A Rant

I’ve been reading the blog A Cup of Jo for many, many years & recently read this post, “Why Formula Feeding Was Best For Us.” Even the title tells you they’re going out of their way to make it as universally appealing and non-offensive as possible! The post goes on to share real stories from people in all walks of life who, at some point in their child’s first year or from the beginning, fed them formula instead of breast milk. As someone who stopped breastfeeding about two months after the birth of my son, I found it interesting to read other people’s stories of how they got to where I am. It was a lovely, informative post.

And then I read the comments.

Why, Brittney. Isn’t don’t read the comments the #1 rule of the Internet?!?!?!

I am angry. And I want answers. Why why why do women tear down other moms– people they DON’T KNOW– for choices that absolutely, 100% will never affect them?! The government isn’t looking out for moms, many employers and male colleagues aren’t looking out for moms. If we don’t support one another and the choices we make for OUR families because NO ONE is a better parent for your child then YOU, who else will!?!? (You can tell I’m hot and bothered by the amount of all caps words I’m typing. I do not apologize.)

The majority of the comments were, “Thank you for this,” followed by stories of their own formula-feeding journeys. A few simply said something like, “But breastfeeding is proven to be best. Stop trying to make formula feeding sound like an equivalent choice when it’s not as good.” I mean, fine. I don’t disagree that breastmilk is awesome for babies. The reason I wanted to breastfeed is because it’s so chock full of everything my baby needs straight from me to him. (Also, I’m cheap. Formula costs more cash money, yo’s! But, if time is money, breastfeeding isn’t exactly free.)

But then there were the comments that REALLY got me all fired up. Comments about “why are you trying to turn lemons into lemonade. You failed/ formula is second rate/ society shouldn’t glorify to parents that choosing formula is ok.” I! Can’t! Even! As a person who “failed” at breastfeeding and is now reading your comment, what is your intention? To make me feel like shit even more than my complex feelings about the situation already do? I highly doubt these same people would comment on a post about conceiving via IVF, “Why are you trying to turn lemons into lemonade? You failed.”

If you’re so concerned that my formula fed kid is going to have a smaller brain than your breastfed one, shouldn’t you be celebrating? Your kid will get a scholarship to Harvard while my little dunce still lives at home, attempting to repeat the 11th grade. (As if Harvard is a marker of success… but I can’t get off track here– I’m too incensed!)

And making lemons into lemonade is kind of, like, life? Not every parent in the original post ever wanted to breastfeed, so they didn’t have “lemons” to begin with. But those, like me, who weren’t able to breastfeed as well as we’d imagined while pregnant, have certainly grieved our lemons, thankyouverymuch. I didn’t look at my screaming child who was hungry but unable to get enough ounces out my boobs and think, “I’ll just go grab some formula and not once look back on this moment with a huge amount of self-flagellation!” Believe me, there were lemons. As humans so often do, I had an experience, I had emotions, I felt them, I processed them, I’ve learned things from it. If that’s what we’re calling lemonade, then come on over, honey, because I’m setting up a stand in the front yard!

If I sound defensive, I absolutely am. I’m defensive as hell against people who look at women in the most upside down/ twisty turvy/ you have no idea what journey I took to get here/ who even am I anymore/ period of their lives as new mothers and decide to tear down the choices they’re making. I don’t disagree with their core belief that breastfeeding is a wonderful option, but I’m disgusted in their conviction to impress these beliefs on people who are just trying to survive this hormonal hellscape while feeding their babies.

I fully plan to try to breastfeed again if we have another child, and I’m confident I’ll be more successful than I was after my first pregnancy. I had NO idea how hard it was going to be on top of a ton of other things I had NO idea how hard they would be. If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason– and you absolutely don’t have to give anyone else your reason– you can bet your ass I won’t be reading any blog comments.

Current Faves

My son is in the babbling, active, “this is so fun!” phase at 5.5 months right before he learns to crawl and upends our lives. Here’s some things that he’s recently been loving and/or have been super helpful as his parent. Again, not affiliate links because I just don’t care.

