Monday, January 10, 2011

Advocacy

I've been trying to think of what to write all this morning when the post kind of jumped on me. I was sitting having a coffee after running an errand at the grocery store. You know when you're staring off into nowhere not even really recognizing what you're seeing? Well, I was doing that. In my line of sight, I discovered was a mom feeding her baby a bottle. I didn't realize it until she said

"Yeah, I know it's a bottle and I feel bad about that."

I woke up and rather elegantly responded "Huh?"

She told me "You were watching me feed my baby and I just wanted to let you know that yes I do feel guilty about giving him a bottle."

I said "Why?" Obviously my vocabulary has been limited to one word answers today, it is a Monday after all.

She started to tear up a bit and told me with a shakey voice, "Well, because it's not best for my baby, but I tried breastfeeding him and I don't have enough milk."

I felt her, really REALLY felt for her, anyone who has read my blog knows the problems I've had with breastfeeding and the encounters I've had with "well meaning" people about it. I went through my bag and pulled out the formula I had bought and said "Dude" (I say dude a lot) "You're not getting any judgment from me!"

She looked very relieved. I told her that I too had problems breastfeeding and after umpteen different experts, meds, herbs, water, oats, yadda yadda I just didn't have it in me-the milk that is. During this process she had told me how she had been approached on several occasions in her mom groups, classes strangers about "doing what's best for her baby" (Seriously, if I can borrow a term from the Childfree by Choice crowd, this is a Bingo and a half!). She had been told about how her child was going to turn out fat, stupid, sick. It was freaking deja vu. This was her first baby and she was traumatised enough with adjusting to life with new child, let alone every freaking person with too much time on their hands telling her that she was doing a shitty job at it. I told her the first thing that came to my head, something I should have said over 5 years ago when I was dealing with these people. "You tell them to go to Hell!" She kinda laughed, I smiled and said "Seriously. It's none of their bloody business and you're doing your best by the baby." I told her how brilliant and healthy my 5 year old is, and how evil and healthy my 3 year old is and how inconceivably cute and healthy my 4 month old is, which she witnessed first hand. I told her that being a new mom is hard enough, to not listen to people who felt the need to criticize her no matter how well intentioned they were. Maybe because I'm of inferior intelligence having been fed formula when I was a child, but I have a hell of a time picking out this mysterious caste system of superior breast fed children and the unwashed masses like me and said as much to her.

Now, this does seem to be a rant in one direction and dangerously coming close to me just taking off with that (and yes I love ranting, deal with it!) but it's more a lights on moment for me. Why the hell didn't I say this 5 years ago? True, I didn't know how awesome my kids would turn out (when they're not being evil little despots) but truly I knew that how I fed them was no ones business. I was a lot more outspoken 5 years ago, why didn't I give them the verbal smackdown they so obviously needed? Because I'm terrible at advocating for myself. And you know what? I'm not alone. As I had this brainiac moment, I remembered a post on my FB from a friend wondering why she's so terrible at advocating for herself when she has pretty much levelled cities in advocating for her child. I talk to moms, women of all persuasions all the time who are intelligent, gutsy, cheeky people, who have no problems going Incredible Hulk on behalf of their kids, family, friends, colleagues, strangers! But true to form, they come last and all of a sudden, that ferocity is gone. I'm no different, not in the least. I've gotten up in the face of drug dealers, police officers...people who carry guns! And yet, if my doctor reads me the riot act because I'm overweight, even though I've dropped 10 pounds in the past 10 weeks, I crumple...and seriously, my doctor is 5'0 and 90lbs soaking wet, with a voice like one of the Mole Sisters, I can take her! Do we not feel that same amount of entitlement for ourselves that would have people treating us as well as our loved ones? Apparently not! Maybe we use it up, maybe we just don't think that highly of ourselves, but that needs to be changed, on the quick!

I started thinking of ways to be a better advocate for myself and I think I've stumbled upon something. We all have people who love and care about us, and if we don't, then you need some, I'll pinch hit if need be, just keep me supplied with wine and cookies. Think of yourself and how riled up you get when one of your friends has been treated poorly. Think of how you want to come to their defense and rip a new one for whoever has treated them poorly. Now reverse that. I'm going to try and picture what my gal pals would say on my behalf if I'm being treated poorly. I'll use the quickness of one, the snarkiness of another, the reasoning diplomacy of the third, the eloquence of a fourth and the kick in the head ninjaness of the fifth. Combined, they will be SuperJoyDefender! Taking Shit from no one!!!! Or I could just picture my mother, but I'd probably end up in prison, not so good on a resume for a mother of 3.

Those are actually two methods for the blog price of one. You can either draw that strength and logic and objectivity up from how you would respond if your friend was being treated this way, or you can channel them into defending you.

*Waiting for the applause*

Okay, maybe not so much the applause, but I would be interested in some feedback by folks who are interested in trying it for themselves. I need to channel my inner asskicking friend as I'm about to fire someone and will use my diplomatic friend to do so in the most awesome terms. I will let you know how it goes when I discover the fallout...which I'll weather, somehow. I need to find a fallout friend that I can channel. Too bad most of my friends are great at staying out of trouble.

5 comments:

Bluefunk said...

Reading about the poor mom defending her choice to bottle feed is just so sad. Glad you set her straight though. :)

Not taking crap from other people and defending yourself I think definitely comes with age and experience. Doing it tactfully and knowing when to pick a battle or to just walk away is hard too.

When you're a people pleaser it's SO hard. However, having some emotionally draining and stupid people in your life can help to change that around. :)

Cheryl said...

Have I told you lately that I love you?! You are one awe inspiring woman and I need to look up to you. I agree with this post 110%. I wish I could give the girl a HUGE hug. It's not fair for her to feel shamed and she is doing the best for her child. Almost like that phrase "if mama ain't happy then nobodys happy!" after having my own woes with breastfeeding I still managed to feed them regardless of method. And I'm not going to lie, you made me tear up a little <3

agent-dani said...

You remind me again why you rock! Thank you for being there for her, and thank you for writing this.

I needed to read this, too; what you wrote about not advocating with your doctor? Way too close to home for me.

You're inspiring me to work to be the woman I should be. :)

frannyharp said...

I bottle fed the first two (after being told by one doctor I didn't have enough milk), and breast fed the third and fourth, after being told by another doctor that I could feed all the breast milk I could get out, feed him whenever, and then supplement with a bottle. I can't say there's any noticeable difference in the breast-fed and bottle fed kids - they are all smart, all handsome, all successful; and for crying out loud, it really is NO one else's business. I feel for that poor mother, and thanks Joy for making her feel more relieved....

Stacey said...

I feel for that woman. I couldn't breastfeed my first and it was miserable. Doctors made you feel like shit. People make such a huge deal out of it. I can tell you that I was formula fed and so was Riley. She has turned out really well and was actually a little more advanced than Jackson in a lot of ways, someone who is still breastfeeding at 21 months. I do think the health benefits exist to an extent (he has far fewer illnesses or they don't last as long). But the intelligence? Bull. And the funniest thing is that as much as women are pressured into breastfeeding, if you go beyond a year, people pressure you to stop!! I get a lot of folks making comments, even a frickin' doctor about how he's old enough to stop. The World Health Organization recommends at least 2 years but people don't care--they see teeth or a child old enough to ask for it and omg suddenly it's so very wrong. It's all cracked.

Good luck with advocating for yourself. I fight with that myself and often think why I think someone else should get something and I shouldn't? Like why am I second best? :P