Pregnancy & Childbirth

Dammit! My kid could have been a Ph.D. by now!

Let me brag for a minute: I am the happy mom of a 6-year old boy. He’s reading at a 4th-grade level, does well in math, loves Science, and has a delightful sense of humor. I really couldn’t ask for much more in a kid. I’m very proud of him.

But guess what? This is going to really shock some people: I had a c-section AND I fed my kid formula.

I know, I know. Studies show, and personal anecdotes show, and cool people say that natural, drug-free birth — ideally at home and in your own bed — is the best way to go.. However, I had brain surgery when I was a teenager, and because of that, I have a tube that goes from my head to my stomach. Pressure is not my friend. Pushing a baby out would make me pass out, and likely burst some crap in my brain. In fact, the c-section drugs that made me numb from the chest down really screwed things up in my head, so the next time I have a baby, I’ve got to be put under anathesia and have the c-section while I’m out. So, yes, my kid was cut out of me, and I have a very faint scar down by my girl parts, and he and I are just fine, thank you very much.

Then there’s the formula thing. I know breastfeeding is good. I might breastfeed my next one… maybe. Formula is damn expensive. I remember being pregnant, and studying with a friend from grad school.  Her name was Jane, and she was a school nurse who was going to grad school to be a school counselor. We were sitting in a Panera, and I was explaining to Jane how I couldn’t decide if I wanted to breastfeed or not. On one hand, I knew about the health benefits. I also knew how expensive formula was. Still, I just didn’t know if I wanted to go the whole breastfeeding route. It just seemed kind of weird to me. Jane leaned forward and said to me, “Here’s what you do. You take a towel, and you rub it back and forth over your nipples until they bleed. And then you’ll know what breastfeeding feels like.” Well, that scared the crap out of me. I did not need pain like that. So when SC came along, I found it easy to make a decision. I went with formula.

I know this is just an anecdotal tale, but I do feel that mothers who have c-sections or choose to use formula get a bad rap. My kid’s fine. I made a choice that was right for me and my son, and that’s that. For the next kid, I’ll need to make that choice again. Well, I don’t have a choice on the c-section. But I’ll take medical breastfeeding advice into consideration.

Either way, this time, I won’t feel guilty. Fuck that. Every situation is different, and people who think they know otherwise should get over themselves.

Tori Parker

Tori is a high school English teacher from Ohio (insert cheerleader kick here)! She is emphatic! She is skeptical! She is nifty! Her boyfriend says that they can get a potbellied pig someday and name him Bacon. She has a little boy whose pseudonym is SC, although he has recently asked that his name be changed to Henry. When asked for a comment to add on this bio, he asked, "Why do we sound like a bad '70's cop show?" So there's that.

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  1. OMG, you mean my brilliant 3-yr-old pitocin-induced, not-very-good-epidural-but-better-than-nothing, forceps extracted daughter could at least be in high school by now?!!! Excellent post.

  2. Aaahh! This website drives me crazy sometimes and I end up not commenting because even though it’s supposed to be for skeptics, is very biased and seems anti anyone trying to go the “natural” way. That comment about what breastfeeding is like is not true for everyone. I hope no one is making a decision not to breastfeed from that comment alone. The cause of most pain and discomfort breastfeeding comes from incorrect latching of the baby. The lactation consultant at the hospital was very helpful , but she still taught me incorrect latching with my twins and by the time I learned correctly from the WIC lactation consultant, my twins were already being supplemented with formula and preferred the bottle because it flowed faster with less work for them. (Also their mouths were tiny and other trouble). Anyway, also from what I have heard from other moms that have breastfed the initial pain subsides and of course you might have soreness sometimes, but many have a pleasant experience overall and loved the feeling. Just so it’s clear, I’m not anti-formula and do not think moms are lesser parents for deciding not to breastfeed from the get go, but I hate it when misinformation about breastfeeding is given and the fact that in this country the fact is that the moms are not encouraged and provided with a positive environment to breastfeed. Yes, you can talk about the uppity moms that say negative things about formula, and not connecting with your baby and other nonsense, but that doesn’t make the benefits of breastfeeding untrue. In the hospital one of the nurses kept wanting me to use formula and I refused because I wanted to breastfeed and then she told me that if I didn’t use formula the babies would lose a lot of weight (she kept coming around and being very condescending and rude). One of the other nurses told me that the small weight loss was normal and that for being a first time mom breastfeeding and having twins I was doing excellent. I also had to deal with my mom acting like me having a goal to breastfeed exclusively was an affront to her because she formula fed me and I “turned out just fine” (and I never have said that formula was bad or using it makes you a lesser mother). So even though I have come across the “breastfeeding is the only way crowd,” I still found that I lacked a lot of support for my decision to breastfeed. All this to say. I hope you get support wether you decided to breastfeed or not and continue not letting anyone tell you that you are not doing things right.

