My Last Words on the Subject

I had my first bloggy “incident” last night. But it really can’t be called that seeing as what really happened was: my friend Doodaddy posted something that hurt my feelings, I reacted like a girl, he asked me what was wrong, I told him, he apologized privately and realized I took what he said completely out of context, he changed his post, and made a very sweet public apology. With respect to both of our spouses, we pretty much acted like any old married couple working out an argument. Except it was on the internet. Weird, yo.

But that really isn’t the point of this post, except to say that I still think Doodaddy is the coolest, in fact, even more so, especially when he can overlook my Web PMS.

What I really want to talk about was the Boobfest that is going on around the blogosphere. I sat for a long time last night and thought about what had stuck a nerve so badly about Doodaddy’s original comment, and why all the posts EVERYWHERE right now are bothering me. And when I say bothering me, I mean, literally HURTING MY FEELINGS.

And I realized it has nothing to do with what people are saying now, it has to do with what happened 5 years ago in a small NICU where Declan was fighting for his life. I touched on it a bit in my original post on the subject, both here on this blog, and also on Mile High Mamas – because Amber wanted to take my tongue-lashing to the next level (just kidding, Amber!)… But I also realized I have never really given the full scope of our experience in the NICU.

Declan was born at 32 weeks via and emergency c-section. We very nearly lost him. My doc got me under general anesthesia at 6:40 pm and Declan was born at 6:41pm. She literally saved his life.

But that is when the fight began.

He stayed in the NICU for 6 long weeks. I was fortunate enough to have enough leave to be off work the entire time plus his first weeks home (and Bryan started his tenure as a stay at home dad as of 6:41pm that night). They were frightening weeks. They were chaotic weeks. They were filled with uncertainty. Every day was filled with a new challenge.

Declan was on a ventilator for 6 days, then a C-PAP for several weeks, then a canula till right before he came home.

But his main problem was that he could not figure out how to suck, swallow and breathe at the same time. Apparently this a complicated neurological function that most babies “learn” right before they are born. And what happens when a baby doesn’t know how to do this is they suck suck suck their food and it all clogs up in their throat, and their vagal nerve, located in our chests, throws off an alarm because nothing is being swallowed… and basically their little systems completely shutdown. Meaning their heart slows dramatically and they stop breathing, alarms blazing all over the NICU. This phenomenon is called bradycardia, or “bradys.”

Declan got to a point where he was bradying many times a day. There was one night when the nurses didn’t get to us quick enough and Declan was turning blue, and I performed CPR on him.

Yes, I had to perform CPR on my 4 pound premature son in the middle of a NICU with alarms screaming around my head, and I thought we were going to lose him. Again.

But we didn’t; that kid is one hell of a fighter. And finally, the NICU brought in an occupational therapist to help us with the feeding and he learned to eat. And the bradys stopped.

But, why I am telling you all this in the middle of a supposed breastfeeding post?

Trying to explain my mindset as the lactation consultants would come in day after day and extol the virtues of breastfeeding. “Yes! Yes! I’m totally on board!” I said the first day. I REALLY wanted to.

But since my son was on a ventilator, I had to pump at first. And pump I did. As I mentioned in my original post, these were my pre-breast reduction boobs. El Giganto Boobs. And in my case, it followed suit that those bad boys were obviously made for making milk. And make milk I did.

But when Declan was ready, the lactation ladies came back. Ostensibly to help me. But, if I am being honest, it was really an all-out propaganda barrage that included high pressure tactics any used car salesman would be proud of. And I wanted to breastfeed!

And, imagine the scene, the crazy-ass NICU… twenty-some families buzzing around, nurses, doctors and the only thing separating them and my gigantic breasts was an L-shaped divider on wheels. And this lady, with very cold hands I might add, literally grabs my boob and shoves it in Declan’s mouth. No warning. No “may I touch your breast?” She basically saw my boob as Declan’s bottle and thus fair game to push and pull like silly putty.

