Saturday, September 18, 2010

Placenta Playdate

Unless you plan to encapsulate or otherwise consume your placenta shortly after birth (pun so intended), chances are, if you're a homebirther, this amazing, miraculous, life-sustaining yet disposable organ is liable to spend a good amount of time in your freezer, awaiting the day the parents get their act together enough to do something meaningful with it. I believe there's even a t-shirt out there to that effect. Let's see . . .


WARNING: The rest of this post is not for the faint of heart, if you're not an avowed birthnerd, this is liable to squick you out in a serious way. Ok, read on:

Up until yesterday, Lily's placenta had been residing in the deep recesses of my freezer for just shy of 2 and a half years, awaiting symbolic closure. I figured I would eventually bury it, but had yet to find a suitable final resting place for this incredible organ which had both caused me so much anxiety during pregnancy (it was a persistent previa, not cleared for delivery until week 34) and also sustained my precious baby, passing along the good and filtering out the bad, acting as the gateway between our bodies - maybe even our souls. I couldn't bring myself to leave it somewhere random.

Obviously the time has long since passed to encapsulate it, though I fully plan to do so next time (and had I known more about encapsulation, I definitely would have done so - it may have done a lot to help me cope with my postpartum period). I figured all I could really do with it is eventually find a burial spot - but it turns out that there was one thing that I definitely could still do with it.

I was thrilled to learn that my friend Justine had defrosted her daughter's at about 18 months and it was still in good enough shape to make placenta prints! I had assumed the tissue wouldn't hold up to being frozen that long, but I was wrong! So we set up a date for the most organic crafting activity ever, and I transferred it from the freezer to the fridge. Once it had a chance to defrost almost completely, I took it out to lay it a little flatter and lay some towels beneath it, as it would be giving of a lot of excess moisture, in preparation for the big day. I found it wrapped in several layers, even within the outer layer of heavy-duty freezer bag:

Then, there were several plastic bags, and finally, the original Chux pad it had been laid in. I then opened it up (and shall spare you the picture, though there is one) to find there was a plastic glove and a piece of gauze from the big day. It definitely makes me an official weirdo to admit this, but the Chux pad, the gauze and the glove all made me feel overwhelmed with nostalgia. Anyway, here it is, the specimen itself:

This is the maternal side you're looking at, the side that attaches directly to the uterine wall. It would be the opposite side we'd be dealing with, with its lovely, branch-like veining patterns. Here's Justine getting things set up for me, her daughter Tillie looking on:

We initially did just a 'blood print', using just the blood rather than any paints. This is a nice thing to do if you have a fresh placenta, but once frozen, it'll be pretty faint, as there isn't much blood left. We also tried using a watercolor first, but acrylics are definitely the way to go. Here I am painting Lily's first apartment, with former resident Lily standing by:

Once painted, you gently lay the paper or canvas over the placenta and GENTLY smooth your hand over the surface.

Then you slowly . . .

. . . sloooooooowly peel the paper back . . .

. . . et voila!

The tree of life.

We made a whole bunch of prints on construction paper, and chose the best color combinations for the three canvas boards I picked up.

Behold: Art!

Once we were done, I rinsed it clean of the paint (mostly), and had one last look.

I don't care what it says about me, I think this is just beautiful. And I now have three finished canvases - one for me and one for Lily, which I hope she will keep with her always. The fate of the third is yet to be determined, perhaps I'll just hang it somewhere as well. I'd like to send one of the paper prints to my midwife, and maybe one to my unofficial doula, Patty.

As for what I'm doing with the placenta, now that I've had my moment of artistic closure? You can probably guess.

Yep, it's back in the freezer. I just couldn't let it go. I KNOW, I KNOW, eventually it's gotta happen. And I will bury it, probably soon, before the ground freezes. But for now, I could still wear the t-shirt with pride.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A natural surrender: Reba's birth story, in duet form

I love it when I get to do this.

