¿En serio?, I thought, as I vaguely heard the din coming from the Tube. The latest episode of the Big Boob Debate pits Michelle (with two L’s) against Michele (with one “L”)–the Democratic first lady and Republican Minnesota Congresswoman. Seriously? Is breast feeding as black and white as these latest faces fronting the breast feeding V. formula sides?
Of course, I assumed I would exclusively breast feed Baby L. I am a healthy, active woman whose own Mami breast fed her children. My extensive reading had prepared me for everything:
- the sharp pains felt when Baby L. first latched on: Ready.
- the nutritional value of colostrum: Check.
- the tighter bond that would be cemented between us: Awesome.
- torching through calorías to help me lose lbs’s: Bonus.
- i-Pad app to help me track in color-coded glory her progress. Downloaded.
Then la realidad. In part because I had to have a c-section. Baby L was in breach position (we like to say our little miracle came to the world “standing at attention”), making my milk slow to come in.
And wasn’t Baby L supposed to latch on with no problem?
The show had begun: No time to feel like a failure. Baby L had lost weight at the hospital. Solution: Formula so that my baby wouldn’t starve, and a “lactation consultant.” And to get whatever breast milk she could, I became a “pump-a-holic”.
¡Move over Madonna circa Blond Ambition World Tour! I had the strapless bra with the cones. Baby’s L’s white noise was the pump’s eek-eek-eek that hummed throughout El Condo at all hours. ¡Virgen Santísima!, marveled Mami, noting these devices didn’t exist when we were born.
My home had become a pressure cooker: the weekly calls from the lactation sadist, I mean consultant:
“Are you trying hard enough?”, the Marquesa de Sade soothingly asked.
Lil Sis’: “Umm. I’m chained to that hospital-grade pump all day!”
I could hear her rapping the desk with her ballpoint pen: “If you rely too much on formula, your body might not produce. Are you yielding milliliters or ounces?
Maybe the decimal system will produce a better number for my droplets, I wondered, as a stray tear splattered onto a Madonna cone. “Listen lady,” I tightly whispered. “Bless your heart. I know you’re doing your job. But I think feeling awful for supplementing my baby with formula, when we all know it’s OK, isn’t conducive to making me flow like the Iguazú.”
Mami resolved to melt through my lactation freeze with her home cooking: “Mijita, ten fé en tu madre que para algo he estado sobre la tierra tantos anos.” “Yes, I know you’ve walked this earth FOREVER, but none of these foods are medically proven to stimulate breast milk,” I wearily offered.
Before long our kitchen was filled with oatmeal, pecans, and apricots. I sprinkled parsley in everything. Our fridge was stocked with beer and malt (non-alcoholic)!
Then the skies parted. I’m not sure what happened, how, or why, but one morning, I woke up and realized, I was the boob. I decided to stage exit left from this show.
I now watched Baby L latch on and it no longer felt stressful to me.
I started to produce more milk, maybe helped by Mami’s culinary hocus-pocus.
I became confident: I thanked the Marquesa de Sade and informed her I would no longer need her help.
I dropped off the pump at the hospital.
To all the mamis out there, including the Michel(l)e’s, our reality wasn’t black and white. We chose the gray area: Breastfeeding and formula is our combinación perfecta. Find the perfection combination for you.