I am talking about bottles. And what big bitches they are in a new mother's life. I have envisaged many scenarios in life, I am fully aware of the 'aggressive person' tag that I carry and therefore have often thought there could various types of rivals in my life... funnily enough, there never were any. Maybe its arrogance; maybe I never considered anybody good enough to be a rival in the school, college or the work space.... call it absent mindedness; maybe I never noticed when one popped up... whatever the case may be, the fact remains that I don't remember ever having a rival....
When I was planning and shopping for my new baby, right up to the 7th month of my pregnancy, I bought many things. My mother in law, sisters in law and my mother too put together a lot of stuff they thought I'd need.
Therefore, one of the very first things I acquired were bottles, bottle nipples and bottle sterilisers. Simple enough, you'd think, right?
As soon as the baby's been born, and your stitches hurt, you look like a bloated balloon and all you want to do is sleep, one ham handed nurse appears out of nowhere and starts squeezing your breasts pretty much with the same delicate touch and sensitivity as one juices a lemon. With pretty much the same results. A reluctant sticky trickle.
Then she makes a disgusted face, picks up your precious wrinkled bundle and stomps off. You look on bewildered.
Thats when the head shaking and tongue clicking begins. Congratulations. A nemesis called Breast Feeding has just entered your life.
Little did I know when the bottles, nipples and sterilisers were acquired, that the very use of them will be considered akin to black magic. All real mothers, all good mothers ONLY BREASTFEED.
Get used to these two words. In large font, bold, all capitals. They will come back to haunt you, new mom, every day, every moment, every miserable inadequate trickle by trickle in those first few nightmarish weeks. Doctor's prescriptions to friends' advice, notes comparing colleagues to internet information, slightly older new moms to slightly interfering old maids - everyone and everything will extol the virtues of great milk engorged breasts and of mothers who have gushed out rivers of the white nectar for their babies to draw sustenance from.
Every single paediatrician's prescription I have so far - whether I went for my baby's vaccination or a common cold - had those formidable words printed at the bottom: BREAST FEED ONLY. NO BOTTLE FEED. The icing on the cake was what I noticed on my second visit to the doctor's clinic, on the soft board in the reception area - believe it or not, a roll call of honour, of all those babies who'd never been given the bottle! With a little 'take a bow, mothers' congratulatory line at the bottom. The sheet of paper had row upon neat row of babies' names, mothers' names and mothers' mobile numbers - apparantly these milk flowing demi goddesses had happily consented to having their phone numbers plastered all over a doctor's reception because they didn't mind their privacy being invaded if they could be of some help to us hapless lot.
Ok, so you're still not getting the drift? Whats the big deal you ask?
The big deal my dear is the simple truth that some women simply don't have enough milk. They need to either add on formula feed to breast feed, or at times, totally substitute with formula. HOWEVER, when you are a new mom, you NEVER seem to come across such women. All the moms you meet were milk river gangotris. They had so much milk their breasts hurt. They had so much milk they had to let it all out during their baths. They had so much fucking milk that their babies gagged on the mighty streams.
Except for one very dear very honest friend who called me from the U.S. and told me not to feel guilty about formula at all, none of my contemporaries said anything about inadequacy. They were all splendidly adequate. If anything, they didn't know what to do with all this milk of human kindness. They spurted, they soaked, they overflowed. Paucity? They had never even heard of such a problem apparantly. I was a freak.
Well, my baby is nearly four months old now and I know I am not a freak. Many women face exactly the same problem. Some don't realise or recognise it. Some are in denial. Some hide it. And yes, of course some also genuinely don't have it. But guess what? The genuine ones don't send you on guilt trips. They tell you to chill, relax and enjoy your baby, and let good old lactogen step in to save the day if need be.
God bless my mother, my mother in law, my gynaecologist and my husband who relentlessly encouraged me to give my baby girl the bottle whenever I felt inadequate, restless or tired. God bless them for being practical, sane and yes, very importantly, funny. Thank god for my nut of a husband who kept saying - "look at me, bottle fed and VP at a radio network. Look at you - bottle fed and another VP at the same network." Idiot.
Their support helped me cope with the fact that I had had a baby in my mid 30s, and after my history of huge gynae issues it was a miracle in itself that I'd conceived naturally and delivered a healthy child. Their lack of judgement of me or my milk supply allowed me to rediscover my real self sooner, because I could step out for a meal or a coffee and not worry about my baby's next feed. Their refusal to see the output of my breasts as a sign of my competence as a mother helped me get back to a dieting and exercising regimen sooner than I could have otherwise.
Now that I have gotten over the guilt and the angst and the sheer sense of failure, I hear of new mothers who can't go anywhere or do anything with themselves because their babies are stuck to their breasts like leeches. Hey, thats exactly what I went through. 5 hours non stop and the baby still cried and still wanted more. First of all, I didn't want to be cruel to the poor kid: she obviously wasn't getting enough. Secondly, hey, is it a crime, I DIDN'T LIKE BEING THAT WAY. Stuck, rooted, bored, fat, useless, brain dead, baby breasted and glassy eyed. I am sorry for not being sorry. I am sorry for opting out of that way of being. I don't think that that kind of exhausting, demotivating and completely energy sapping way of life was the only way to prove to the world that I was a caring mom and my baby was my biggest priority.
Heck. Why should their be any way to prove anything to the world? What my baby means to me is something for me to know and her to feel. A few bottles of formula will not determine how much I love my child.
Trust me, I am not making a big deal of a small issue. If you are planning to biologically produce a a baby, or if you partner is, believe me, this will become a bigger deal than you can even begin to imagine.
So whether you are male or female, in case you are planning a family, here's my little bit of advice: do certainly breast feed / encourage your partner to breast feed because it is genuinely beneficial, genuinely healthy for the baby. Nothing compares to breast milk in terms of nutrition, immunity and basic bone building. But, please please please don't kill yourself over it if you find that you can't do it, or can only do it partially. It is ok. Genuinely ok.
Because, like my mom said: if you go insane, its unlikely to help your baby.