Once upon a time, oh, say, about 9 months ago (plus change), I got an email from a friend of mine, announcing the glorious news of her pregnancy and asking for some thoughts on connecting with a midwife, which in turn inspired this post.

Well, the time has come! The knockout gorgeous bundle of joy has arrived. Very recently, too (just last week), and we already have not just one, but TWO birth stories thanks to both her husband and her doula! I loved hearing the father's perspective, and then seeing the doula's point of view as well. I'll intersperse:


Labor came on pretty quickly and unexpectedly, about a week before Reba’s EDD. At about 5pm on Thursday, we had a prenatal visit with Miriam. Reba began feeling some strongish cramps around then, and mentioned it, but they were infrequent and irregular. We joked while booking our next visit that it might be a post-natal — maybe we knew something! After our midwife left, we went for a walk and picked up dinner (panini from our favorite place in Astoria, Il Bambino)*. We watched the Simpsons at 7 (Secrets of Successful Marriage – a classic, and perhaps a sign of some sort), and by the end of the episode the cramps had become more pronounced and more regular, and were clearly contractions.

I started timing around 745, and they were already about a minute long, about five minutes apart (where they ended up staying for a long time — although they got longer and more intense). We called both [midwife] Miriam and [doula] Colleen to let them know, and then we got Reba into the regular tub for a bath, to relax through the early part of labor. She took two baths, and in between was mainly on the couch sitting upright leaning forward or in hands-and-knees. She began working harder soon there after. By 9 or so talking during the contractions was hard, and they kept gaining in intensity. (The chronology here is a little fuzzy, because Reba was already working very hard, and I was helping her relax during each one and then doing all kinds of stuff, like getting pillows and drinks, futzing with the lights, texting her sister, and timing some of the contractions.)

Around 1AM Colleen came over, saw that we were doing ok, and immediately began blowing up and filling the birth tub. (That took about 45 minutes, and there was no way I could have done it while helping Reba through the contractions).


I arrived in their apartment right around 1am to find Reba laboring beautifully in her living room with Kevin applying counter pressure to her thighs as he wrapped his full body around her back grounding and supporting her through the waves of contractions. The two of them formed an inspirational bubble of chanting sound energy around their space, filled with “om,” “come,” “I want/need this,” “holy” and so it was indeed a very holy sacred space to hold and bear witness. I offered primarily my presence and a reflective source of calm patient trust as Kevin and Reba were in a physical and emotional groove of perfection. They flowed together and I found myself holding space, reassuring, and lending a sympathetic ear to what Reba was feeling; I smoothly found my place easing into the tone of the energy they had set along with their individual needs.

The energy of the rushes flowed through Reba leaving her muscles shaky in its wake. Kevin was always there with steadying hands as one or both of us braced a thigh or alternately gave Reba's strong muscles a loosening massage. My arrival meant Kevin could continue caring for Reba while I took over getting the pool inflated and filled for Reba to try. As I inflated and filled the pool, Reba continued her smooth and speedy progression deeply into her labor; flowing along with its irresistible forces as her chosen birth circle quietly and gently formed around her firmly holding her space.

The contractions kept getting more intense, so I called Miriam, who arrived around 230AM. Both Reba and I were convinced she was about to have the baby — but there was still a ways to go. The main issue was that she was very physically engaged during each contraction, and had a very hard time finding a comfortable position. Hands-and knees, standing and leaning down on the arm of the couch, and sitting on the toilet seemed to be the best. Until about 4AM or so, when she really surrendered, Reba was tiring herself out by not being able to use all of the rests between contractions.


Miriam joined us around 3am and calmly consciously joined me in easing ourselves into the background. We were there for assurance but it was evident every step of the way that Kevin and Reba were beautifully in harmony with their process. Reba was in the pool briefly at this time but soon found her body asking to move around more. She spent time on a chair, on her knees, back on the couch and eventually settled into the bathroom with Kevin. Each wave of intensity brought with it a consistent flow of encouraging support from Kevin. Firm encouragement, steadfast belief and undeniable love were positioned unconditionally at Reba's side. Kevin toned along with Reba and met her right where she was as she coped with the reality of her labor each step of the way.