  • Dr. Brown’s Formula Mixing Pitcher– How you feed your baby is you + their doctor’s business. If it involves formula, I can’t recommend enough this pitcher. It saves so much time to make a bulk batch of food instead of mixing individual bottles, plus you can pour out just a bit at a time for a top off or refill instead of making a whole bottle. At first I was like, “Uhhh can I use a regular pitcher?” Which, you could, but this one has the ounces printed on the side for easy measuring + a special mixer handle that really gets the formula incorporated vs. a giant spoon or whatever you’d have to use if you just pull out the ol’ lemonade pitcher from the cupboard.
  • Jumperoo– Fairly certain I birthed a toddler instead of a cuddly, lazy infant. This kid has been trying to move since day one, so my parents gifted him this apparatus for Christmas, and it’s increasingly been a lifesaver since. The music buttons aren’t overly annoying (and have an off switch if you don’t agree with me!), and there’s 360 degrees of stuff he can put in his mouth, stare at, and spin. What I especially like about the one I linked over other exersaucers is that it’s suspended in the air so he can also fling himself back and forth horizontally instead of only vertically jumping up and down. For an already rough and tumble kid, he’s getting the feeling of being Crash Bandicoot while still safe and snug so I don’t have to be right there engaging with him.
  • Wonder Weeks app- New parents! Your baby develops in mental and sensory leaps, and The Wonder Weeks has all the info about them. I’m notoriously cheap and rarely pay for phone apps, but this is one I reference often and was definitely worth the one time price of $4.99. It’s uncannily spot on with whatever baby is going through at the time. Our sweet, cooing baby turned into a non-stop fuss machine last week, so I pulled out the app and sure enough, he’s smack in the middle of the “Fussy Phase” of his fifth leap. The Wonder Weeks info not only makes me feel like I’m not going insane (other babies around the world go through this phase, too! Put down the wine!) but it also helps my husband and I better relate to what’s changing in baby’s world. The app has suggestions for how you can help engage them in play to develop whatever it is they’re currently learning about the world.

Currently Singing

“Ima Ima Ima fuss boy

ah ah ah ah, ah ah ah

Look at me whine!

ah ah ah ah, ah ah ah

Ima Ima Ima fuss boy”

to the tune of the Weeknd’s “Starboy,” obviously.

We’re in the middle of a very fussy phase during Leap 5. Jim Carrey was wrong– this isn’t the most annoying sound in the world; the constant whine of a child who is perfectly fine yet upset with everything in life is.

Pockets

If you don’t yet have sweatpants with pockets for your postpartum period, get thee to your local store (or, you know, Amazon. But support local!!) A robe with pockets, hoodies with pockets– you’re gonna need a lot of pockets. I have one pair of comfy sweats sans pockets and one with two; I don’t need to tell you which I prefer wearing.

Your hands are going to be full of a baby that 1) you’re terrified of dropping and/or 2) doesn’t have control of their motor functions and is prone to jerking nearly onto the floor. You will need pockets for bottles, pacifiers, your phone, snacks, tissues… all of those supplementary baby things that shouldn’t take priority in your hands over your actual child.

You WILL start to amaze yourself with all the things you can carry at once, and once you get some confidence you might even start stacking things on baby… within reason, of course. An empty water bottle balancing on baby’s chest while you’re carefully carrying them down the stairs isn’t going to hurt anybody. Reminder to not carry hot things and baby at the same time: always set baby down and then go get your coffee cup.

Bounce Back

I was talking with a pregnant friend last night– the Natalie’s are everywhere!!!– and she asked worriedly, “Does everything… you know, go back?” motioning around her stomach.

Ahhh, postpartum body changes. As if the truckload of hormones wasn’t doing enough to your brain, your body is also gonna be shapes for a while. As a white American woman whose had body image issues as long as I’ve been able to form memories, the post-birth body was just another thing adding to my truly WTF mental state the first few months. I’m by no means an outlier with that sentiment, so let’s talk about it.

You will gain more weight during your pregnancy than the approximately 6-9 lbs. your baby will likely come out weighing. A whole bunch of fluids and retained water come out during your hospital stay, too, but it’s unlikely you’re going home at your pre-pregnancy weight. Even if you do– yes, I know an actual human person who was at her pre-pregnancy weight two days after giving birth– your body is not going to look the same. I’ve read to expect that you’ll still look about five months pregnant after birth. Even if you had a snatched as hell body and your weight gain was “all baby!” your uterus has not yet contracted to it’s original size and your skin will take more than a day to not be a home for another person anymore.

You probably won’t care the first few weeks. There’s enough going on getting to know your brand new child that the state of your abdomen hopefully isn’t of much concern. Eventually, though, you might get a decent night’s sleep and take a real shower and find yourself naked in front of the bathroom mirror going, “Yikes. It happens. You’re not alone. If you had more than one baby at once, I have no further advice for you because I was in enough of a mental hell after only having one and being told for the entirety of my third trimester that I didn’t look very pregnant.

