Unequivocally Ambiguous

satirical cultural critiques

Abbot Labs. Because Breastfeeding is Cray-Cray.

by | May 17, 2022 | Political Opinion | 0 comments

Breast is not best; not anymore!

Feeling betrayed by your body has to be one of the worst feelings a human being can feel. Our minds and souls tell our bodies to fight to be healthy, but our bodies have different plans for our future that don’t consider our thoughts or desires.

I have felt this at times of injury. But talking about my self-inflicted or defensive wounds when others experience more traumatic physical betrayals would be like complaining about a low Wordle score to someone who lost their family and home to war.

I could do it, but it is poor form, at the very least.

I’m sure one day, I’ll be able to join them as my body is aging and that’s the fate of all of us.

I have seen friends and family claw to their lives and fight aggressive cancers, witnessing how they do everything to be healthy again, only to see their bodies slowly shut down.

I have seen the frustrations of women close to me who experience fertility issues or have miscarriages. The betrayal of feeling their body is backstabbing them by not doing what people say is normal or ordinary.

I imagine that it is similar to the feeling of women who tried to breastfeed their newborns but can’t. I’d never make light of or shun any woman going through this, in the same ways I’d never do it to anyone experiencing the difficulties I have talked about above.

Keep that in mind as I discuss breastfeeding.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that any topic discussed in our society is polarizing and divisive.

When breastfeeding advocates speak up about the many wonders and benefits of breast milk, they are quickly met with the backlash from women who couldn’t breastfeed or advocates of those women.

They are accused of being insensitive, cruel, or privileged. No one wants to be at the receiving end of those accusations. So most people, like my wife, keep quiet and are just happy there are still no laws over their boobs that forbid them from breastfeeding their children.

These comments in defense of breastmilk are never an attack on women who were unable to breastfeed but rather a commentary on the societal and cultural conditions which make talking about breastmilk taboo. If we can have legislation to govern women’s ovaries, what’s stopping our government from legislating the boobs and what they squirt, too.

I’d generally be happy to remain quiet, too.

But the country is experiencing a baby formula shortage, and Abbot Labs announced they are struggling to keep up with a demand they have created, stoked, and fostered.

As the world struggles once more with recessions, inflation, poverty, the fall out of empty and unfulfilled promises of our governments, and the remakes of movies that weren’t even that good the first time around; we evaluate globalization again, and we slowly begin to hear the ticks and tocks of the bombs of nationalism and populism.

It is hard not to.

The idea of globalization, an idea pushed forward to create and foster community and collaboration across geopolitical borders, has once more (as it always seems doomed to) been bastardized.

We use it in all the wrong ways.

We can use coal in the US; let China do it for us. 
We can’t explore for oil, but we still need oil; let Russia do it for us.
We can’t exploit workers; let Mexico do it for us. 
We can’t have trash; let’s send it in barges to Vietnam.

Globalization is no longer about fostering relationships and cooperation but about outsourcing social responsibility.

I felt that was the case when I read about the shortage of baby formula that Abbot Labs and other formula manufacturers (not makers like they are trying to name themselves but manufacturers) are experiencing.

They are pressuring Biden and congress because they can’t get their hands on the material to make formula. You would believe from reading articles from both sides of the aisles that the solution to this formula shortage can only be political, legislative, or logistic.

After reading the article, I looked at my wife, and I shook my head.

You know where there is nowhere to be found?

The boob.

Actually, the boobs.

The boobs of mothers.

I’m not talking about the puritan drive to censure books and movies with boobs. The boobs were not censured from the article or the demands. The boobs were not even mentioned, or the fact that we could be relying on boobs and breastfeeding to feed newborns.

I don’t know about you, but as I read that last paragraph, an image of a boob and the American flag rhythmically waving in the air came to mind, “Boobs. Because what’s more patriotic than that?” Or a propaganda poster with Uncle Sam pointing at you sternly demanding, “The Country Needs Your Boob!”