Miriam, Kevin and I were there to remind Reba that this was going to end and that she was doing it on the occasion that her personal mantra shifted into negative space. She was beyond doing it...she was doing with steadfast perfection; walking her own path just as she needed to. Reba meant business about labor and her body was not messing around; this was serious hard labor with only the briefest of breaks between the surges of energy, which at this point were intensified by the increasingly strong sensations in Reba's lower back as her baby descended deeper into her pelvis preparing for birth.


Miriam forcefully voiced her concerns about the amount of effort around that time, so either that got through to Reba or it was just a natural surrender. At any rate, thereafter Reba was in a zone where she was at least still during the breaks.


After a few hours in her bathroom nest Reba gave voice to the growing feeling that she need this to change...she needed something to shift...she needed to step confidently over the next threshold...and so she did. With a shift back to the living room Reba found herself on hands and knees, resting her upper body against the physio-ball between surges as Kevin and I attended to her muscles during the breaks, and grounding her feet against my palms as Kevin voiced encouragement and her body threw itself wholeheartedly into pushing. Around 8am Reba's water spontaneously released and she began following her body's cues to push with all her might.

Time passed with much effort and Reba shifted back into the bathroom to continue pushing. Shortly she was able to reach within her healthy stretching layers of tissue to feel their child’s otherworldly skin for the very first time. Awe and reverence reflected in their eyes. Reba assumed a squat supported by Kevin sitting behind her. She followed her body's own irresistible cues and pushed in accordance, roaring her birthing song in strength and abandon. Continuously in tune and able to voice her desires, Reba soon noted that she would like to move back to the living room.

Finding a supported squat again with Kevin backing up his birthing goddess physically and emotionally, Reba began her final pushing stretch. The babe rocked back and forth in the timeless dance of birth slowly but surely opening Reba’s strong pelvis and tissues easing toward earthside. Miriam applied the soothing radiating warmth of water/oil compresses to Reba’s perineum as she calmly and quietly held the space for Reba to birth her child. Glorious crowning shortly followed smoothly moving toward revealing the babe’s face presenting with a nuchal arm. A push later at 9:38am Reba was reaching down to help bring her triumphantly birthed baby to her stomach and up to her heart radiating bliss.

Around 730, she began her pushing phase, and finally gave birth at 935 in the morning. I was sitting on the couch in our living room, holding her as she squatted just above the floor. Post-delivery, we both got to hold Rosalie right away, which was amazing. Reba was basically completely wiped out, and had to hand the baby over to me almost right away. After about an hour, we moved her up to sitting on the couch, from sitting on the floor where she had been during the delivery. After a few hours, she started feeling better, but Reba was really drained for that first chunk of time post-delivery. Miriam took great care of her.

Really, it was all amazing. I cried a lot during pushing and after delivery, and I still feel a little bit emotional. The labor totaled about 3 hours of gearing up, 11 hours of active labor, and 2 hours of pushing, but those numbers don’t do justice to the simultaneously grueling and amazing physical feat Reba performed.

I guess there are lots of things I could advise, but since even among our stories here the labors are so different, and we are well-prepared from class (really, we are — so much stuff came in handy), all I would say is, to the partners, watch the faces of your midwives and doulas, that will tell you if things are OK; and to all, try to figure out a way to allow the woman use the rests.

I can’t imagine either of us having made it through this wild, awesome, primal experience (to echo some of the sentiments below) without a real understanding what was going on, and that understanding was brought about mostly by the wonderful [childbirth ed] class we took — thanks Mary Esther!

Congratulations to all the new parents, and best of luck to those of you who are next — it is great, and there is nothing like finally having your baby enter your lives.

