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.