I think it was around three months postpartum that we got rid of our bathroom scale (gave it away for free to a rando on Instagram!) I wasn’t weighing myself daily, but whenever I would, the number was higher than I could imagine, and that would dictate my entire mood for the day. “The child has exited! I don’t have time to even eat that much! I’m drinking 1% of the beers I ever did pre-pregnancy! How am I not a lithe poolside nymph?!??!” As a loyal reader of this mind-blowingly insightful blog, you know my numero uno post-birth tip is to communicate with your partner, and I’m proud of myself for using my words and letting my husband in on my brain prison. “Is there a number that won’t make you hate yourself?” TOUCHE, DEAR. Bye bye, scale.

I accidentally packed my smallest pair of jeans on a weekend trip when my son was about 3.5 months old (I thought they were my maternity jeans! There is NO SHAME IN THE WEARING MATERNITY CLOTHES AFTER BIRTH GAME!) and I was shocked I could actually get them zipped. A few weeks later, I found I could wear all of my pre-pregnancy clothes without too much scandal. However, I know (I can just tell!) I’m not at my pre-pregnancy weight, and although the clothes technically fit, they don’t fit the same. Things are … lumpier? The places I gained weight in pregnancy are still squishier than I’d ideally want them to be. I’m not as confident sans clothing than I was before getting knocked up.

Is this because society has told me for three decades that women’s bodies go to hell once they have babies? Because I didn’t “bounce back” right away and have to slowly work at it daily like any other person wanting to change their body size would have to do anyway?

I follow a famous-ish personal trainer on Instagram who is engaged to a Super Bowl-winning quarterback; they just welcomed a daughter. She’s younger than most of the people I know who have recently become moms, and she was petite to begin with PLUS her literal job is to be fit as hell. On one hand, I’m like “get your life, girl” as she’s posting Instagram stories of her in the gym already or poolside with a crop top on. BUT. So many people are complimenting her in the comments about how great she looks just weeks out of the hospital. I feel she’s sending a wildly unnatural (and dangerous? problematic?) message to her younger followers who haven’t yet had children about what they should aspire to postpartum. Not that they can never go in the gym again or look even “better” post-baby, but it’s an unrealistic expectation that only fuels the already tenuous new mom narrative of getting right back into life as it was before baby arrived.

Most doctors won’t even clear you for exercise until six weeks postpartum. Even if you feel great, things are still healing internally. Where your placenta was attached to your uterus is allegedly a wound roughly the size of a dinner plate! In an ideal, not posed-for-Instagram life, I’d appreciate some transparency on what’s morphing it’s way back to her “normal” in her lower stomach area that’s being held up by high-waisted leggings (bless the inventor of those, they truly do suck up and in.)

I wish I had a pretty little thesis to wrap this whole thing up in a bow with, but everyone’s relationship to their own body and the space they take up physically and metaphorically in this world is messy and complex. As much as I tell myself, “OF COURSE your body looks different, you grew and birthed a HUMAN PERSON,” there are days where I’m just mean to myself. As much as I rationally know, “You’re doing a kick ass job and this kid is thriving and you’re taking care of your brain and that’s all so much more important than how your jeans fit,” there are still days where I think my bloated face means I’m a failure. So be kind to yourself. Unfollow people who make you feel certain ways. If you haven’t yet had a baby, please know that your body will change, and try with all your might to have grace for yourself when it does.

Interview with a Dad

My friend’s wife is a Natalie (due next month!) and he’s been tweeting some half-joking-but-probably-also-serious cries for help. My dear husband, who is as private as I am shameless, has agreed to a little interview to share what he’s learned over the past five months. This interview is pretty heteronormative; perhaps interviews with non- married/ straight/ WASP-y/ Midwestern people will come in the future!

What’s your biggest piece of advice for new dads during the birth?

Just be supportive. Be adaptable. A lot can change from when you enter the hospital to when you leave that you can’t control, so roll with the punches.

What’s your favorite thing about being a dad?

Waking up and spending time with him. As of this week, really playing with him. (Mom note: He has gotten so much more interactive! It can be hard to engage when they don’t really smile at you for the first two months, but it’s coming.)

What’s the worst part about having a kid?

Not sleeping. And the fact that most places don’t even have paternity leave. You’re just expected to go to work the next day.

What was your paternity leave situation? Was it enough? What were your thoughts when you went back to work?

