2.24.2014

because it shouldn't have to be a dirty little secret

Ethan was a formula fed baby. This wasn't by choice. Before I had him, I didn't know a single soul who ever formula fed and all I heard about were the benefits, the bond, the fact that formula is poison in a can. It was powdered death to all who consume it, bound to make you obese, lazy, delayed, unhealthy. And because I never had any kids prior to him, I scoffed at the idea of even selling formula in grocery stores and went on my own soapbox about my future breastfed children. Life had other plans. I had a difficult pregnancy, birth and recovery with Ethan (that's an understatement). At some point the decision to formula feed wasn't mine to make and I refused to accept this lightly. I'd use Medela bottles so everyone would assume I was breastfeeding and I refused to even walk into the store to buy the formula -- that was my husband's job, because he couldn't understand why it was the big deal I was making it. Of course, he wasn't logging onto Facebook to read all of the statistics about how doomed his precious little newborn boy would be like I was. He just didn't get how our kid was second tier to everyone else's kid and how we had already failed at parenting. Or at least I had. If you've ever suffered from anxiety or depression, you know how crippling it is. You probably also know how unless someone has suffered from it as well, they seldom understand. When I think back to the beginning of Ethan's life, I don't think back to happy memories. I think back to wanting myself to die because I had failed him, to thinking that I didn't deserve to be his mom. I wrote a piece for Fearless Formula Feeder that made me feel empowered and strong and brave, but I don't think I was actually fearless until well after Ethan turned two. Because by that time, I saw how absolutely amazing, healthy, strong and wonderful my son was -- and how he was fed as an infant didn't matter. At all. It's funny how in those early days, you think parenting revolves around that first year -- and then you wake up and see that, no, it doesn't. You see that there is so much to parenting that you can't even see past a the vastness of it all.

I consider myself a breastfeeding advocate, of course. I have plenty of friends who are breastfeeding and you bet your bottom dollar if anyone ever told them to cover up, go away, sit in a bathroom, I'd have some choice words for that person. The good thing about having good friends is that they'd also say something to anyone who said something snarky to me about formula feeding. That camaraderie wasn't something I knew when Ethan was an infant and I had to make friends since I didn't know anyone with kids who lived nearby. The thing is, we all are fighting a war. I see daily on social media about fighting for breastfeeding rights, and formula feeding rights, and this, that or the other. We're all victims of being judged in some way, about something, and as much as we like to be advocates for all groups being hurled hate, we know when we're personally being judged maybe it feels the most real. Or hurts the most. Because as much as I'd stand up for a friend who was breastfeeding if someone told her to cover up, I couldn't know what it feels like to be told to do so -- but I do know what it's like to sit there in a mommy and me class and have someone talk about the way you're "feeding that baby poison, so sad."

I made the decision from the moment I found out I was pregnant again that this baby would be formula fed from the start. Although the darkness has passed, I will never forget those first few months of Ethan's life. I will never forget the way I felt, how sick I was, how hopeless it all was. I will never forget watching him sleeping with the terror and panic that he would stop breathing, that this fragile little being who I loved more than life itself was already doomed. I know better now. I also know that I'm prone to anxiety and depression, and that I don't want to go that route this time. I know now that there is nothing wrong with formula feeding -- and I know that no one can hurt my feelings if they don't know that. (I challenge them to try, even. I've come a long way.) I've never been a confident person. Ethan gave me that confidence, being a parent gave me that confidence. Some people who knew of my struggles with Ethan have asked if I plan on breastfeeding this next baby. Mostly they're surprised when I say absolutely not. I usually follow this up with some joke how I'll probably be raising the only non-TV watching, non-juice drinking, cloth diapered formula feeder on the planet. I'm well aware some people won't understand and that's okay. They don't have to understand. What needs to happen is a true scenario of healthy mom, healthy baby this go-'round, seeing as I also have Ethan to think of. And I need to be present and here and available for both of my children come August -- because it's them I'm thinking of, not myself.

