There has been a heated discussion on my Mamas email group lately. People are totally fired up about local hospitals and the "formual goody bags" they send home with new moms. Apparently, Mercy hospital downtown is trying to achieve a Baby Friendly hospital status.
I am ashamed to say I have never heard of this before. But, upon reading this argument, I remembered something:
One day, I opened my front door to see a cardboard box from Enfamil on the porch. It contained a canister of formula in a gold wrapper, with happy rabbits on the can. I remember feeling rage upon seeing that canister, and I remember immediately blaming my mother for its being there. You see, she had given my name and mailing address to the store when she bought me maternity pants. I had been getting coupons for Huggies and Playtex bottles ever since.
I angrily took the formula inside, where its presence seemed to whisper, "Just in case your body isn't enough, I am here." It taunted me. I hated it. I vowed to take it to a women's shelter because I couldn't bear to throw it in the garbage can.
But I had a newborn! Who the hell can manage a trip to deliver unwanted formula to a women's shelter with a newborn? It gathered dust on top of the fridge.
Then, as it turned out, I did need that can. One horrible day when I had not slept for weeks and Miles and screamed without stopping for weeks, I got not one drop of milk from my breasts when I tried to pump. Not one drop. I pumped and cried and screamed for hours. I nearly bled. Not one drop. And all the while, Miles screamed.
Corey eventually wrenched him from my arms, prepared a bottle of formula, and I crumpled on the floor sobbing while my baby happily drank food that did not come from my body.
Do I believe Enfamil caused the unfriendly cycle of sleep deprivation and milk supply issues and Miles' strange eating habits? No. Is it possible that the presence of that can of formula in my house was just one more voice in a chorus pressuring me and making breastfeeding a challenge? Yes. Definitely yes.
I still get coupons in the mail from Enfamil. When I read the email messages, I thought that I wasn't able to comment, since I had been given no formula goody bag when I left the hospital. I had only seen lactation consultants and had good, nursing friendly advice. But then I looked at the coupons. My last name on the coupon is smooshed together, all one word. No space, no hyphen. The only people who do that are the folks within the UPMC system.
It seems Magee had indeed given me a goody bag of formula. When I figured that out, I became unspeakably angry. How could the same institution provide the midwives who gave me such support through my birth trauma and then mail formula to my house?
The circumstances surrounding my birth filled me with feelings of failure, with ideas that my body had failed to deliver Miles, and this affected every single moment of my early mothering. Including my breastfeeding experience. When that "failed" to be enough, too, I was in a bad place mentally.
To realize now that my healthcare system played a part of that, that they sent formula to me "just in case I need it," that makes me feel very vigilante-like. It makes me want to find out the addresses of all new mothers in town, go to their houses, and kick the cans of formula out of the hands of the mail carriers (unless, of course, those mothers have ordered those cans on purpose).
Suddenly, I am much more interested in Baby Friendly hospitals and in their mission. I never, ever realized that wanting to deliver a baby through my vagina without medicine and then feed the baby breastmilk made me such a political activist. But it does. You have to fight to be able to do those things. You have to fight long after you have had your baby if you want other women to be able to do those things.
Let me tell you, women and their uteri and offspring are viewed as great big dollar signs. I wish I had realized that sooner. I feel like I was mentally preparing for all the wrong battles before I entered this crazy phase of my life. What I wish more than anything is that I can help younger women know their options, know what their choices are, so they can be better prepared. We should be allowed to make natural choices!
Keep your formula in the stores. When I need it, I will come and buy it. That is all.