And because Declan was so little and I was so big, not to mention his whole suck swallow breathe problem – the attempts at breastfeeding went on and on. There was one evening session where the divider thingee was unavailable and the lactation lady looked at me like I was in league with Hitler when I was hesitant to just rip off my shirt right then and there. There was another time when the consultant moved the divider out of her way while I was feeding Declan so she could get a better view and as I looked up – oh, hello! – there was the dad of the baby next to us. (That baby, by the way, is now in Declan’s Kindergarten class and I see his father every morning at drop off. I am hoping that he forgot he has seen my boobs.)

OK. So obviously I had a really bad experience. And eventually, with the bradycardia, we had to bail on direct breastfeeding entirely and feed him expressed milk in a bottle.

But as I shared my experience with friends, I discovered I was not the only one. The pressure to breastfeed can be INSANE and the tactics are sometimes, um, not very cool. Yes, I get it. It’s all about what’s best for the baby. But what about what’s best for the FAMILY?

And I think THAT is what is at the heart of what is bugging me so much about the Boobfest around the Net right now. The “in your face-ness” of it. I click on a blog and I see breasts flashing and I read vitriol, and I am really turned off.

What’s hard for me is that so many of you are truly, deeply, very good friends of mine. And I would NEVER tell you what you can and can’t do on your blogs. So, I am going to put down my mouse and cry uncle. When I don’t comment on these types of posts, it’s not that I don’t like you or even agree on various aspects of the argument, I am just claiming the Fifth. Some may call me jealous because I never had that connection, and it’s probably true. Some may call me bitter because of my experience, and that’s probably true as well.

But, I *still* don’t really want to see your boobs while I am eating dinner.

This article has 33 comments

  1. mothergoosemouse

    I know you went through a terribly tough time – not just those early weeks, but much longer than that.

    I hate the idea that anyone would give you – or anyone else in a similar position – any garbage about feeding choices.

    I don’t think of breastfeeding as a do-or-die proposition. I think there’s a great deal to recommend it – not just in terms of nutrition, but convenience and expense – but it’s not always a feasible choice.

    I come at this debate from the perspective of one who is still trying to shake off her own mother’s prejudices against breastfeeding. I’m trying to keep my own girls from absorbing such inhibitions about their bodies and how and why they function as they do.

    And I also come at this debate from the perspective of one who has had two c-sections, with a third on the way, and who would have had a medicated vaginal birth if my body would have cooperated. I’ve felt the same judgment – leveled by others and by me on myself – that I didn’t do the VERY BEST THING for my babies.

    Sometimes we just do what we gotta do.

  2. Sue at nobaddays

    Huge hugs, Aimee. No one should have to struggle as hard as you three did in the beginning. And I remember the frustration of sitting in the very-open, scary NICU (my own hormones crashing) trying to figure out how to get a sleepy almost-preemie to latch on. I got off light, and was able to breastfeed eventually with a lot of help. And as you say, that help isn’t always helpful. So I understand a tiny bit.

  3. monstergirlee

    Breastfeeding or not breastfeeding is not something you can deal with in absolute terms. And I think that is some of where it gets its good and sometimes bad reputation.
    I loved bfing both of my children, and had a pretty easy time of it. But I knew and know that is not the rule. It breaks my heart when people have such a bad time with the lactation consultants that are supposed to be “helping”, but really they can be awful!

    I’m sorry you had such a bad time Aimee, and obviously it still strikes a chord within you. But you know what? Declan is happy and healthy and bright and smart and has two parents who I don’t think could love him any less.

    Atta girl Aimee!

    And no, I don’t really want to see boobies while I’m having dinner either.

  4. monstergirlee

    oh FUCK! I meant to say Love him any more! Not love him less. cripes I feel like an idiot.
    Sorry Aimee. I can’t seem to edit after I’ve posted.

  5. Two Shews

    Thanks for your honest, if not-as-popular opinion. I agree that breastfeeding SHOULD be discreet, but then when you actually put that in print somewhere, we have to agree on what discreet means and that gets to be such a mess.

    I hate that the Nipple Nazis did that to you, especially during such a hard time. I never did understand what the point was of diminishing a mom’s feelings in the name of breastfeeding.

  6. mayberry

    Understood, and so very understandable! You guys had such a rough start — of course that is going to have repercussions.