What an inspiring story, huh? Reba is a dancer, an amazingly strong one (that's how we know each other, in my former dancing life, she and I worked together on a number of projects and became good friends in the process), and it's so fitting to read about how physically engaged she was during her active labor - I can picture it so well. And a nuchal arm! What a challenge, and still, they worked with it so beautifully. Congratulations, new family, and welcome, sweet Rosalie.


Now here's a tidbit for ya: Reba's sister (with whom I've also had the pleasure of dancing and working together) happens to have gotten pregnant at almost exactly the same time . . . and JUST THIS MORNING, her Facebook picture finally changed from a belly to a baby. We eagerly but patiently await the details. Congratulations to little sister too!

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Spokesmodel for Childbirth Ed: Childbirth Ed!

It was an early morning epiphany, so you know it's either going to be a great idea or a total groaner. But out of the blue, it suddenly occurred to me - a way of promoting the benefits of birth preparation for FATHERS. We need a spokesmodel/mascot. I give you Ed . . . Childbirth Ed!

Imagine the jovial, upbeat dude above, wearing a 6 Healthy Birth Practices trucker hat, a CAPPA t-shirt, sitting on an enormous ball, perhaps wielding a massage tool or some Recharge with a straw, ready to mop his mama's forehead with a cool cloth. Ed can tell you all about what the 4-1-1- rule means, and can whip out the BRAIN/BRAND acronym for contemplating any intervention at any time. Ed knows all the emotional signposts of labor, has a laminated chart of effective laboring positions, and looks forward to encouraging his wife to push with her own instincts, even if the rest of the room is barking in her face. He's even prepared for delivery room football, if necessary.

Childbirth Ed. Don't you love him already?

P.S. Have I mentioned I'm a total dork?
P.P.S. Yep, that is my wee Lily with her daddy, modeling a sling, courtesy the women behind Bean Tree Baby.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Breastapo

Some comments* in the last post reminded me once again of a recurrent thorn in the side of many breastfeeding advocates: the slur "Breastfeeding Nazi" or, slightly more punchily (though no more wittily), "TitNazi". It comes up frequently in the comments threads on any article or post where lactivism is discussed, particularly if the topic is a controversial one, but even if it's a fairly benign jumping-off point, the ensuing discussion still sometimes spirals off into some pretty nasty territory.

This really bothers some advocates out there, and both Amber Strocel and PhD in Parenting have written eloquently about their objections to the term and how insane it is to compare breastfeeding support to, you know, the mass murder of millions. Other lactivists feel that overreacting to this moniker is, well, an overreaction, and argue that while they disagree with using such a slur themselves, and that the term is definitely insensitive and inappropriate, it's more about fascism than it is about comparison to actual genocide. And thus, from this POV, overreacting to the term distracts from the real issues.

I honestly see good points from each lactivist camp, I really do. Some might say that's the diplomatic tendency inherent to the Libra ascendant in my chart. Others might say the very concept is malarkey. And I can see both sides. See, there I go again! Anyway, my problem with this whole thing? Bottom line? It's dull, unoriginal, and unimaginative. It's just plain LAZY. Really, all it does is draw attention to poor rhetorical skill and a rather embarrassing lack of creativity (substituting "boob" for "tit" isn't much of a flourish, guys).

If you're going to go there, go all the freaking way, man. I'm not a TitNazi, I'm a member of the Breastapo! La Leche League meetings? More like The Nursenburg Rallies. Lactation consultants? Elite officers of the Lactwaffe. Nurse-ins to protest businesses discriminating against breastfeeding moms? Why, that's a full-blown Titskrieg!

Can we invoke Godwin's Law* already (whereby the first person to make a comparison of their opponent's views to Hitler and/or Nazi Germany automatically forfeits the argument) and give this a rest once and for all?

THIS is all we are saying. **

*Not that the commenters herself was making this slur; they simply mentioned how it comes up in such conversations. Just wanted to be clear.