  3. No one should feel shame for how they birth children or how they feed children. Just birth them safely and feed them period. And forget about the mommy wars.

  4. Arellis…. thanks for the comment. I’m curious about the way you started it off though. You said… “This website drives me crazy sometimes and I end up not commenting because even though it’s supposed to be for skeptics, is very biased and seems anti anyone trying to go the “natural” way. That comment about what breastfeeding is like is not true for everyone”. I was part of the selection process for writers on this website, and I assure you, we have a wide range of skeptics with a wide range of beliefs. I actually wrote this article, in part, BECAUSE I felt that the group of mothers who chose to formula feed weren’t being represented in our posts. Can you be more specific about your claim?

    1. The article on home birth and hospital deaths is an example. A lot of the commenters seemed to believe that a person wanting a home birth is uninformed, anti-vaccination etc… Maybe I have been nitpicking what I read and should read more of the articles. I think it’s important to support moms that are underrepresented so in that way this article is great. What I really took issue with is the quote you included about what breastfeeding is like and the absolute lack of info. about it otherwise. For a skeptic website if that is the basis of whether you decide to breastfeed or not it is not very skeptical or informed. You say you weren’t being represented and I understand that and it’s important that you get the word out I get that. I also wanted to mention that many women breastfeeding actually get a bad reaction from people, such as , people telling women to breastfeed in the bathroom or at home only so I don’t agree that women breastfeeding have it any easier. i think the people claiming breastfeeding is the only way are actually in the minority, they just happen to be a very loud and militant minority.

  5. I breast and bottle fed my children, and for the most part think we do a disservice when we treat this as an either-or issue, so I liked how you said “Every situation is different, and people who think they know otherwise should get over themselves.” In my case, both was the best option for as long as I could hold out.

    But that’s not why I had to comment here.

    I wanted to say I like your post because I get tired of how some people react to my c-section when they learn it was planned. In fact, the question “was it emergency or planned” pretty much means that I’m not going to share any additional information about my pregnancy with the asker because inevitably the response to my answer (“planned”) is a look of disappointment, as if saying “emergency” is a free pass because that would mean I didn’t *really* intend to have a c-section. It just happened that way. I don’t need validation from the kind of people who judge others for their birth decision, and the minute I feel judged, I just stop talking to them.

    It’s unfortunate too, because my reasoning was sound: I planned a c-section because I was having twins, and after a certain number of weeks gestation they frequently stop thriving and need to come out. Pretty much all OBs delivering multiples schedule a c-section even if the hope of the parent is a vaginal birth. That way, in case the multiples don’t arrive on time to be healthy, there is a calmly planned alternative.

    But since mine didn’t make it to term, my choice was super simple: c-section and possibly living babies or vaginal birth and dead babies. Kind of a no-brainer. And yes, they missed all the good stuff that comes of vaginal birth, but that went out the window with the rest of my birth plan. It was a “planned” c-section in that we knew for a week and a half it was coming, even though I didn’t know I was actually having surgery until 5 hours beforehand, so I own the fact it was planned and don’t elaborate.

    I used to explain this to people as if to defend my choice until I realized that they were missing the point–most people dismissed my experience as being unique. And, while it was, high-risk pregnancies aren’t, and if having a c-section helps the mother and baby survive that high-risk pregnancy/birth, then it doesn’t need defending.