I mentioned this on a social forum, and I was told that I shouldn’t shun women that can’t breastfeed. My comment was never intended to do that anymore than I wouldn’t walk to an unhoused person and tell them, “why don’t you have a house? It is much better to sleep with a heater.” Or walk to someone fighting cancer and say, “Why don’t you wish away your cancer, so you stop dealing with the horrible pain from the chemo?”

No, this message is a critique of the current cultural and societal views of breastfeeding and the invisible expectations we have on parents of newborns that affect women’s rights, parental rights, and parents’ privacy.

I was also told that we live in a world where ‘boob is best.’

But we don’t anymore.

We live in a world where ‘medical is best’ and we are made to believe that people choosing non-medical avenues to birth and feed their kids are the majority. They are not.

I saw my wife field questions, statements, looks, and off-putting remarks whenever it came up to how she was birthing our babies or how she was feeding it came up.

Are you wondering why they came up?

They came up because if you have a pregnancy belly or a baby or a toddler, people, without missing a beat, will always offer their opinion.

I was guilty by association, I mean, the pregnancy did start with my seed, and I like to tell my daughters when we are eating dinner around the table, “your life started with me.” My wife disagrees, and every night, we debate what came first, the swimmer or the egg.

So by association, I was also made to feel like an unwashed dirty hippie.

My wife walked on work conversations where people were mocking her for attempting to birth our kids at home. One coworker spread a rumor about how dangerously close to hemorrhage she was for having a speedy birth (under 5 hours) — which was not true. She just tore a bit. You are probably thinking TMI, which is what I thought when I saw the heads of both of my daughters come out of my wife.

These gossips didn’t matter; she had the birth she planned for, and we welcomed both of our daughters at home.

The gossips, the snides, the stares, and the conversations are a reflection of the cultural assumptions of what is accepted and what is not.

As I write, I’m still struggling to get my insurance provider to refund any money on my youngest’s home birth.

I knew going in that not much of the home birth would be refunded, but I always forget how insurance companies engage in a battle of wills to break you until you give up your money.

I pay close to $1,000 every month on health insurance premiums if you insist on knowing, and the $6,000 I paid for a home birth came out of my pocket. Other women bragged to my wife how they paid $50 out the door for their delivery and sometimes nothing at all. A delivery that is charged by the hospital to insurance companies for no less than $30,000.

Do you see the problem with the math there?

The insurance company just rejected my second request for reimbursement. They never tell me they have been rejected, even though I have asked on several occasions to receive communications about it. They tell my provider, and then she tells me.

The reasons they rejected this time were the same reasons they rejected the first time, even though I submitted the documentation they asked for.

If it wasn’t for my wife, I’d give up on this money because I have things to do, and it wouldn’t be the first time I’d give up on money to the health insurance company. I will keep submitting the claim even though I have already accepted something my wife hasn’t; we lost this money.

Or rather, it was an investment that no one in society cared about so we could have the birth we wanted to have; an investment that will never pay dividends because we all know kids are a bottomless investment that never turn a financial dividend.

When I needed therapy, I couldn’t find one therapist I liked that was part of the network, a common complaint among people looking for therapy. I found someone who would help, but I’d have to deal with the reimbursement myself.

Well, the same thing happened.

Two rejections in and I was out. Done.

I had to pay for ten sessions out of my pocket because my insurance (the people that advertised how they care about the current global mental health crisis) could not care to pay my out-of-network expenses. Eventually, I licked my wounds and looked at it as an investment because it did help me and not thanks to my insurance provider.

Eventually, after two attempts, I decided to eat the loss, afraid I was going to undo the benefits I’ve gotten from the therapy itself and starting the never-ending cycle of paying premiums, then paying for service then never getting anything in return for those premiums.

As I drive around town, I see all the nurses, who have sacrificed so much during the pandemic to keep the hospital going, protesting for fair compensation and treatment.

I also know of doctors who make north of $400,000 a year. Maybe that’s high, and maybe that’s low depending on your area in the US. I don’t know that many. As you can imagine, I’m not a popular guy in this community.

It seems to me that a system that makes doctors and insurance executives rich while their members and their workers (the people keeping the system running) are getting nothing in return is an unfair system.