**Indeed, this is tongue-in-cheek, as much as my own punnery above.

** I looked around in vain to credit the original LOLbaby creation featured here. Do claim it, if it's yours! (And please don't be mad at me for besmirching it so.)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reviving Ophelia's Mom

And now for something completely different . . .

I tend to blog primarily about specific pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and postpartum issues, as most of you know and as some new followers surely can easily surmise. But there's occasional picture of my daughter I can't resist sharing, or zeitgeisty topics that come up, and sometimes it's good to take a Mother-May-I giant step back and look at the big picture. This is one of the latter.

The belief that the best thing for a child is a happy mother is not a groundbreaking one. It certainly could use a little more mindfulness at times, but it's definitely out there, and still, the other day I read something so profound I have to share it with you. This came to me from my lactation and holistic health consultant, the brilliant Jennifer Tow, via the Yahoo group which exists to give ongoing support to her current and former clients (it's quite the amazing group of women). I'm going to start with the revelatory excerpt that blew me away, and then I'll share whole thing from beginning to end.

Another friend once told me that [Jennifer's teenage daughter] was angry with me because I had neglected to show her that adulthood is a worthy place to go - a place where happiness thrives. She was right. I had gotten so lost in trying to fix things that needed to be let go of that I was never happy. I thought staying married was for my children, but it was teaching them all the wrong lessons. I was trying to fix the symptoms my children were having because of my unhappiness instead of changing my own experience.
To say this really grabbed me is an understatement, especially the bold. I think it's all too easy, despite cultural nods to "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy", to get caught up in feeling obligated to sacrifice for everyone else, that a truly devoted mother is a suffering one, that guilt is a natural state of being. I've felt it myself.

Here's a true confession for you: I had actually actively hoped that Lily was a boy. Not because I thought boys were any better than girls, or more worthy, or carried more status, or because I had any real preference, but because my dread of someday having a teenage daughter was so overwhelming, based on how unbelievably awful *I* was as a teenager. Really, I was an utter nightmare. I still apologize to my mom for the horrible things I said to her, the cataclysmic temper flares, as well as a whole host of terribly cliched ABC Afterschool Special problems. And on more than one occasion she laid down The Curse, intoning: "I hope someday you have a kid that acts JUST. LIKE. YOU." *Mom's eyes turn momentarily black, thunderclaps in the distance*

So I grew up, said my mea culpas, identified as a feminist, read "Reviving Ophelia" and later "Queen Bees and Wanna-Be's", all the while knowing that I wanted to become a mother someday, more than anything in life - but please, not a girl. I know teenaged boys can be hell on wheels too, but there's just something . . . extra-special about the kind of insane that girls often go for a few years there. And so often, as Mary Pipher pointed out, it has nothing to do with their healthy, contented childhoods. Thirteen or fourteen hits, and girls just sometimes completely lose their freaking minds.

Of course, I had to have a daughter. Of course!

Please, please do not get me wrong, I love this little girl more than anything in the universe. But for all of the above reasons, when I took a peek the day she was born, fully expecting to see a penis (I really had myself convinced), I had to take a serious *gulp*. And I literally did think to myself, "Oh, shit."

I adjusted immediately, and went on about the business of falling crazily in love with her, of course. But I do think ahead and gnaw on my nails about what's going to be happening with her in 10 years. And until I read Jennifer's post, my focus had really been on how to make HER happy, how to maximize her childhood, how to make sure her development was healthy in every way and that her self-esteem was solid and so on and so on.

And yet, I now see exactly how all of the above can be for naught if I'm demonstrating to her that life is not a happy place to be, and that adulthood is unpleasant or even miserable. Why would a teenager NOT be angry about the whole deal, in such cases, whether or not they recognize it consciously?

Here is the full text, the point of departure being a discussion on healing our families, from a very holistic POV, by the way, if that approach resonates with you:

While we surely need to tend to the presenting issues and help our loved ones heal, we need to be very careful that we are not distracting ourselves from the real healing that needs to happen. My daughter said something to me once that I think puts it nicely. I asked her why she always took her anger out on me and she said "because you're the mom--you're at the top of the food chain". My son once said to me, "Momma, as long as you are happy, everyone can be happy".