  6. I love that you went ahead and proudly shared your personal reasons as to why you chose not to breastfeed. I know so many women who tried and failed or stopped very early for various reasons, and I’ve often seen them eagerly explaining their very legit reasons because they are afraid of being judged by me (I suppose because I’m white and liberal and breastfeed my kids past the age of 2, so guess they worry that I think my choices are best for everyone.) Breastfeeding is such a personal choice, but people on either end of the spectrum get judged – people like you are judged by lactivists as being selfish, and people who breastfeed their kid past the age of 2 or 3 are judged as freaks (I’ve had to tell off a couple people who started making comments about me when I was still nursing my 2,5 year old.) People are so goddamned opinionated about things that are just a personal choice.

    As for your friend’s comment about how breastfeeding feels – I’ve definitely heard stories of it going that way. Another concern can be blockages, which apparently are common and painful, though I’ve been lucky enough to not deal with that. One of my co-workers quit when her kid cut a tooth at 4 months and started to bite! I lucked out and only dealt with pain (some cracking, no bleeding) during the first two weeks, and only really bad the first few days. After that, zero discomfort.

    Also, congrats on having an awesome son.

  7. I breastfed both kids, one for 14, the oher one for 11 months. AS a result I couldn’t care less about whether a woman breastfeeds, formula feeds or does both. I care about healthy babies and happy mothers
    When my fistborn arrived I was a breastfeeding enthusiast. I had read all the information I got from my OB/Gyn, midwives, health insurance, and I swallowed it hook, line and sinker.
    THey all lied. Not only did they overstate the benefits, they also simply never mentioned possible problems or boldly lied, like saying ” you will always have enough milk”. SO when the babe nearly starved at my breast I felt like the worst failure in the world. WHat kind of monster was I?
    THankfully I had an excellent midwife, we started supplemening and pumping and after about 8 weeks we were a kick ass breastfeeding team.
    I ran into a completely different set of problems with the little one. BUt this time I was prepared for the possibility and things went smoothly.
    MAybe if breastfeeding advocates were honest with women, less women would give up when they have difficulties. ANd if you have to vastly overstate the benefits, and massively downplay the problems, maybe your case isn’t as strong as you would like it o be.
    I would also think that actualy getting enough food would be very beneficial for our future geniuses.

  8. I’m in total agreement with the anti-shaming message!

    I can relate to feeling weird about breastfeeding. Before mine was born, while I was trying to learn about breastfeeding to prepare, I actually had a creepy nightmare about it. The whole thing just seemed so very personal and unnatural to me, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go through with it. Now I’m glad I pushed past that initial feeling to try and I’m 2 years going strong. It turns out that my funny feelings about it (not saying that you feel the same) were all tied in with my objectification of myself, and my notion of breasts as purely sexual things. Juxtapose the sexual idea with a little baby and you see my discomfort with the thought. Luckily, my very first experience with breastfeeding my daughter blew all that creepiness right away!

    Also, I too sometimes feel that there are negative generalizations made about “natural” childbirth and breastfeeding moms on this site. Like, that we’re all kooky, judgemental, holier than though jerks just waiting to tell you how awesome we are and how you’ve ruined your relationship with your child forever because you bottle fed/had a c-section/loved your epidural. I’ve seen several posts defending c-sections and epidurals (which, btw, are completely legit and I’m truly sorry that rotten people have tried to make you feel bad about your choices) and only one post sort of talking about how natural childbirth is a valid choice too. I get a little defensive about posts like yours because I feel like you are talking down to ME a bit (though I’m sure that isn’t your intent)… isn’t that funny, when I’m supposed to be the one judging you?

    1. I think that many people here are very critical of the natural childbirth MOVEMENT and I’ll give you mymain reasons for being so. PLease remember that this isn’t about any woman in person, but about a movement.
      1. It’s a total misnomer. NAture doesn’t provide tubs with warm water, or faux treatment like accupuncture or moxa. EVen if those things worked they would simply be treatments.