One week that my boss made up for me. He said to tell HR I was working from home, if they asked. No, it wasn’t enough– I was too tired to be driving into work! It was weird being away when you’ve been with the baby every day before that.

What’s been the most surprising part about being a father?

Nothing really surprising, just stuff you know is coming but you can’t prepare for & then you’re actually living it. Like, you’re told about all these things, but until you live them you don’t really know what they’re like.

What do you wish you knew before becoming a dad?

I don’t know. I feel like I haven’t found any secrets. <– that means he’s done with this charade. It was good while it lasted, dear. Thank you for your reticent participation.

Advice from Natalie

Natalie had her baby!!!

She’s already paying it forward and sharing words of wisdom to all of our other Natalies who are not-so-patiently gestating their offspring.

“I didn’t know how many people come in & pull down your pants just to check.”

DO THEY EVER!

If you weren’t yet aware, after you give birth, the nurses and doctors will come in quite regularly to push on your stomach (ow.) You’ll think everything inside gushed out when the kid made their exit, but ohhhh buddy is there more! This has a very important purpose– retained pieces of the placenta are no joke and can kill you– and you’ll quickly get used to it. Your postpartum high should keep it from hurting too much.

Aside from the pushing, they’ll likely still be up in your business checking on any tearing and stitching that was done. Even if you don’t want to wear the hospital gown for your whole stay (totally valid; other clothes make you feel a bit more fresh post-birth + HOW DO YOU TIE THOSE THINGS?!??!) this is a reason you might want to opt for a robe/ prettier gown option instead of sweatpants. Oh, and if you can’t pee within about two hours of giving birth, they’ll give you a catheter.

If you have a C-section, people will still be coming in to check on your incision and your uterus will still be expelling… stuff. You aren’t spared the weeks of lochia if your baby is born via Caesarean, unfortunately.

Social Media Parameters for BB

I’m not a very private person (said the woman with a blog about childbirth…) though I had grand plans while pregnant to keep my baby’s stupidly adorable face off the Internet. I aspire to be one of the parents who rarely posts about their kids. One of my high school classmates has had three kids and never once posted a pregnancy announcement– they just kinda show up in her family pics like, “oh, we had another one.” I envy that kind of non-sharing! I’ve loved going through my parents’ collection of old photos to find pictures of me as a kid I’ve never seen before. Will our kids have that?! Or will they just expect that all kids have had their picture taken thousands of times before they’ve even started kindergarten?

My husband calls me a luddite in that I think it’s SO F*CKED how much we rely on technology and how kids’ (and our) brains are warped by social media. For someone who spends a lot of her time and work hours on Instagram, I’m fully terrified of what it’s doing to our society. I cringe when I see birth announcements featuring the baby’s full name, birthdate, weight, etc. Might as well tell everyone their social security number, too! I’m friends with a lot of peripherally work-related acquaintances who don’t need (or probably want) to see my son jammin’ up their Facebook feed. On one hand, I can see him growing up like, “So there’s hundreds of pictures of me online that strangers have had access to?” and on the other, he’ll be like, “Um, duh– it happened to every one of my classmates; that’s totally normal that you wanted to share about me.” Dilemma!!

There are non-Facebook apps that you can have family members download and share photos with that are allegedly more secure (because remember, you don’t actually own any of your own content on your social media feeds! How are we so cavalier about this?!) but my older family members have trouble enough sending a coherent text, let alone downloading a completely separate app with a password they have to remember to log in to occasionally. We decided to have a private Facebook album for family & close friends who are invested in this kid’s life where we do a photo dump of his most adorable moments every couple of weeks. I’ll post a timeline pic of him occasionally so all other parties know he’s still alive (aka my god, Brittney had the cutest kid in the world???) but to my average Facebook friend, there’s not too much baby out there.

Instagram has become another story because apparently I’m the stereotypical Millenial white bitch who loves coffee and her overweight five-month-old. (He’s not fat; he’s sturdy!) The kid is in my stories probably at least once a day, and I feel… fine about that. Turns out, your social media habits pre-kid are probably going to be your habits after they’re here, too. It is absolutely braggadocious for myself and my peers to be putting up pics of our kids on Instagram, but isn’t that why we’re on the platform? I do wrestle with sharing about our joy when I know we have couples in our circle who are experiencing infertility. A person in our community due about a month after me experienced a stillbirth just before 30 weeks and I think of her ALL THE TIME when I’m posting about my baby. I know you shouldn’t edit yourself to accommodate others, but a little sensitivity and self-awareness doesn’t hurt anyone.