    I’ll be covering up the boobs on my site as soon as I have time to write a new post 😉

  7. Sizzle

    that’s quite a start of life story for your dead declan- and you and your hubs. wow!

    as i am not a parent and have not breastfed, i feel somewhat removed from this debate. i don’t much mind witnessing breastfeeding in public but that’s probably because i lived in very liberal santa cruz for so long and was surrounded by breastfeeding everywhere.

  8. aimee / greeblemonkey

    Thank you all for your thoughtful, interesting, personal, and supportive comments.

    And Charlotte, I totally knew what you meant… just like I know that Sizzle means “dear” – not “dead” Declan.

    You all are very awesome.

  9. Joanne (That Blue Girl)

    OH MY GOODNESS! I can’t agree with you more. Don’t get me wrong, I am pro breastfeeding and occasionally I’ll post something related on my blog but I don’t like the Nazi style campaigns I’m seeing all over the place. I am a member of a fertility message board which I rarely go to anymore because I noticed too many women had this holier than thou attitude about breastfeeding, cloth diapers, co sleeping and babywearing and it seemed to pressure other women/mothers into thinking they HAD to do the same thing. There was a member of a breastfeeding support group who actually left the group because said group were criticizing her for having difficulties nursing her child and having to supplement with formula. Get over yourselves!

    Anyway, great post. Glad your son is doing well now!

  10. Meghann

    I guess having a preemie never really quite leaves us, does it? Out of my 2 preemies, only one could breastfeed. The earlier one that wasn’t supposed to be able to, ironically enough. And the one that couldn’t, I pumped for only 6 weeks before I gave up in tears.

    I sit here wondering where the middle ground is. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and on either side I felt judged.

    So I don’t have any magic words to make it all better, but I promise that I won’t flash you. Me and Hannah are discreet nursing ninjas, yo.

  11. painted maypole

    avoid my latest post. 😉 there are no boobs on display, but I do talk about breastfeeding. I think it is good that we have people who honor breastfeeding, who advocate for it, and help us to do it. But they can be incredibly pushy and insensitive, and I’m sorry that those are the people you encountered at a time that was already very difficult. Most people do what is best for their baby, and that is what you did. There is no shame in that at all, and I hope that no one who reads my post feels that way. It’s a fine line to walk, I find, because, as you said, if it is possible for the mother and baby, breastfeeding provides the best benefits for the baby (as well as the mommy) But sometimes it just doesn’t work. And thank God for the advances we have made that allow mothers to feed their babies a very healthy option in another way.

  12. Sandra

    Thanks for writing this Aimee. Sincerely.

    I wrote in support of the breast fest because I agreed with their position that a breast feeding mother should have the right to feed where they want to. BUT I don’t agree with anyone purporting that Breast is Best or that bottle fed babies aren’t getting the best.

    I wrote a post at BlogHers Act Canada today from the perspective that we should invest our energies just as enthusiastically in fighting for the rights of bottle fed babies too.

    I am sorry you had such a tough time. I can understand why you feel the way you do about the boobs all over the blogosphere.

  13. tiffany

    Cyber hugs to you, Aimee. I’m so sorry for what you went through. My goodness, it was PLENTY without the Nipple Nazis pushing their agenda on you.

    I pumped for my firsborn (who wouldn’t latch on) for more than six months to try and prove to….whoever that I was a good mother. Ha! I wish I had those days back or a chance to talk to my young-mother self and hug her and tell her that breastfeeding (or not breasfeeding) would never be what defines me or my relationship with my kids.

    I think it’s important to speak up as you did. You represent many!

  14. MB

    I, too, experienced lots of judgment from those lactation people…and I really, really tried to breastfeed, too. It was at the point when I screamed “THERE IS NO BONDING HAPPENING HERE!” that I stopped trying and consequently experienced lots of shame and guilt over not being able to do it! So I get ya, girl. I totally get ya.

    And I kind of DO want to see boobies while I’m eating dinner. 🙂 Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  15. JennyMoose

    I think it is no coincidence that Declan is such a strong, loving and intelligent young man to be. He clearly gets it from his Mommy! Don’t let the boob Nazis boss you around! Our bodies are to be treasured and respected. This post brought tears to my eyes, Aimee. I plan to try to bf our first, due in May :-), but if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Love comes out of the heart, not the milk ducts!

