"Why aren't you breastfeeding?" shouldn't be allowed in one's vocabulary when talking to a new mom. Neither should "How are you sleeping?" or "Did you give birth naturally?"
Because the truth is: 1. I couldn't; 2. I wasn't sleeping; and 3. None of your business.
Because after you've desperately tried to feed your baby for days, after nurses have grabbed and twisted and squeezed, after your sweet child is beyond herself with screaming and tears because she's hungry and exhausted, after you're reminded every second that you have zero baby experience, that you can barely walk, the only question you want to answer is: "Can I help you?"
I never thought I wouldn't breastfeed. The alternative wasn't even a computed thought. I took classes, watched videos, read articles. I couldn't wait to hold my precious girl in my arms, to nurture, nourish and bond with her in the most beautiful of ways.
And then Tegan was born and I was told that she wouldn't be able to latch (by no fault of her own), that I would constantly have an infection. My recovery room was a revolving door of nurses, all entering determined, leaving frustrated, leaving behind unfortunate comments. In the most cruel of gestures, I ballooned, felt like I would surely burst.
In the delirium and desperation of new parenthood, I asked for formula and felt like a failure. When a nurse cooly asked which brand to get and I asked which was best, she scoffed and didn't answer.
After some heartbreaking days I decided to stop trying to nurse, to tell myself it was okay to let go of this dream, that I had to do what was best for us both in those early, delicate days, that she needed to thrive and I needed to thrive for her.
People weren't shy about not understanding. While feeding Tegan a bottle one day, a friend flatly stated that nothing could compare to the bond shared between a mom and her nursing baby -- as his wife nursed their baby in the next room, as I lovingly held Tegan, as she stared up at me with locked eyes.
By now I've learned that other people's comments are inevitable, and that they really don't matter. But here is what does: My daughter is healthy. My daughter is thriving. My daughter is dearly loved.
And, very thankfully, I was (and am) still able to nourish, nurture and bond with my child.
And, just for the record, "formula" is not a dirty word. (Of course.)