As mothers we are the anchors in our families. We tend to be the primary caretakers, the nurturers and healers. Of everyone. Except ourselves. We might see it as loving and giving and even noble to put others first, but in truth that may not be what we are doing. When we focus on healing others, we are often focused on "what is wrong with them". I learned a long time ago that no one is a healer who does not see the other as completely whole and already healed. We must see what is right. And when we focus on "what is wrong" with the other, not only do we hold them in that place, but we look far outside of ourselves rather than inward to know the truth of wholeness.

Even as an LC, I never see a baby or mother who I believe cannot succeed in breastfeeding. If I did, I would have no right to do what I do. And while I use tools and interventions, I really believe they have only become necessary because we have done so much damage to ourselves on this planet. They are not the reasons mothers and babies succeed. That is a question of healing at the heart and soul level. For some moms that healing does not translate into exclusive breastfeeding, but it does translate into a more whole and satisfying relationship and life process. It is the same for a midwife. In my mind, the sole role of a midwife (given a culture that trusts birth) would be to simply vibrate the energy of birth as a given, while the mother and baby entrain to that energy and allow their birth to happen. We are not there, but it is the world I see as possible. Healing is purely and only energetic. All of the tools we use simply support vibrational shifts. Nothing more.

So, back to us as mothers. When we try to fix everyone around us to the exclusion of ourselves, I think we miss the lesson. We miss the gift being offered to us by our loved ones, who in soul agreement with us, present these opportunities for us as well as for themselves. Relationships are reciprocal, even with our children--even with our unborn babies. Another friend once told me that [Jennifer's teenaged daughter] was angry with me because I had neglected to show her that adulthood is a worthy place to go - a place where happiness thrives. She was right. I had gotten so lost in trying to fix things that needed to be let go of that I was never happy. I thought staying married was for my children, but it was teaching them all the wrong lessons. I was trying to fix the symptoms my children were having because of my unhappiness instead of changing my own experience. This is not to say that we should twist the lesson and blame ourselves for every flaw and symptom and misstep in those we love. It is to say that we are responsible for and to ourselves. And when we heal ourselves, we give our children such an enormous opportunity to own their own healing.
So, my suggestion--when you look around at your family and see that there is imbalance, ask yourself, not only what do they need, but what do you need.

This comes at a time in my life where all the signs are absolutely pointing towards decisions that will make my own life a happier one, and will in turn make Lily's happier. I had been resisting, or at least questioning, some of those decisions for all the wrong reasons. Thank you, Jennifer, once again. Not only does our happiness legitimately matter, it's actually vitally important- and sometimes, culture being what it is, we need to feel like we've gotten permission to embrace that truth, so I hope this reaches some moms who need to hear the same thing.

Photo courtesy of my new favorite blog, Art History, LOL

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Breast is Best, Sponsored by Simfamil: Don Draper Explains It All For Us.

INT: STERLING COOPER DRAPER PRYCE, DON DRAPER's OFFICE. PEGGY OLSON and PETE CAMPBELL sit expectantly on the sofa, an easel bearing the Simfamil logo and a photo of a smiling baby next to them. A box with canisters of various brands of formula is on the floor.

Enter a typically taciturn DON. He glances at the easel and continues to the liquor cabinet without breaking stride, pours himself a scotch, then turns his attention to the pair on the sofa. DON remains standing.

I'm not sure why this took 2 weeks. This should have come easily to you, Peggy.
Well, I've bee-

Just tell me what you have.

(takes a moment to square her shoulders, then continues)

This has been trickier than you might think. We've been reviewing the latest improvements by Simfamil as well as the improvements to formula made by competing brands and -

Competing brands don't matter.

(leans forward)
What? What do you mean?

The other brands aren't the problem we have to worry about. That part's easy.