As the pandemic transitions to endemic, I can reflect on many things; the most troubling one was how you couldn’t raise a single question without being accused of distrusting the medical establishment, of being a conspiracy theorist.

I believe in the medical marvel of vaccinations, and I vaccinated against Covid-19, but I was, and remain, critical of the health communication rhetoric used to ostracize and demonize those who didn’t immediately, and without questions, fell in line.

The vaccine release and the ensuing debate came at the coattails of nuclear settlements from the opioid companies.

People seem to miss the irony.

In December of 2020, NPR published, “More than a million Americans have died from overdoses during the opioid epidemic.” This number doesn’t take into account the families, family members, friends and communities affected by these addictions or deaths.

Willy-nilly dispensation of psychoactive prescriptions is not exclusive to opioids, we can see it with other drugs like Xanax and Adderall as described here, “Telehealth startup Cerebral under investigation over prescriptions for controlled substances

Any millennial like me who went to college can remember how many of their classmates would happily use Adderall (without a condition) just to ace exams and then smoke weed at night to be able to sleep.

We can, and indeed should be, critical of the medical establishment because there is still a problematic relationship between governmental entities, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and doctors.

This reminds me of the joke, “a pharma rep, a government official, and a doctor enter a bar? What happens next? Nobody knows.”

They probably laugh at you while they drink their gold-infused Moscow mules.

Remember the joke that if you can’t spot the sucker in the room, you are the sucker. Imagine when you are not even in the room.

This should be a conflict of interest. But not in this world. Your primary practitioner is in bed with your local representative, and he is getting more than a prostate check; he is actually getting a check as a tender of payment.

This is the scenario in which the breast milk debate unfolds. Doctors still explain how breastmilk is inadequate in producing all the nutrients babies need and how moms should not even try making something with their boobs that can be sourced in other countries for less money.

If that’s the case, can somebody, please, tell my lower back there is no reason to scream every time I carry my second baby who, with just breast milk, is at the 97 percentile of height and weight.

And that’s all breastmilk’s work; not mine nor my genes. Believe me, I am a giant in South America, but I don’t even break 5’9″; which basically makes me a little person in the US. This is a technicality I ignore when filling out paperwork because I feel like I earned 5’9″ if you could only see the colony of ants my dad’s side of the family is.

Then there is the issue of societal support.

Yes, we have pumping rooms, but we still have companies where women have to choose between a career and family because while they might have the “woke” rhetoric and the pumping room, there is still an expectation to neglect your family if you want to advance in most companies.

Of course, some mothers can breastfeed, but it takes a lot to breastfeed, and it takes a lot to pump, and if you have to make a choice between a career and breastfeeding, women will choose what’s sensible and what’s sensible in a lot of cases is to still be able to pay the utility bills and the mortgage because breast milk won’t do much good for babies if there is no roof over their head.

This, of course, ties to the lack of support we offer new parents in our society.

We expect young people to keep procreating so we can keep the retirement pyramid scheme functioning, but we do very little for them. The general attitude is, “do you want to have kids? Sure. It’s your funeral. A funeral we would really appreciate you doing. Thank you for your service.”

But not much more.

The struggles of raising young ones are transitory, so we always forget them, and we keep on moving on. But it doesn’t go away, as the aging populations of all of our “advanced” countries can attest because more and more people are choosing not to have kids and when they do, they only have one; having two is an act of courage, decadence or sheer stupidity.

Then there are the privacy concerns. We came back from my wife’s pregnancy check-ups on four separate occasions to find out unsolicited boxes of baby formula from no other than Abbot Labs.

Why?

I didn’t sign up for this. My wife didn’t sign up for this. Well, Abbott Labs has access to all pregnancy data, and I do mean the entire country.

Maybe if they had kept all the milk they sent out unsolicitedly, we wouldn’t have this crisis. Or maybe we wouldn’t be here if we did more to make sure that breastfeeding is actually a culturally and societally supported option for women and their careers.

I mean, Abbot Labs is not a prehistoric company, right? Baby formula was invented in 1867. How did we even make it as a species to 1867 without baby formula?

And the answer, my dear friends, as it often is, is the almighty boob.


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