By Shannon Frost Greenstein
I must apologize. I must do more than apologize. I must grovel on my knees for your forgiveness, kowtow to your sleeping form, throw myself upon my samurai sword in disgrace. I have failed you. I have failed as a mother, but more than that, I have failed as your provider and protector. Your existence is now irrevocably screwed up, all because I’m feeding you formula.
Offspring, please understand. I tried. I tried SO bloody hard. I wanted to breastfeed you more than anything in the world, and I will never get back the block of my life that I devoted trying to feed you from my body. Don’t get me wrong…I would happily sacrifice it a million times over if there was even the remotest chance I could rear you the way nature intended. But it was just a physical impossibility, and now, you’re playing through life with an unimaginable handicap, all because I’m feeding you formula.
Just so you know how sorry I really am, let me detail how your life is flat-out ruined, all because I’m feeding you formula.
First of all, your immune system. Your immune system is totally screwed, from now until when you draw your last, rasping, desperate breath on your deathbed. And you know why you’ll be on your deathbed? Because I fed you formula! It’ll start with a simple runny nose. Just a little cold. But then, you won’t recover. And then, it’ll come back. And then, it’ll turn into something WORSE.
By the time you’re seven, you’ll be fighting off consumption and lupus and viral hemorrhagic fever, asking me in a pathetic, barely audible voice why I couldn’t have tried just a little harder to breastfeed you. It’s the same as if I’d rolled you around in a week-old pile of horse smegma and E Coli O157:H7, because that’s the equivalent of the immune system I’ve bestowed upon you. You’ll be vulnerability incarnate, all because I’m feeding you formula.
Next, your brain. I’m sorry, offspring, but you’re just doomed to be dim. We all know that breast milk makes a child inexplicably smarter. After all, if the internet tells us that, it must be true. But you, you poor depraved baby, you’re not getting any of those brain-boosting benefits. Thanks to the iron-enriched powdered hemlock I’m forcing upon you, your brain will develop with the speed of drying paint.
Because of my malfunction, you’ll always be the slow student in class; you’ll bomb your SATs; you won’t get into a good university, and on the off chance you do, you won’t be able to keep up with the smarter students who were all breastfed. Then you’ll end up working a minimum wage food service job, without the intelligence to realize the travesty into which your life has evolved. This and more will be your future, all because I’m feeding you formula.
Also, let’s not forget the embarrassment you’ll feel each and every time you’re around your mother. Offspring, I was really counting on breastfeeding to lose that baby weight. That shit burns 500 calories a day, and I was certain I’d be back in a bikini before your one-month birthday. But, as you’re coming to realize, I’ve botched everything, because formula doesn’t burn any calories at all. I currently have a figure resembling a genetically modified pear, and I don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future.
You’ll be seven or eight, playing with all of your breast-fed friends, and you’ll see your mother lumbering towards you like a Sasquatch preparing for winter’s hibernation. Just think…you’ll have to explain to them that you’re related to me, that you personally wish I would lose the weight, and that they should in no way judge you for my physical appearance. If I was breastfeeding you, there would be no issue in seven or eight years. But you’re doomed for an elementary school career of taunts, jeers, and bullying, the least of all being the, “Your momma’s so fat, she…” jokes. We could have circumvented this humiliation, but now there’s no hope, all because I’m feeding you formula.
So, in conclusion, offspring, I owe you more than an apology. I owe you a better life than the one I’m currently inflicting upon your fragile tabula rasa. Sure, you’re growing; you smile; you actually appear to be flourishing. But I know that’s just a veneer, a false reality imposed by the poison filling your belly. I may as well be injecting you with heroin, because that powder is just as dangerous as the kind I’ve been buying at the pharmacy with which to burden you.
If there’s one thing I can beg of you, as you travel down this journey called being, it’s that you don’t hold me accountable for all of the calamities and heartbreak you’re sure to experience. I swear I’ll make it up to you, even though you’ll never know the joy of a puppy or a pony, because of the horrific allergies you’re sure to develop, all because I’m feeding you formula.
The Worst Mother Ever
Shannon Frost Greenstein is a Philadelphia resident, a new mother, and an aspiring writer. She hopes to raise a child who protects the bullied and uses gender-neutral pronouns. Shannon currently suffers through a day job while attempting to craft the Next Great American Novel. She aims to slowly claw her way out of debt with her writing and badger her husband into consenting to another baby. Her work can be found on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, the Philadelphia City Paper, WHYY’s NewsWorks SpeakEasy column, the elephant journal, the Omniverse, and the Philly Metropolis.
I wonder if I’m the only one that will post on this.
Cynical; I know. I’m in the same boat. Stay at home father of a new born; I’m supposed to alter sexes to provide for my little one. I hear men can do that in times of war. Perhaps that will be the correct course of action. Sign up to the military in hopes of having the phenomenon occur that causes mass lactation in men.
Cynical perhaps isn’t the right word. Doing the best I can to keep my child healthy and active. Spending hours a day playing and teaching – training and learning from. Laughing and scratching my head wondering what caused a particular reaction.
I’m a bad father because I use a bottle.
But that’s OK. Because I can see the light in his eyes when he laughs; and how excited he gets when his loving parents walk into a room. He’s a somebody. A somebody that cares when it is the people he cares about and a somebody who investigates and is curious when it is not.
And if bottle feeding made him the bright eyed curious little explorer that he is today; I’ll take it. He can blame me later.
Call me cynical.