Breast v. Bottle

Guys! I can’t physically breastfeed so PLEASE, for the love of all things sacred, stop asking me about it!

Ever since I found out I’m pregnant — I joined a new club — the “mom-to-be” club. I’ve waited years to gain entrée into this one and am elated to finally be here! As I suspected, people crawl out of the woodwork to offer support, guidance and helpful tips. It’s incredible!

Most notably, however, is the ease with which people talk at you about breastfeeding. The conversation always starts from the assumption that you’ll be breastfeeding.  For the oodles of women out there who choose not to breastfeed for their own personal reasons, this is a terribly invasive and rude conversation.

For me, it’s just a kick in the gut.

Obviously perfect strangers that I meet now have no idea I had cancer.  All they know is that I have weird, short hair (what can I say? I’m in that awkward grow out stage right now!)

20140902-124635-45995478.jpg and I’m having a baby. Great! inevitably, the requisite baby small-talk commences: “OMG, congrats! Your bump is so cute! When are you due? Is it a boy or girl? How are you feeling?” Then comes the breastfeeding convo: “Are you going to breastfeed? It’s a total bitch – hands down, it’s the hardest thing about being a mom. Natural Resources, which is in your neighborhood, offers great classes on breastfeeding — they’re worth the money.”

Since they’re strangers, I politely explain to them that I can’t breastfeed because I had a bi-lateral mastectomy.  I give my 2 minute cancer bio and that usually quiets the conversation. Only the most special people like to return to the topic 5 minutes later. It’s usually in the form of “Well, since you’re not breastfeeding, your boobs are going to KILL after the milk comes in and you have to let them dry up.”  Ummmm, no they won’t. I’m not sure how many ways I can tell you this — but while my breasts are anatomically stunning (!) and easy on the eyes, they’re 100% silicone.

It’s shocking to me how many people who are fully aware that I had breast cancer and a bi-lateral mastectomy STILL mention nursing to me! OH EM GEE, for real? This includes family members and fellow BAYS (my breast cancer support group) friends.  As for my BAYS ladies, there are many paths to treatment for cancer. Some of my BAYS friends had lumpectomies, or single mastectomies and the possibility of breastfeeding still exists for them. Some breastfed their children before being diagnosed, so they don’t stop to think about having a baby post DX. But still, I expect more from this group of people.

Now that I’m showing, these conversations happen pretty frequently. I’ve heard a lot of silly things come out of people’s mouths. But this next one is by far my favorite: “There’s so much pressure to breastfeed, it’s like you’re a monster if you don’t want to do it — you’re so lucky, at least you don’t have to choose whether or not to do it — the decision’s been made for you — AND nobody can give you grief about it because you don’t have boobs” WTF? That one is up there with my favorite breast cancer insult “Well, at least you got the easy cancer.” Not comforting people, not comforting.

Here are my conclusions:

1. People are so damned excited about a brand new life entering the world, they get amnesia about any and all sickness you had in the past.  Essentially, babies are blinding! (This helps me explain away close friends and even family members who talk to me about breastfeeding.)

and

2. People don’t really understand what a bi-lateral mastectomy entails. Little refresher for you – all of your breast tissue is removed in surgery. You are left with skin, pectoral muscle, anatomically shaped implants and rib cage. In that order. I assure you, there’s no breast tissue. No milk ducts. Nope, no possibility of milk comin’ outta there.

In all, it just sort of sucks to be reminded so frequently that I had breast cancer because it makes me think about the limitations I’ll face after giving birth. It makes me sad that I don’t have a choice in whether or not I nurse our baby. I’m also really sad that my chest is still pretty numb, the skin on my chest is cool to the touch (silicone implants aren’t a great heat conductor) and my implants are pretty hard. I wish I could give our daughter a nice warm, squishy landing pad to snuggle up to (and that I’d be able to physically feel her laying on my chest). But I can’t, and that’s sad to me.

If there’s one lesson I want you to take away with you from this post, it’s this: the breast v bottle conversation is as taboo as asking someone who they’re going to vote for. It’s really not your business, so please don’t go there.