Listen Don, I've worked long and hard to get us this account. Simfamil is not going to want to hear that Enfilac isn't a threat that we take seriously. The market data shows that coupons and sampl-

Enfilac, Simfamil, Nestle, their strategies have all been the same. Look at this.

(He grabs a one canister after another out of the box, reading their labels aloud, then tossing them aside.)

"More like mother's milk". "The closest thing to mother's milk." "Now with more of the same ingredients found in breast milk". They're all vying to make their product more like breast milk than any other brand. What's the problem with that, Peggy?

Well, because there's just no comparison with breast milk. We've looked at all the research, and the brand never matters. Formula just can't measure up, no matter what brand. So . . . (she gestures at the discarded canisters) . . . how do we set Simfamil apart from them?

A new package design? Some prettier, younger models as the mothers?

We take on breastfeeding itself.

But you just sai . . . didn't we just say there's no comparison to breastmilk?

There isn't. Formula can't compete with breast milk. We can't fight the research and mothers know this. Almost every mother in America wants to breastfeed. There's no suppressing the truth. Women know that breastfeeding is best. So we're not going to argue with that.

PEGGY and PETE look at each other silently. DON tosses back the rest of his drink and pours another.

I give up. You don't want to promote the new ingredients of Simfamil. Are you saying we should try to find research that makes it look like formula is better?

We've tried. It doesn't exist. (PEGGY nods.)

So what do we do?

We promote breastfeeding.


(He goes to the liquor cabinet and pours himself his own drink, gesticulating)

I can't believe you're not taking this seriously. This account is one of the biggest we've ever had a shot at! With everything I've gone through with my father-in-law and losing the -

Breast . . . is best.

PEGGY looks incredulous, then seems to start thinking. DON walks over to the easel and rips down the poster with the logo and baby on it, and writes "Breast is best" on the blank sheet underneath.

The research says so, doctors say so, there's no arguing it. And if we attack breastfeeding itself, it backfires, because the facts are the facts, and that makes us not only the bad guys, but liars too. What does the word "Best" imply?

PEGGY listens intently, then starts to write.

Best. Perfect. Ideal. They all have one thing in common. They're impossible. Unattainable. There is no such thing.

(catching on)
Women may dream of being perfect mothers, but they know it's just a dream. So if breastfeeding is perfect, we need to give them permission to be imperfect. Not just permission, but encourage them to be imperfect.

Exactly. So how do we get them from understanding that breast is best to buying formula?

We hire our own experts.

AHA! Actors pretending to be breastfeeding experts who will say that formula is better! I get it.

No, no, not at all. We hire real experts. And we set up our own hotlines for women to call when things go wrong, and promote those hotlines. And we sponsor information that's given out by doctors themselves, too.

DON lights a Chesterfield. A confused PETE shakes his head and shrugs helplessly, sitting back on the couch.

(building momentum)
And we make up pamphlets and other resources that look like they're designed to help moms with all the problems that mothers are likely to encounter, emphasizing how many things can go wrong. We focus the whole campaign on helping women navigate the terrible, perilous, grim experience that breastfeeding is likely to be. We mention every single thing we can think of: Sleep deprivation, slow weight gain, cracked and bloody nipples, [PETE winces] how hard it is to nurse in public and how hard it is to have to stay home instead, and on and on. We're the good guys, we're just trying to help - it's not our fault that breastfeeding is so difficult and unpleasant. We look altruistic and supportive - we're not trying to get women not to breastfeed, we're just here to support them in case it doesn't work out.

(lightbulb finally going off, however dimly)
And then we make sure it doesn't work out. What about that part of it?

The information we give. Do we give out accurate information?

Some of it is, and some of it isn't. Little things that undermine breastfeeding, subtle things, things that will jeopardize her supply. Like telling her to never nurse a newborn more than 15 minutes at a time, for example. and saying that frequent feedings for a newborn are 3 to 4 hours apart. The mom will be lucky if her supply ever comes in at all, and when it doesn't, she'll just think something was wrong with her. Because she's not perfect - and that's okay.