      2.The naturalistic fallacy. NAture isn’t a nice old lady with a grey beehive like in the Smurfs. NAture is a cruel and fundamentally unfair system. To die in childbirth is pretty common for women (1% without any treatment) and even more common for babies. THis is clearly not what NCB advocates have in mind when they’re talking about nature. WHich leads me directly to:

      3. IT’s at it’s basis an expression of privilege. MAny women don’t get to make the choice to have a “natural” childbirth unless they want to recreate the conditions mentioned above. TO be able to safely deliver a baby vaginally without needing any interventions is mostly luck. TO use an analogy: It’s like upper middle class women going on and on about the advantages of being a housewife and why don’t do people respect their choice more?

      4. THis combination leads to real harm for women. I know my aunt was devastated when she heard that vaginal delivery was out of the window. I “inherited” a great amount of literature about “gentle, natural childbirth” from her. It was the only time in my life I threw away books. They had created such an expectation for her, an expectation that could not be fulfilled that the reality of a wonderful, healthy baby could not compete. And she’s not the only woman I know to whom this happened. HEalthy mothers with healthy babies who feel like they’ve been cheated out of somehing they though they were meant to have.

      1. 1- Just because someone wants to birth in a tub doesn’t mean they believe in acupuncture and homeopathy. They choose home birth or a hospital with tub because in most hospital births women don’t have much agency and they cannot move around or do what is more comfortable for them. The fact that some women want the pitocin, epidural, etc, doesn’t change the fact that sometimes these things are given without a choice.
        2- Wanting a home birth and/or to breast feed doesn’t mean you eschew science. I think most people are aware that if it wasn’t for science a lot of women and/or their babies today would have died in the past. I think that is an assumption you are making about everyone in the “natural” crowd.
        3-Women that want a “natural” birth without interventions ARE less likely to need interventions if they birth at home or at a birth center, or even at a hospital that gives you more freedom (unless they are high-risk which I agree should be at hospital). Most people get interventions whether they want them or not, even when they are unnecessary. Pointing that out does not make me “privileged.” I think most women want a choice on how they choose to give birth and the fact that the choice is mostly available to a small group of women is the point that is being addressed by some of the “natural” crowd. Also, I am most definitely not privileged and I want a choice, and that is no way an insult to someone wanting to schedule their c-section.
        4-Like I said in another comment, I think that the most vociferous vaginal birth is the best and only way crowd is a minority and some only want to advocate for women that want to give birth vaginally without interventions that they don’t need, even in a hospital. I understand people can have their birth plan and most of the times it goes out the window for good reasons, but sometimes birth plans are just not respected by the hospital staff without good reason. That is why I think that even having a doula, or midwife present that is going to advocate for the mother when she is too tired, in pain, etc., is a good idea. Many women are made to feel “lesser” because they were unable to have a vaginal birth and that is wrong, but like I said, the most militant people are just a loud minority that is anti-science. I personally had a c-section with my twins planned because it was deemed safer for the second twin and I don’t feel like a lesser mother for that. I still would like my next pregnancy in a tub if it’s low-risk and that again is not an insult to anyone having a c-section (emergency, schedule or otherwise).

        1. I’m not sure if you didn’t understand what I wrote (like the very premise that I wasn’t talking about individual women but a movement) or whether you decided to just don’t care and strawman me anyway.
          NO matter what, I don’t think that this post is the place to discuss them.
          I’m also typing on the tablet for the next week or so, therefore I won’t be able to type lengthy replies with accurate quotes anyway, so I’ll decline.

          BTW, this is an apology to all of you for the shoddy writing atm. REasons see above

  9. I think the reason why there are probably more posts about having done childbirth and feeding the not-so-natural way is because there is more societal pressure to give birth without drugs and to breastfeed.When you have your doctor, the AAP, forums and websites all telling you that breast is best, it’s kind of hard not to feel shitty when that either doesn’t work out or just isn’t for you. That being said, ultimately what it comes down to is moms having a CHOICE. If the thought of having an epidural freaks you out, cool. If you don’t want to deal with the pain, that’s cool too. Same goes with formula and breast feeding.

