I was nine and my sister Laurie was eleven when we made a gruesome discovery: our parents, it seemed, had had sex. This undeniable fact was revealed to us with the announcement of our mom’s surprise pregnancy. (“It was just the one time,” Laurie and I assured each other. “Probably after that party at the Jordans’. Maybe they were drunk. Yeah, that was definitely it.”)
Even though my mom was younger with her bonus third baby than I was with my painstakingly planned first, she was prone to moaning about how “old and tired” she was. She liked to sleep in on weekends and babies, it turned out, did not. So, Laurie and I cheerfully signed up for sunrise shifts with our new baby brother Brian.
In addition to other joyful tasks like wiping his ass and cleaning up his puke (Brian was born with a “floppy esophagus,” which is the medical term for “some bullshit condition that makes a baby regurgitate, most often in a projectile fashion, a minimum of one of every two food molecules he ingests”), Laurie and I became masters at mixing up baby formula.
This was not as simple as it may seem. See, if you tried just filling the bottle with water and then plopping a scoop of Similac on top, the powder would stick to the inside of the nipple and clog it up when you shook that shit. You had to put the in powder first, and then slowly add the water [that you had pre-boiled and partially cooled to the perfect, Goldilocks temperature, a task that took at least an entire episode of Scooby-Doo; sometimes two]. Also, shaking that shit filled it with approximately sixteen trillion bubbles, which was a nightmare for babies in general but in particular for floppy esophagus sufferers, so you were advised instead to gently stir that shit, which could sometimes be accomplished during a two-minute commercial break, if you had everything assembled in advance.
Twenty-five years later, after a wee struggle rectified with the help of a lactation consultant for only $150, I was nursing my own newborn.
“Why didn’t you breastfeed us?” I asked my mom.
“Oh, you only did that if you couldn’t afford formula,” she explained.
Originally created as a life-saving option for women who were unable to nurse, the infant formula industry seemingly hired the Alan Dershowitz of publicists to portray breastfeeding as a poor mom’s sport and peddle imitation alternatives instead. The campaign was quite successful, knocking nursing levels down to around 20 percent in the 1950s and 1960s. (I was born in 1969, for reference.) Biology’s most natural act began to regain popularity in the late 1970s; today, more than 80 percent of U.S. moms nurse their newborns.
The fact that anyone, anywhere, could be convinced that a processed chemical cocktail which may or may not contain artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, stabilizers, BPA and GMO corn and soy was superior to the convenient, portable, biologically perfect feeding system Mother Nature thoughtfully built into the female body is a total mind-fuck, if you ask me. Sure, if a mother dies in childbirth, or has a condition which prevents her from being able to suckle her spawn or has some reason she needs to be separated from her baby for long stretches, I’m thankful there’s a semi-decent alternative to ground up dinosaur nuggets. But calling any synthetic substitution ‘better than breastmilk’ and framing lactating as shameful is a dangerous and deplorable money-grab by manufacturers that’s been supported by policymakers and lobbyists for decades.
The parallels to natural immunity from infection are patent. “Oh, you had COVID? That’s nice. But we still want you to take this experimental gene therapy that lists death (among hundreds of other debilitating ills) as a side-effect. No, it won’t prevent you from getting sick or spreading the virus to others, but you’re a selfish granny-killer if you refuse it,” insists Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who raked in more $21 millionin the first year of his company’s COVID vaccine rollout. (Also Bourla did not technically say that; that was rhetorical hyperbole, a literary device still protected by freedom of speech.)
I have a degree in advertising and a background in marketing, and I grudgingly give the CDC, FDA and the Brandon administration props for a frighteningly successful vaccine campaign. You don’t get more than half the country chirping “safe and effective” about an emergency use injectable that has proven itself to be neither without some serious spin and the relentless push of a powerful propaganda machine.
I feel grateful that with the help of the aforementioned lactation consultant, I was able to nurse my babies. Similarly, I’m thankful that I caught and recovered from COVID and have not only all that robust protection but an intact immune system to boot. So you can save your mystery juice for the elderly and immunocompromised folks who want and may actually benefit from it, and quit wasting your energy, efforts and incentives trying to get me to roll up my sleeve. There’s not enough free beer, pizza, crinkle cut fries, Krispy Kreme donuts, or Girl Scout cookies on the planet to make me change my mind.