Since the visit to my family began, I’ve been inundated with a steady stream of advice. Most of this has come from my mother, with the occasional contribution from my father (who has much less to say, despite having raised more than twice the number of children). This advice has included:
-When on a plane, a pillow should be held in front of your belly at all times. It’s like an airbag.
-Don’t lift things. Anything. That pillow is too heavy.
-Don’t eat chips. They’ll cause birth defects.
-Home births are unsafe. You need to go to the hospital the second your water breaks, or else you will become infected.
-Are you sure I can’t be present at the birth? Are you sure? Lots of people have their parents present.
-Your child is always a child.
Perhaps most persistently, however, she has been questioning me about whether we plan to breastfeed or formula feed Bingo. I’ve refused to answer.
First of all, the only people who will be involved in deciding how Bingo is fed are Sea, Bingo and myself. Though I’m sure many people do, or will, have opinions on the matter, their bodies, families and children are not implicated. Fundamentally, when my mother tells me that I should or have to breastfeed, she is telling me what I have to do with my body as well as what Sea and I have to do with our not-yet-born child. Bodily autonomy and consent matter, friends! Even when you’re talking to your mother.
Secondly, I don’t know. On an intellectual level, I agree with a lot of what my mother has been saying. Breastmilk is, at a nutritional level, the best option. Undoubtedly, there would be fewer bottles to clean. I know these things, but I don’t know Bingo and I don’t know who Sea and I are as parents. I don’t know what will feel right for my body, or for the relationships Sea and I build with Bingo. I might have terrible supply. Bingo might have tongue tie. Bingo might have allergies or sensitivities. I might hate breastfeeding. I don’t know, and won’t know until Bingo arrives. Though I hope, right now, to feed Bingo breastmilk (whether by breast and/or bottle), I can’t adamantly say how Sea and I will feed a child that we haven’t met yet.
My mother, however, was unwilling to accept “I don’t know” as an answer. Or, for that matter, “I don’t want to discuss this”. Day after day, she would wax poetic about the joys of breastfeeding: how much healthier it is, how important it is for bonding, how much easier it is, how much she had loved how it felt. I have never wanted to talk about breasts less.
Finally, sick of it, I turned to her at lunch a couple of days ago: “Actually, Sea and I have decided to feed Bingo nothing but Diet Coke. It’s a low calorie option and a source of energy. The bottles are one-use and fully recyclable, so there won’t be any need for cleanup. Of course we’ll use a decaffeinated option around bedtime. It seems like the best option.”
She hasn’t mentioned breastfeeding since.