Recently Ethan and I were part of a very wonderful mommy and me group. We enjoyed our time there because there no one called me "that organic mom" (I'm still not sure what that means) and made not so subtle Facebook statuses about me because I don't let Ethan have juice or watch television. However, it was there that a mother saw Ethan munching on baked kale and fresh fruit and said "wow, look at him eat! You must still be nursing." She meant it as a compliment. She smiled and patted me on the back. The truth is, no, I never nursed Ethan. Not for a single second. But she's right, he's an awesome eater. The kid can put away more greens in five minutes than I have in my life. Maybe it has something to do with the fact he's only exposed to healthy, whole foods, or maybe it's simply because he eats like my husband (and that means anything you put in front of him). It was this same mommy and me group a few weeks later that someone saw the way Ethan is clinging to me -- like he usually does -- and the way we interact with one another. "Can't beat the bond of a nursing mom," smiled the mom in passing. I had to do a double take to make sure she was looking at me. She was. My blood would boil at this point, and when I'd tell my husband about it he'd usually laugh because he just doesn't get it. I see now that he's been right all along. It's funny. I've seen the memes about formula fed toddlers having thin, unhealthy, slow growing hair and I think about it every time we drive to the hair salon for Ethan's haircuts -- he's well over 20 haircuts into his little life, for the record. It's just that, each time I hear how his fine motor skills, vocabulary and the way he talks "well exceed his age level by two years at least," I can finally smile. Because I'm proud of him. I'm proud of us, and the mom that I finally allowed myself to be. I'm proud of the relationship we have, the fulfillment that every single day holds. And I'm proud that I finally see that formula didn't do any of the things to him that the internet promised it would. I haven't done my child a disservice. I've simply been busy being the best mom I can possibly be to him.

And that's exactly what I plan on for this next baby.

As anyone who has had a baby knows, you can't plan everything. Sometimes it feels like you can't plan anything. I'm not giving myself a laundry list of expectations to fail at, promises to break, disappointment to wade in. I'm simply giving myself one goal: to be the best mom I can be. And that's it. And that's all that matters. The health and happiness of my children are all that matters to me. Since the moment in Ethan's infancy that I put him ahead of the idea of what is in his bottle, he's always been my first priority. How you feed your child isn't what makes you a good mother. Being the best mom that you can be, on the other hand, is. And I'm proud to say that the best that I'm giving is the best that I can do. I'm proud of my best.

7 comments:

  1. This was a wonderful post. As first time mom's, I think we all have our challenges and journey's that are clouded with self-doubt. Having others judge our decisions can be extremely painful, but the moment we decide not to care what others think and have confidence in our choices is incredibly empowering. I'm glad you found that moment along the way. <3

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  2. No one knows what is really behind anyone else's situation. I have had friends that chose not to BF from the beginning. I've known mom who desperately wanted to BF but couldn't. Why make someone feel bad about something that is so personal? Being in the "organic/crucnchy/natural" mom crowd in Austin, its a given that I'm BFing my 2 year old still. I was really lucky that it worked out for me. That didn't mean that I planned to do it forever! And it doesn't mean that I look down on formula moms. BF is hard sometimes but so is formula feeding IMO! It is def not the easy way out that it is made out to be. You just keep on doing what you're doing mama and we'll be here to support you!

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  3. I don't understand why women are so judgmental of each other on this subject. Why do you really care what others choose to do? It seems so crazy to me. I was an exclusive pumper and some breastfeeding moms still judged me. Get off your high horses ladies.

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  4. Lindsay @ youaretheroots.comFebruary 27, 2014 at 8:20 PM

    You're so right! People are so consumed with what other people are doing...I can't figure out why!

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  5. Lindsay @ youaretheroots.comFebruary 27, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    Thank you so much, Steph!


    I think a huge part of my problem is, a lot of moms think I'm weird and too crunchy. So I thought it would be nice to find a super crunchy/organic/natural crowd, but I found that they were super judgmental about anything that didn't fit into perfect little labels. And I don't think ANYONE can (or would want to!) be labeled and live up to these ridiculous standards.


    I appreciate your support so much! And you're so right -- it's definitely harder than people think! And costly, and time consuming, and stressful ("when did I make this bottle? Now I have to throw it out, it's been an hour!" "Did I bring the water, the bottles, the formula with me?"). Ooh, goodness, I get more and more nervous for the infant/newborn stage the closer it gets!

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  6. Lindsay @ youaretheroots.comFebruary 27, 2014 at 8:23 PM

    You said it better than I ever could have! You're so right. Not caring what others think has been the most empowering, liberating feeling! <3

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  7. Lindsay @ youaretheroots.comFebruary 27, 2014 at 8:24 PM

    Thanks, Ashley! And all of your kids are so super awesome, so that proves my point! :)


    It's somehow become my weird little goal to remove that stigma. It's so unnecessary! Sometimes I don't think people even realize how unfair the stigma is!

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