  16. Kelly O

    I get what you’re saying. It’s like breastfeeding is your first test as a mother, so if it doesn’t work out an insecure mother can end up both resenting her kid and feeling like a failure. (I’m talking about myself here, not that anyone else would be so insecure.) Not a fun place to be.

    A friend of mine has a kid with frequent bradys. (Not so frequent anymore, thank blog.) I totally feel for you, and even though I know your son is fine, I’m still weepy for you.

    … Hey, maybe it’s PMS and we’re cycling together!

  17. aimee / greeblemonkey

    No way, Jenny!!!!!!! I am so excited!!!!!!!!!! Many congrats!

    And more thanks for the further supportive comments. I too loved Tiffany’s comment.

    And also wanted to clarify that I don’t think all the blog posts out there that friends are writing are vitriol, and I appreciate you guys coming here and supporting me even when you have a (slightly) differing opinion.

    And Allison, hugs babe. I usually think I am past the trauma and then it washes back over me like a wave.

  18. Jenn

    big hugs – and a smack up the head for glaring lactation consultants. this can never be a black and white kind of thing, only what works for each family at that time.

  19. Alpha DogMa

    Oh, I hear ya, Aimee!

    I hate dogma. Well, not myself. I freakin’ love myself!

    But I hate the LLL dogma of Breast is Best because it takes away the idea of personal choice for personal reasons for every person. It has created an atmosphere of judgment that is applied to all women who bottlefeed regardless of reasoning. And it makes me fucking mad.

    I breastfed my first. I did not breastfeed the second. I made an informed choice based upon my experience with the first child. I don’t regret it. Not for even one second. I’ve done it both ways and if we were to have another, I would again bottle from Day 1.

    Tiffany’s statement “that breastfeeding (or not breasfeeding) would never be what defines me or my relationship with my kids” is fantastic.

  20. Super Sarah

    You have articulated something that has been bothering me a lot lately what with the great faceboob saga and everyone having an opinion on breastfeeding in public. It upsets me that so many people are coming down on the militant side of breast-is-best and not remembering that sometimes there are jolly good reasons why someone can’t breastfeed and these mums should be afforded the same measure of respect as those of us who could. I don’t know, I haven’t weighed in with an opinion because it makes me feel all fuzzy headed!

    All that aside, I love your blog, I too am so enjoying all the new blogs I have found through NaBloPoMo! Your photos are inspiring me, I am just starting to take on some family portraits over the coming weeks and am feeling very nervous!

  21. soccer mom in denial

    I’ll be honest friend, I couldn’t read everything in this post. Your descriptions of the NICU were too real and have already given me a lump in my throat.

    I do hate that we have this shared memory. I would give anything to not have been in a NICU with sick twins.

    I’ve basically ignored this breastfeeding “thing” going around. Funny since I nursed all three kids and have a La Lache League leader as a mom (no joke, an original. Please feel bad for me now).

    I just wish it could stay a personal choice. And we all support each other in whatever choice(s) we make.

  22. Trish

    Why are there still women like that working as lactation consultants? If they were taxation consultants or financial advisers or something they’d have been hauled up to some kind of Ethics Committee to be severely cautioned. There should be some kind of regulatory authority holding all of these women accountable. Mothers who are subjected to these kind of outrageous, humiliating methods should be able to lodge a complaint, and expectant mothers should be able to request a lactation consultant with a good record. Sure, you can see my nipples but can I see your references?

    Aimee, I’m really sorry that this was your experience.

  23. Nadine

    OMG, what a story Aimee. I am sorry you had to go through all that and happy that Declan survived and is such the gorgeous little boy he is!

    I think the pressure you describe is insane. I respect you for staying calm when that woman grabbed your breast!

  24. Nadine

    And you don’t want to see my boobs? I am so disappointed.

  25. Lisa

    It’s hard to have an opinion about these things since I’m not a mother, and haven’t been around anyone who breastfed in public for years. But. I’m glad you sorted out your differences. 😀

  26. nutmeg

    Forgive me for my boob post, but it wasn’t about breastfeeding!

