Before I gave birth to my daughter, Penny, I had a very unrealistic view of what breastfeeding would be like. I thought it would be this incredibly beautiful experience where my adorable baby would look meaningfully into my eyes and give me a little nod, then my shirt would instantly bust open and she would nourish herself while ripping calories from my body as I painlessly surf the Zara website. In my head, it would not only be an irreplaceable bonding experience, but no one would see my areolas. I would carefully walk the line of feminism and maternal mindfulness with ease. I might not go as far as to whip it out at Walmart, but I would obviously develop a very liberal opinion on the subject because I would be so good at it. I realized very quickly that this was not how it was going to go. This is not to say that other moms have not been blessed with the sentimental experience you read about in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. They have. That was just not my reality. The actual scenario was me sitting in a hospital with the lactation consultant, my fiancé, my mother, a pediatrician, and the poor room service girl that didn’t get out fast enough while I shoved my newly developed utter into my newborn daughter’s mouth as she screamed something at me that sounded like, “Just leave me in the nursery. This is clearly a concept you can’t master. I saw another mom down the hall with a much more ample bosom. I’m going to try my luck with her.”
It was not beautiful. It was not painless. I did not even have time to enter my credit card number and purchase my trendy rhinestone Birkenstocks (just kidding, I still managed that.) In fact, I just felt like a massive failure for not having a nip that my daughter looked at the way I look at McDonalds. Not only was I filled with my own anxiety about the volitle relationship Penny was developing with my knockers, as well as many of the other struggles new parenting brings, but I soon realized that I would also be dealing with all the judgment from others. I guess it just hadn’t occurred to me that there was a whole culture of people out there that cared THAT much about the lactation of others. Their opinions weren’t exclusive to the topic of breastfeeding; however, they seemed to harbor self-righteous thoughts on every aspect of baby rearing. They all live inside my Facebook, like little Keebler Elves huddled tightly in the big, shady oak tree of social media. Sometimes they come out to sprinkle their little fudgy cookies or, in this case, unsolicited advice around the town.
I became most aware of their existence while scrolling through my News Feed late one night as I shifted between sleep and making sure Penny was still breathing (everyone does that right?). I stumbled upon a perfectly staged picture of a margarita, perfectly covered by the perfect Instagram filter with the caption, “Finally having one of these after 9 long months of pregnancy!” and I think some hashtags like, “#baby #outofmybody #outwithmyladies #marg #crossfit #jesuslovesmethisiknow.” I gave her a mental congrats on her marg and started to continue with my scroll sesh when I noticed something particularly jarring in the comment section. Right underneath her lushy glass of caloric bliss were the words “Ummm. I certainly hope you aren’t drinking alcohol and breastfeeding, lady! :)” The first thing I noticed was obviously the upsetting use of the pet name “lady.” After I moved passed that, I was immediately filled with rage about the real issue (not that affectionately calling someone “lady” isn’t an issue for me, because it is.) The poor girl quickly responded by explaining how she was “pumping and dumping” and would never do anything to endanger her baby. She didn’t even say anything about the passive aggressive smiley face. She took the high road, even though she should never have had to explain herself in the first place. She Carol Radziwilled that girl’s Ramona Singer and I was proud of her. I gave her a fist pump in the dark and forgot about it, thinking this must have been an isolated incident.
I was wrong. A few days later, I watched another girl undergo cyber annihilation after she shared her excitement about the public school she would be putting her daughter in for kindergarten. I MEAN THE NERVE OF HER NOT CHOOSING TO HOME SCHOOL! I even encountered this myself after my last post about having a C-section. The commenter was “Sure that my baby would be all right,” but clearly my decision to get an epidural was the reason I had ended up in that predicament. It was, of course, politely sealed with a passive aggressive smiley face. I think that the satirical tone in which it was written was lost on her. I was taken aback. I’m sorry, but who died and made these girls Dr. Oz?
“Is this really how motherhood is?” I asked myself as I continued to scroll through my feed to find it slathered with women attacking other women on subjects ranging from vaccinations to religious teachings to birthday party themes. I thought that the second I brought my baby into this world I had entered a sisterhood of those who no longer got to pee without something small yelling at them. Was I wrong? Have we all become so self-satisfied that we felt the need to fling our opinions onto one another while hiding behind a computer? Was I being naïve to think that the common thread of being a parent should be enough to maintain respect of each other’s maternal choices? I say nay!
Fundamentally we are all the same. We all require Spanx now. We all forget to put diapers under their tiny shorts sometimes. We all have cried at Whole Foods. We all love our children. So can’t we all just be nice to each other?
Cue Lionel Ritchie’s “One World.”