 

 

 

 

14 thoughts on “Breast v. Bottle

  1. People really do say some awkward, if not down right rude, things. I’m sorry you have to be made to feel uncomfortable during what should be a very exciting time. For some reason people are obsessed with asking about breast feeding. I still get asked on occasion if I breastfed the twins, and they are 8. I got asked constantly right after their birth. The truth is enough milk did not come to feed them both and I could not breast feed for long. I used to explain that to people but got tired of hearing that I could I have done so many other things before “giving up.” I also still get the “are they natural” question all the time as if that is an acceptable thing to ask someone. People are nosy, but I like to think they are just curious and do not mean to be hurtful. I am thrilled for you, and please know that I think your hair is adorable and you look as gorgeous as ever. XO

  2. Hey Andrea! My name is Cameron Von St. James and I had a quick question for you about raising awareness for cancer! I was wondering if you could email me at your earliest convenience at cvonstjames AT gmail DOT com 🙂 I greatly appreciate your time!!

  3. Andrea – this is a great post..As someone who did not breast feed my daughter, I went through the look of disapproval from people ,the pressure from various groups (including delivery nurses), and the like. Its a personal decision and there are many reasons why people decide one way or another..I am sorry that decision was taken away from you,but wish you all the best!

  4. I’m in the thick of the “When are you going to have kids?” interrogation, which I’m sure you can relate to. How about, “When did it become ok for people to ask these kinds of questions?” — what I do with my boobs and my uterus is completely my business (and the business of the US Government, am I right? Ok, let’s not go there.)

    And on that note, a little fun for you and your adorable bump: http://www.theonion.com/articles/new-study-finds-link-between-breastfeeding-always,36823/

    😉

  5. Both my children are adopted and, though some adoptive moms attempt breastfeeding (with supplementation), I didn’t. Neither of my kids have horrible allergies. Both of them seem developmentally on par. We still snuggled skin to skin even though the grown up was holding a bottle. In other words, they’re fine. Breastfeeding is certainly convenient (I thought this especially on our first camping trip with Jeremiah) but its not the be all and end all. In the end, all children are weaned and then – guess what?! – still your kids for a long long time. People are going to tell you all sorts of things (you can imagine the things I’ve heard – Caucasian woman with two Asian babies and – what no one can see – herself an adoptee) – your only obligation to trust yourself and enjoy your child. Both of you will figure it out just fine!

  6. Boobs are just the ice breaker! What about how did you conceive? Did you deliver “naturally”? Some questions are just sweet curiosity and others are surrounded by judgment. Even when you have children it goes on “you let your old way sugar”. “You use a Plastic bottle”? I just tried to stay true to myself. And through the guilt, realize that love it really what matters. Everything above and beyond is gravy. You daughter is going to have a charmed life. Enjoy!

  7. As a person who chose to have breast reduction surgery when I was 20, completely ignorant of the guilting/ shaming I was setting myself up for in the future, I can relate to the rude, insensitive comments and downright hurtful way people assume that if you don’t breast feed for two years you are some sort of monster. For me, the most liberating moment was the day I quit trying and made a conscience decision to aknowledge the fact that entire generations of Americans were raised on formula, amongst those Nobel prize winning laureates and could enjoy raising my baby without the pressure, self hate and frustration. Not saying you are lucky to have avoided any of that, just saying, many times in parenthood you will have that feeling. Why didn’t I apply to THAT awesome private school? Why did I not teach my infant how to read?? 😉 etc. The best advice I have is to look people square in the face and say thanks for the advice and not even let anything you don’t want to hear under your skin. Once you have the baby, random strangers will tell you he/she is cold, hungry, what have you. YOU, the mother, know best. (Insert F*word Here) everyone else! You are going to be an AMAZING mom. Can’t wait to witness it all. Your hair is sooooo pretty!!! Xo

  8. Andrea, congratulations by the way!! This is literally the absolute best news!! I meant to tell you when I saw your gender reveal video. Tears came to my eyes!! So happy for you both.

    Regarding this topic…there are so many things that are miraculous about having a baby that this question should not even enter someone’s mind! Honestly I just realized that my two good friends whom are pregnant and due in 2 months…I have no idea what they are doing.

    I can’t really begin to know all the different emotions you must be going through as you go through this pregnancy…but I’m sooo super Hapoy you are bringing a baby into this world.

    OH and by the way…formulas are great. Lots of babies are vitamin D deficient b/c people in general are EXTREMELY deficient in vitamin D. 😘😘

    Happy for you!! Xo, Ali

  9. Uggghhhh… all the sorries from me to you. I’ve had girlfriends who couldn’t/didn’t breastfeed for all sorts of reasons (needing to return to work and pumping wasn’t realistic, not physically possible, exceedingly painful, inadequate production, etc.). Every single one of them had horror stories, and yet none of them had the horror of cancer attached to their story. I’m so sorry for you and I assume that every single woman who has experienced the reality of breastfeeding pressure when it just wasn’t right for them is right there with you, getting your back.

