formula instead of milk.

So if you see a woman in public mixing up a bottle of formula for her baby, don't assume that she's selfish or shallow or unaware of breast milk's advantages, or that she takes a cavalier view toward caring for her child. She might've adopted that baby. She may be taking vital medication that's not safe for the baby. She may have tried like hell to breastfeed and failed Dairy Cow 101 anyway. She might've had breast surgery that precludes nursing. Informing her that "breast is best" or that she's robbing her child of 6 IQ points and improved immunity? That's deeply hurtful and certainly poor manners.

If you know a pregnant woman, sure, go ahead and make the case for breastfeeding's advantages. But don't suggest that she'll be failing her child if it doesn't work out. And once the decision has been made—for whatever reason—don't presume to second-guess it. Respect the woman's ability to make the best choice for her and her child.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ZOMG! Hostess dropped the beef fat!

I've been shunning Hostess Ho-Hos and Ding-Dongs and their other crappy snack cakes for years because the ingredient list couldn't commit to vegetarianism. The "May contain one or more of the following" list of oils always included beef fat. The message I got from that was "We're gonna buy whatever we can get by the tankload for the cheapest. Maybe it's hydrogenated vegetable oil, maybe it's beef fat, maybe it's some other plant-based oil. We don't feel like picking just one and sticking with it."

But today, I picked up a Ho-Ho package in the store and lo and behold, no beef fat! I bought a box of 10 immediately. Then I ate one for dessert after my salad lunch. It seemed smaller than I remembered, and drier and less tasty. And I recognize that the nutritional value comes in on the negative side. But I had to say "thank you" to International Foods for finally leaving cows out of their snack cakes, didn't I. Moo!

Monday, May 19, 2008

What about boys?

The New York Times reports on "purity balls" today—those father/daughter dances in which dads promise to protect their daughters' "virtue" and the teen girls “promise to God and myself and my family that I will stay pure in my thoughts and actions until I marry.”

It's such a crock. Where are the mother/son purity balls? Oh, right. Boys will be boys, but girls need to be kept on a tight leash lest they become damaged goods, sullied flesh that isn't suitable property to be handed over from father to husband. Really, could this entire concept be any creepier than it is? Look at the psychosocial ramifications: Girls are promising to let their dads keep their virginity in a lockbox so Dad can "give" a tight piece of ass to another man. It's just gross.

If the patriarchal nutjobs who endorse purity balls at least expected the same from girls and boys alike, I might buy their cover story, that it's about saving yourselves for a beautiful marriage blessed by the lord, yadda yadda. But when the movement is centered so strongly among girls and their fathers, the fact that it's about controlling female sexuality is laid bare. There's absolutely nothing wrong with celibate teenagers, but the fetishization of female virginity just gets re-e-eally creepy when Daddy gets involved.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I am the undisputed heavyweight champion of the procrastination world

My blogging to-do list:

  • Flea and I went to the Police concert last weekend; reflections, ruminations, and a pictorial comparison of the mini-flower pots her son and my son gave us for Mother's Day. The contents of the pots are, quite frankly, the best part.
  • Pictures from spring break and whatnot. I pull out my phone and take pictures of things that amuse me, but then the pictures seldom make it to the blog I intended them for.
  • My fear and loathing of the busyness of this time of year. Weddings, graduations, birthdays, family gatherings, and all the truly wonderful crap that fills our calendars and deprives us of our lazy time. I love weekends with no plans. I stay in my pajamas all day. I go to bed in the same pajamas I've had on all day. Eventually, I motivate myself to shower and maybe put on some real pants...but don't go anywhere. It's not that I'm a total homebody—honest, I'm not—but I love a good lazy weekend. 
  • Therapy. Did I tell you I started seeing a therapist in March? Wow, is it indulgent! I go and talk about whatever, and she listens attentively. And I'm not supposed to say, "Enough about me. How have things been going for you?" Therapy rocks. Plus she dispenses the occasional helpful suggestion that smooths out some rough spots at home. For instance: Ben + homework = trauma and frustration all around much of the time. Now we're on a new plan of "finish your homework by 4:30 and you get to play video games from 4:30 to 5." This is working like gangbusters. Ben's usually done with his work on time, and he's not lollygagging his way through it or fighting about it. He gets down to business because there's a reward. Say what you will about incentives and children's behavior—it works, and it's far more enjoyable than the daily knock-down, drag-out disputes Ben and I had been having...for a year and a half.

While I continue my busy, busy schedule of procrastinating, tell me: What have you been meaning to do, but you just haven't found the time?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Unprecedented development!

I got a Mother's Day card from my mother-in-law yesterday, one of the rare "to my daughter-in-law" cards. This spurred Mr. Tangerine to exclaim that he needed to send his mom a card.

I think that for nearly all of the past 17 years, I have been buying and mailing the Mother's Day cards we have sent to his mother (and mine). Today, he called me from work to ask for his folks' new mailing address because he wanted to get that card out in today's mail.

Omigod! Is it the apocalypse? I think it's the apocalypse. The swine have taken wing, and the devil is refereeing snowball fights.

Socks update: I sorted out an embarrassingly outsized heap of clothing in my bedroom. I just knew that many of the missing socks were lurking within the pile, and it would feel so good to be able to mate (heh) some socks and throw away the remaining confirmed-bachelor socks. Wouldn't you know it? I found four socks in the pile. All white, and not one a match for the lonely socks. So now I have more desolate socks than ever before.

Monday, May 05, 2008

My most important poll ever!

I need to know, dammit. I need your advice. I don't know what to do. I'm lost.

I have a laundry basket that never gets emptied out, even though the contents are always clean. There are some socks going stag in the basket. A lot of socks. Approximately seven black socks, six tan socks, seven white socks, and a couple miscellaneous stragglers of other hues. Some are mine, some are Mr. Tangerine's, and some belong to Ben.

None of these socks have mates! But surely, I tell myself, they'll surface some day. They must be in the house somewhere. Probably just got nudged under a stack somewhere.

If I throw these ones away, you just know their mates will return to them, full of apologies for being gone so long, eager to make amends, desiring nothing more than riding into the sunset together whilst embracing my family's feet.

What to do?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Your drag self

Hey, did your parent(s) ever tell you what you'd have been named if you'd been born with a different chromosomal package? I would have been named Anthony, which makes little sense. It's not a family name. Perhaps my mother had a thing for Anthony Hopkins or Anthony Perkins (Norman Bates!) in the '60s?

Ben might've been a Julia Rose. We had plenty of girl names we liked, but hadn't settled on a boy name before he was born. In fact, for his first three days of life, we called him something else—the name that became his middle name. (The bonus of having a baby in the NICU is that you can shoo away the birth-certificate-filler-outer person for days on end, and need not worry that you'll leave the hospital before naming the kid.)

A lot of parents do settle on both boy and girl names for a baby, particularly if they don't know the baby's sex in advance. What might you have been named if you'd been born with a different set of gonads?