The pandemic is one reason I’m more lax about putting my baby online. This parenthood thing can be lonely! Our family members are thrilled any time they get an update about the baby, and it’s much easier to throw it in a Facebook caption to 30 of ’em than send out individual texts (because ohmygod if you’re still replying to group texts in the year of our Lord twenty twenty-one, your phone privileges are revoked forever, GRANDMOTHER.) Including my baby when sharing my mom joys and struggles on Instagram stories has been a true lifeline to a community of support I can’t currently access in person. I’m surprised I didn’t lose hundreds of followers in the first four months when all I did was complain about our lack of sleep. (Apologies, loyal fans. I am a more interesting person than that, I swear.)

If you’re still expecting, make sure you and your partner are on the same page about this stuff. You AB-SO-LUTE-LY will need to have a conversation with your parents and family members about what’s ok to share and what’s not. It is not uncommon to threaten people’s lives if they put information about the birth online before you do. Shut that shit down right now, and if you’re more stringent than me about your baby’s face not going online, you might have to really get tough with those you love. If you’re already a mom and living part of your life online, please join in me not including just the cute milestone moments. Occasionally throw in a selfie after you’ve gotten spit up on. We all know you think you have the cutest kid in the world. I wanna see those postpartum bald spots!!

Resentment

Ooh la la– sharing the first ever image on this here non-mommy blog. I saw this on @expectingandempowered’s Instagram this morning and thought, “How did @psychedmommy get into my head and put my thoughts into a photo?!”

Maybe not all of these will ring true for you in parenthood, but it’s likely many of them will. Resentment towards your partner after the baby comes is inevitable, no matter how much you think you two are the exception. As the birthing person, the baby will need you more. Period. You are biologically hardwired to do more for the baby. Things will come naturally to you– stuff you’ve never once thought of before and didn’t even know were buried in your animal brain– that won’t come as easily to your partner. This will cause resentment.

The baby needing you for food while your partner sleeps soundly will cause a well of anger deeper in your sleep-deprived soul than you ever thought possible. The fact that your partner gets to leave the house unencumbered while you have a maxi pad the size of a canoe between your legs and your boobs are leaking and you don’t know why the baby’s crying but you do know that leaving the house is just not possible will make you seethe with jealousy. I describe it as my husband getting to cut & paste an adorable baby into his normal life while everything in my life changed on the cellular level. This is likely an unfair description, and some day it would be worth getting my husband’s perspective (he felt helpless & unsure of himself & also sleep deprived) but it takes a far more evolved person than me to not get petty as hell about, “How could you possibly have not noticed he needs a new diaper????”

My biggest advice is to communicate. Say it aloud. I absolutely told my husband more than once, “I was up at 4:00 really resenting you.” “I’m feeling very angry at you right now.” He’s allowed to talk back– it is supposed to be a dialogue– but the important thing is getting it out. Feeling resentment, then feeling bad about feeling resentment so keeping it inside and beating up on yourself, is a surefire way to cause more problems down the road for both your relationship and your mental health. This isn’t carte blanche to verbally berate whomever is helping you out with baby, but your feelings are valid and putting them out in the open takes away a lot of the weight immediately.

Your partner will eventually say something innocent like, “I’m so tired.” It is at this point you will weigh the pros and cons of committing first degree murder. You will wonder how someone could be so shockingly insensitive as to say to you, the NEW MOTHER, the MOST TIRED PERSON EVER, that they’re short on sleep. Try to be a decent human being in this moment. You being tired doesn’t negate your partner’s tiredness. It’s not a contest. It’s not fair to expect your partner to not also be open about what they’re going through (lack of sleep, stress of the baby, wanting to connect as a couple) because it might set you off into a “well I’m the most tired” rage. That’s not a cute look.

Beware of becoming a martyr. When you are doing the most– because you are, and it’s hard not to notice– don’t take on even more things because “well I’m doing it all anyway and he’s a piece of shit and if I continue to not ask for help I will eventually have a laundry list of things to throw back at him.” Believe me, that vindication feels good! It feels great to demand to be seen for all you have sacrificed. But what feels even better is asking for help and acknowledging when you feel put upon instead of one day boiling over from burnout. Remember, everyone involved is feeling fragile and no one is at their best. One day you’ll look back on The Cottage Cheese Incident as a fun marital story to laugh about even though you went to bed not talking to each other that night. (How in the F*CK was I supposed to know the seal on the cottage cheese was broken when I bought it and what the HELL do you want me to do about it now?!)