    Also, not remotely the same, and yet, similar — the number of awkward invasive questions I have had to answer re: why my husband and I don’t have kids. What is wrong with people? Obviously, when it comes to procreating for the sake of the future, many people who are otherwise totally uninvited feel free to weigh in with *advice* *thoughts* *concerns about fertility* etc. on the most personal part of your life. It’s really quite crazy…

  10. OMG Andrea! First of all, a massive congratulations!! I hadn’t been around blogs for a while and I totally missed this massive news! I am so happy for you. Secondly, I totally ❤ the hair…I got through a similar phase (just a little ahead of you but not by much) and although it's weird at first, you get used to it and let's face it, you are rocking it! Finally, I can't believe what people say to you! I get the awkward conversation myself when it comes to having babies…I can't. Combination of the hormone therapy and my age means that it is out of question for me but people still say "you never know, some women have babies late nowadays" forgetting (or not knowing) that age is not the only issue I am facing. I have come to term with it but I do have my broody moments…I don't understand the obsession with breastfeeding either. I come from France and back home it is pretty much considered a private matter and decision. Encouraged if possible but you don't get beaten about the brow on it. Anyway, enough about that…you are having a BABY!! Yay!

  11. Thank you for writing this. I’ve subconsciously had this same stream of thought so many times and wondered where and who to tell. Perhaps it’s because our society emphasizes “the looks” of something that it’s so easy for people to overlook “the feel.” I can’t tell you how many well meaning friends asked me if “I was going to go bigger” as though a post-mastectomy reconstruction was like picking out an implant. I liken it more to having a prosthetic. It is there and tries hard to imitate the original. I’ve had girlfriends say to me “oh well, feelings in the breasts never turned me on in the first place.” As though a breast only serves a sexual purpose. As you have pointed out so poignantly, you will not be able to nurse your baby and I’m so compassionate with the mourning period you are probably still experiencing over that loss. Our breasts are not just for looks either. Women take it for granted that when they hug their loved ones, their soft breast tissue allows for their body to soften into that full embrace. Or when they roll over on their stomach, the breast molds and budges along with the shift. Don’t get me wrong – the prosthetic quality of these implants is amazing and beats what our mothers and grandmothers had to accept – nothing or an insert. But they are indeed sandwiched between two muscles and only the muscle stands between them and the bones. Even women who were AAA before an implant and surely think they share our boob story, don’t consider the lovely fat tissue up against their rib bones that allows their implant to float and glide. It is my firm belief that women have undersold each other by “acting so tough” about the procedure and saying things like “well, at least I don’t have to wear a bra anymore” or “oh well, my real breasts were starting to hang.” Thank you for being so upfront and honest in this post. I believe women supporting women begins with honesty, and not trying to appear like a mid-century superwoman of the Doris Day era. It’s a huge loss and women should be compassionate that loss doesn’t just end one day. The reminders are constant and you’re doing a damn good job of moving forward. At least that’s my 2 cents on losing one or both boobs 😉

    Side note: I agree with the above comment. You totally ROCK your glossy short and sassy spirals!

  12. You should be warned that as you get closer to delivery, people will feel free to comment on your vah-jay-jay as well (natural or C-section? episiotomy or no?). Some people have no boundaries! But in all seriousness, top three things I loved about bottle feeding:
    -Shared bonding. Nothing cuter than watching your hubby give the baby a bottle. And at midnight/3am, it’s all the more adorable when you get to sleep!
    -You always know exactly how much they are eating. If you are at all obsessive like me (and if you’re not already, don’t worry, you will be!), you’ll want to know exactly how much they are eating. Especially at that last feed before bedtime. When milk supply is typically lowest. This way you know they’re nice and full, for a (fingers crossed) long sleep.
    -There is always more. Sometimes during growth spurts, those midgets are damn hungry! Yes, supplies adjust, but that can take a while. Nothing makes you feel more helpless than not having enough milk for a hungry baby.

    You are going to be an AMAZING mother. This is just the first of many areas where people will ‘judge’, and where you’ll have to remind yourself this is their issue, not yours!!

  13. Thanks for the article. We’re currently going through IVF (same doc!) and we’re not even pregnant yet, I’m already getting the breast feeding questions. And like you, sometimes it’s from friends who know I’ve had a double mastectomy. At least for them, I just cut them off and say “I don’t have real breasts, remember?” And then there are the ones who nod and then proceed to tell me how babies just don’t digest formula as well so get ready for a lot of crying. I’m thinking about just wearing a sign on my chest. Maybe that will help. I feel you sister.

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