  10. @Giliell

    1. I absolutely agree, and that’s why I put “natural” in quotes… I was trying to denote the concepts we were discussing without saying nature was giving me a tub of water.

    2. I absolutely agree, and the naturalistic fallacy is one of the reasons that I get all up in arms when people within the natural childbirth movement start talking about the evils of hospitals. Medical interventions save lives (not to mention that hospitals are the right choice for many women to make period), and to try to scare people away from hospitals is immoral imo. However, this statement doesn’t represent my experiences with the certified nurse midwives in the birth center I used. They, and the classes they taught, were hugely informative about the many things that can go wrong with a pregnancy that you have no control over and the resultant interventions that could save your life or the life of your baby. They emphasized making a comprehensive birth plan: at the top were your ideal goals, but further down were how you wanted things handled in a variety of situations should things not go ideally and transfer to a hospital was needed. There was zero moralizing about “evil hospitals”, in fact they worked closely with one a block away. There was no shaming there, and they treated me like what I wanted mattered, unlike my doctor.

    3. I understand this argument, but I think the inherent privilege in it may come more from having access to good information about birth options and time to think things through than difficulty in recreating the tub of water scenario. I guess access to transportation to get to an accredited birth center is another privilege tied to it. For me personally, having no insurance coverage, the birth center saved me around $10,000 in debt (assuming an uneventful birth with epidural in a hospital) that I would likely not be able to pay off for a long, long time. That isn’t why I chose to go that route, but it sure was a relief to know that I could actually afford to give birth to my child without putting myself under a mountain of debt. (Of course all of that benefit would have flown out the window had I needed the hospital transfer, but I was lucky.)

    4. I agree that the expectation of vaginal delivery coupled with the idea that somehow it is “best” is damaging to women and it needs to be stamped out. Making a new mother feel like crap right out of gate because she made a different choice or was forced into a different choice is horrible and wrong, and it makes me want to scream. But what I was trying say is that I do feel like this site will often attack “natural” childbirth with sweeping, worst case, woo-filled generalizations. I hate to use this turn of phrase, but we aren’t all like that! My experience was with wonderful women who gave me detailed medical information and were supportive of my choices all along the way. There was no woo, there was no mystical “extra special vaginal delivery bond with baby” crap. And there ARE real, legitimate reasons that an individual woman would want an unmedicated birth in something other than a hospital setting!

    I think we need to work on this “one right way” idea we seem to have developed that leads to the shame and blame game we play with parents (especially mothers). While there are assuredly some dangerous and wrong ways to go about childbirth/feeding/raising your kids, there are many different right ways if what we are interested in is the health and happiness of the family in question.


    I have heard this before and I see it in regard to breastfeeding, no question.
    I don’t see it in regard to giving birth without drugs. Maybe it matters where you live, but here in New Jersey, my decision was not popular. People looked at me like I was crazy when they found out, and my mother tried to talk me out of it. The pressure that I felt was to just shut up, go to the hospital, and get my freaking epidural already! What was I trying to prove?!?

    What I’m trying to say is that the judgement cuts both ways.

    (I’m really sorry that I seem to have hijacked this discussion away from the original post! I totally support your choices Tori!)

    1. I think we agree on most things here. I’m the first to admit that there’s vast room for improvement in hospital care and also in science so we can better predict which women actually need any given intervention. BEcause right now we’re basing much of it on probabilities. Most people would think that a 1% chance of a severe outcome woud be too high, but that also means that 99 women would have been fine without the intervention.

      I also never fail to be amazed by the fucked-upness of the US healthcare system. I think I paid less than 200 bucks out of pocket for both kids and the miscarriage combined. Because as a society we decided that it’s more efficient to pay for all maternal care than to pay for NICU or life-long disability because the parents couldn’t pay for maternal care. ANd bcause it’s horribly unfair to make a kid pay for their parents’ crime of being poor.

      As for judgement, I think it’s often about validating one’s own choices. My mother desperately wanted my breastfeeding to fail, because somehow that would have made her formula feeding retroactively superior. Not that anybody ever attacked her for it. Nobody breastfed in 1980.

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