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Trolls, Hot-Button Issues and—Gasp!—Boobs

Silly Monkey, Baby Clothes, Ottawa, September 2012

Mark was born on October 12, 2012. These articles were written shortly before his birth (it was a great catharsis!) and document the nine months of pregnant where I was definitely not glowing. Up-to-date stories coming up as well!

Everyone knows that some issues are best discussed with like-minded friends, unless you want to start an endless argument. Such topics can include classic debates like Apple vs. Microsoft; Liberal vs. Conservative, The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones, or broader issues like the death penalty, ideal immigration levels, religion and faith, the healthcare system, etc.

Well, believe it or not, pregnancy-related topics aren’t troll-free. I mean, you’d think women and their partners would go through these nine months with a flower in the gun barrel and a huge (if emotional) smile on their lips. You’d think they would all marvel at the fact a new human being is in the making. You’d think all parents-to-be would share a strong bond and the “all for one, one for all” motto.

Yeah, right, fat chance. I was raised by idealistic hippie parents—I know, it shows.

As I quickly learned, while some couple are taking a chance to call a truce with the world, other are trolling. And it’s neither pretty nor funny.

I already mentioned my “hell is other people” theory, and that when you are pregnant, you suddenly seem to be everybody’s business. This doesn’t stop at unwanted advice. Some people have an agenda, including one on a hot-button issue: breastfeeding.

Google “breastfeeding.” Okay, maybe not if you are at work—oh go ahead, just don’t do a Google Image search. Promise me.

See the first page of results? Nothing about neutral and informative topics such as “how to breastfeed” or “the pros and cons of breastfeeding”—things expectant women who presumably did the search in the first place would be interested to read. Nope.

Instead, the search returns an endless list of controversial articles:

Okay, breastfeeding is clearly a hot-button topic that gets people—the public, not just mothers and their partners—riled up.

Controversies around breastfeeding include:

  • People who are offended by women breastfeeding in public
  • Discussions on the new school of “attachment parenting” that promotes nursing well past the “typical” age
  • People who think women who don’t breastfeed are negligent or indifferent
  • People who think formula companies are evil and should be banned

I think deep down I have always known that North America had an issue with boobs—I’m now sure of it.

And here I am, a mother-to-be, interested to know more about nursing. I mean, I was breastfed as a kid—for a few months, not years—and spontaneously I thought: “sure, that’s what I want to try too.” I mean, why not? I’ll be working from home and I don’t think I have any mental block to nursing. I don’t mind lending my breasts for a little while—I already shared my entire body for nine months. Plus breastfeeding has great health benefits.

Now, there is a “but.” I will breastfeed if I’m able to. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work. Some women don’t have enough milk, some babies don’t latch, some people hate the experience for whatever reason. Happens, no? That’s what formula is for, isn’t it?

Don’t even think of saying that out loud around here. You’d be called a bad mother. You’d be reminded that if you care about your baby, the only way to go is nursing.

Oh, for Christ’s sake. The last thing a new mother needs is another guilt trip, one over the way she is feeding the baby.

Yet, the pressure to breastfeed in the USA and in Canada is extreme. Doctors and midwives automatically assume you will breastfeed—they don’t even ask, it’s like there is no Plan B. Meanwhile, recently, Mayor Bloomberg declared war on baby formula by banning it from NY hospitals. Sure, the positive health effect of breastfeeding are documented but how about the women’s right to choose without being guilt-tripped?

And then, of course, if and once you adopt breastfeeding, the world seems to be surprised to see women nursing in public. It seems as if they shouldn’t get out of the house.

In the United States, legislation regarding breastfeeding varies from state to state and some women have been victims of harassment when breastfeeding in restaurants, stores, parks or other public spaces. And Canada also has to take a stance for the right to breastfeed in public. For instance, N.B. moms defend right to breastfeed at Moncton Market.

Oh boy. And I thought immigration was a hot-button topic…!

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