    This post made me both cry and laugh out loud. I too had a right wing boob commie grab my mini-breast in an attempt to improve latch-on and it was weird!

    I think you’ve touched upon something I feel strongly about too – there is no right or wrong in parenting. (Well, putting babies in microwaves is clearly wrong.) There’s what works for your child, yourself, your family, and nobody should be handing out judgments until they’ve actually paced in your Hush Puppies.

    My hat is off to you as my heart goes out to you.

  27. nutmeg

    Oh, and can I say that Sizzle’s post nearly gave me a freaking heart attack and how perfectly you handled that?

  28. sue

    I hear you loud and clear.
    I wanted to breast feed, but my first was a 2 mo early premie that got sent to another hospital and I didn’t have contact for a week, and the next two for various reasons either wouldn’t suck or couldn’t get the hang of it. I had problems. I had issues. I had frustration to the point I finally said, you know? This isn’t good for me or the babies. The last one I didn’t even try. They are all grown now and every one of them is wonderful. (yeah, I’m a bit biased)

    Everyone can make up their own mind. That’s their choice. Me? I don’t care if you do or don’t, but I’m not crazy about it being all in MY face either. Discretion is a wonderful thing.

  29. aimee / greeblemonkey

    Meg… “Well, putting babies in microwaves is clearly wrong.”

    My new mantra.

  30. carrie

    That was so well said Aimee.

    I am right there with ya – and I did breastfeed too, without any problems.

    You said Declan was a fighter (and I mean that in a good way) from the beginning, you taught him well, sister.

  31. Christina

    Trying to catch up on my blog reading, so forgive me being late to the post…

    I’m sorry you had such an awful experience with breastfeeding. Those lactation consultants should be ashamed of themselves for treating you that way.

    With my first, the nurses were practically throwing formula at me, and after our third day in the hospital, when Cordy’s blood sugar dropped too low, they forced me to give her a bottle. Breastfeeding was a total loss after that.

    With Mira, though – we made it work, and it’s going great.

    I supported the breast fest entirely because I am so proud of my body for being able to breastfeed this time around. It meant a lot for me to succeed this time. I would never want to make someone feel bad for their choice – after all, I fed my first daughter almost entirely formula, and I had to endure a lot of criticism for it.

    Sadly, it doesn’t matter what choices we make when it comes to feeding our children. If we don’t breastfeed, someone will criticize that we’re not doing the best for our kids. If we do breastfeed, someone will criticize that we’re offending them. Like many other issues, mothers can’t win either way.

    I’m still upset from reading your description of how they treated you in the NICU. I’m planning to train as a lactation consultant in the future, and you can bet I’ll keep your story in my mind to remind me to help each mom do what’s best for them.

  32. J at

    Way too many comments here, but I’m going to jump in and tell you that while I breastfed my child, the pressure around this subject is indeed insane. I think it’s especially hard on folks like you, who wanted it so badly, but it’s also hard on those who choose not to breastfeed. Some of the same people who say, “U.S. out of my uterus” and that it’s a woman’s choice whether to give birth or have an abortion, will get all up in arms if a woman chooses not to breastfeed. Isn’t that still her body?

    I didn’t really realise the pressure around this issue until my best friend’s son got an ear infection. He was 4 or 5 months old, and we were talking on the phone. I was telling her that my daughter didn’t get her first ear infection until she was more like 8 or 9 months old, and then I had a brain fart and was trying to find the words to say, “But she was older by the time winter came around, since she was born in March, while your son was born in August”, and she thought I was trying to get out of what she thought I had started to say, which was that I had breastfed, and therefore my daughter was immune from ear infections while on breastmilk. No, I told her, as a matter of fact, she got back to back to back ear infections while I was still breastfeeding her. Don’t believe all of the hype about it being a be all and end all, and if it’s not the right answer for you, your family, or your child, NO GUILT.

    Sorry for the ubercomment, which you may never read because this is an older post, but the subject gets me angry, too.

  33. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    I appreciate you guys commenting, even after the fact, or whatever you want to call it, when you come back to old posts. 🙂

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