by Kelsey Mulvey, Milk-Drunk Contributor
Writing about pregnancy is new, foreign terrain. I just turned 28 years-old, have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for over five years, and while we do talk about our future, babies are not in the cards yet. (Read: No, I’m not pregnant.) Still, my partner and I are planners. We talk about sharing the roles of good cop and bad cop, sending our non-existent kids to college, and fostering their work ethic.
We’re in no rush to start a family but, as so many of my friends splash their pregnancy announcements on Instagram, I can’t help but think about how I would handle this exciting milestone. Would I want a home birth? (Probably not.) Would I ask for an epidural? (Definitely.) Would I breastfeed? Believe it or not, it’s been something I’ve been thinking a lot about these days.
For a while, breastfeeding wasn’t even a question. After all, isn’t there a reason every says “breast is best”? It’s how I imagine my mom fed me, and how my grandma fed her, and how my great grandma…you get the picture right? Even amongst family, it’s a weird, uncomfortable topic that nobody wants to talk about so everyone assumes it’s the gold standard. And who am I to break tradition?
But then I think about my lifestyle. As a freelance journalist, my days are jam-packed with deadlines, meetings, and the occasional events. I start my days early and end them late. Being your own boss feeling like you’re juggling a dozen porcelain plates—and that’s before you factor in a baby. While I know my bandwidth will change once my partner and I start a family, I want to be a working parent. I want to show my future children that success and ambition isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. I want to show them what it’s like to have a career you’re passionate about.
If I’m going to hypothetically be a working parent, I’ll need to automate my life to make my day-to-day as efficient as possible. Does that include using formula? Not only would usually formula make my life more streamlined, but it would also come in handy if I’m covering a big story. (I mean, it could get awkward to tell an interviewee that I got to go pump.) Or, if I ever go back to working at a traditional office, there’s no guarantee there would be a comfortable space for women to pump.
However, using formula comes with its own slew of questions. How would I know what ingredients are lurking in my future baby’s formula? Is it safe? Is there a reason the CDC recommends new parents should breastfeed for the first six months?
I don’t have the answers. I mean, how could I? The problem is that nobody talks about breastfeeding. Nobody talks about how 10 percent of American women are infertile, making breastmilk out of the question. Nobody talks about how one in five women physically cannot produce enough breastmilk to feed their kids. And while many new parents know the CDC’s recommendation, nobody talks about how one in four infants are exclusively breastfed by the time six months roll around.
If nobody talks about the reality of breastfeeding, no new parent can know their options. As a result, breastfeeding becomes the norm. And, if you’re unable to produce enough milk for your newborn? Congratulations, you scored a one-way ticket to Mom Shamesville.
It’ll be several years before my partner and I start to talk seriously about starting a family. But, in the meantime, I hope our society as a whole can pull back the curtain and make mom shame a thing of the past.