And then we swoop in to save the day.

The three look satisfied. PETE and PEGGY stand.

Come up with a new slogan by the time we meet with Simfamil tomorrow.

I'll have it by the end of the day, actually.
(She exits. PETE follows behind.)

(turning back for a last word, hand on the doorknob)
Bert Cooper is going to think you've gone off the deep end, you know.

He's thought so before. He always gets used to it.

PETE raises his eyebrows, shakes his head and exits. DON goes behind his desk, puts out his cigarette, and reaches for the phone.

CUT TO: INT: JOAN HOLLOWAY's office. She picks up the ringing phone.

Yes, Don? . . . Of course I have the best . . . Model them? . . . In your office? Now? . . . You're lucky I'm such a liberated woman, you know. I'll have your secretary hold your calls.

ZOOM IN to her cleavage, then FADE to black.

Background here, here, and to a lesser degree here. Bottom photo from, Top from Men's Fitness.

Friday, September 3, 2010

THE HORROR! How backhanded "breastfeeding support" from Similac works.

As alerted by Blacktating, Babble has not only been hosting Similac ads, but also breastfeeding support and advice pages . . . as hosted by? Similac.

To this, you're probably thinking one of three things. 1) Huh? I don't understand why Similac would do that. 2) Yup, up to their old tricks (if you're a jade- er, experienced lactivist).

Or maybe you're thinking 3) Well, what's so bad about that? That's awfully generous of a formula company, to provide supportive information for their competition - competition which happens to not charge a cent for their product. That's downright altruistic, really! See, they can't argue with the facts about breastfeeding - and look how nice they are, they're not even trying to argue! They're trying to HELP women!

In case you fall into reactions number 1 or 3, here's most of the introduction (and this is just the introduction):
Your body is still recovering from labor and delivery. You and your baby are struggling to learn the finer points of latching on, which are so essential to breastfeeding success. You're also adjusting to each other's nursing supply and demand. You're sleep deprived. Friends and relatives, in-laws and neighbors, everyone seems to have an opinion about what you should be doing and how you should be doing it. And you're just trying to learn as much as you can about who this tiny new person, all snuggled in next to you, is.

Add to that the breast soreness, nipple pain, the need to respond to middle of the night cries, and a body that feels like it belongs to someone else completely — perhaps even more than it did when you were pregnant — and you have a lot of factors challenging your preciously regarded pre-childbirth image of yourself, with baby at breast, in the happy still of the night, breastfeeding contentedly by the light of the moon, gently humming a lullaby to your satisfied infant.

True, there are probably some new mothers who do waltz right into that idyllic scene. But many new moms limp there, feeling engorged, massaging their way through blocked milk ducts, gritting their teeth through cracked, sore nipples, wondering if that broccoli they ate the dinner before is what's making their infant howl through the night. But either way, if you muddle through — past whatever common breastfeeding problems may await you — you may get to the promised land.

This is just the introduction and already it's a %$@#! TEXTBOOK example of how formula companies expertly undermine breastfeeding while trying to appear as if they're helping.


But breast is best!"
The rest of that page is a freaking marketing masterpiece, laying out all the ways in which your life is liable to become one of pure misery if you breastfeed, one after another after another. I may pick it apart later, but I'm seriously too pissed off about the whole thing to do so right now. Feel free to have at it in the comments. It can be a game! Find the undermining techniques used in each of the problems they so helpfully cite. You'll be busy for hours.

For the record, of course I'm not denigrating any mom who experiences any one of these issues - I had some myself, as you probably know. So not the point of this. Babble, I like some of your bloggers and many of your articles, quite a lot, in fact, but wow, is this ever revolting to me.

[No, "The Scream" doesn't have anything to do with this directly, except (a) how I feel after reading that page, and (b) illustrating exactly, to a T, how Similac wants you to feel about breastfeeding. Ideal, best, painful, terrifying, practically impossible breastfeeding.]