I'm sitting at my dining room table surrounded by enfamil swag, literally sick to my stomach. I've got a "hospital gift," a "first visit nutrition gift," a "2-month visit gift" and even a "third trimester gift," because it's never too early to undermine breastfeeding.
And if you're silly enough to try to breastfeed anyway, their "breastfeeding support kit" complete with vitamin D (you know your milk isn't good enough for your baby, right?), pump accessories (babies need to eat from bottles - you wouldn't want him getting nipple confusion and refusing the bottle, now would you?) and plenty of formula (you haven't heard that mothers aren't able to produce enough milk to feed their babies?) is sure to change your mind!
A quote from my lovely end-of-pregnancy present that includes a cloth clutch "purse" filled with, you guessed it, pre-mixed formula: "Why not pack this clutch with your hospital essentials now - so you can just grab it and go when the time comes...And don't forget to slip the enclosed hospital gift certificate inside - so you'll be sure to receive your Enfamil hospital gift, including Enfamil PREMIUM Newborn formula."
I could go on to quote every piece of tripe they included in each of these "gifts," because every word undermines a woman's confidence in her body's ability to feed her baby and gives "advice" that is meant to, and successfully does, sabotage a breastfeeding relationship before it even has a chance. I start to shake every time I think about it.
Where did I get this nice little package? At a local Baby Expo. The first thing you saw when you walked in was the Abbott Nutrition (Ha!) booth lined with beautiful green and brown totes chock full of freebies, with an attendant whose perfectly lined lips and drawn-on eyebrows said, "You're not going to have time to look like me if you breastfeed!"
I was there to represent Holistic Moms Network, so I did my best to bite my tongue and man my own booth. But with each pregnant woman and tiny baby that walked by with one of these totes, I got more upset, until my heart was racing and my hands were shaking.
I had to take a break from the expo to head home and nurse Max before finishing out the day, and half way there I started to cry. This may seem like a dramatic response to a little free formula, but those bags embodied so much more for me.
It was a representation of all the babies around the world and plenty right here under our noses who are literally dying because their mothers are being intentionally lied to and sabotaged. It was a tangible reminder of the mother crying over her child lying in a hospital bed struggling to breathe, the one facing cancer in her little one whose life has barely begun, and the mom who has to leave her babies all too soon because of her own battle with breast cancer.
In those bags I saw the corporate greed that values profit over human life, and I was disgusted, angry, and devastated all at once.
I was overwhelmed because deep down I wanted to grab each and every one of these parents and beg them to read and think before they made a decision about how to feed their babies - to not simply accept formula, and thus illness, as normal, but to demand better for their children. Because I can guarantee every one of them wants what's best for their child, they just don't know where to find the truth in all the lies.
This was obviously not an energy I wanted to bring into my home and to my children, so I quickly started to calm myself by speaking these words: I cannot save the world. I love and support the people who cross my path, I stand up for what I know is right, but it's not my job to save the world. I do what I can and I let go of the rest.
When I returned to the expo, I had come to this conclusion: I may not be able to save the world, but I can and should speak truth when the opportunity presents itself. So I walked over to the booth and struck up a conversation with the woman, which, while it may not have been productive (although you never know who's listening in) at least gave me the opportunity to practice kind and respectful activism, something I was not so good at in the recent past and which I'm continually working toward. It also gave me a little more insight into their business practices and how their reps are trained to answer questions.
What's the nutritional role of corn syrup solids in infant formula? ("It's a carbohydrate.") Do you think these are the best ingredients your company can find for feeding babies - is corn syrup really an acceptable carbohydrate source? ("You'd have to call our 800 number to talk with one of the nurses or medical experts on the scientific stuff.") Why is there formula in your breastfeeding support kit? ("Because if mom's milk supply is low, she has something to grab out of the cupboard because baby's going to need to eat.") How do you feel about the product you're representing and promoting - about feeding corn syrup and vegetable oil to babies? Not professionally, but personally, ethically? (*silence* "I'm proud of the company I work for.")
And it left me with this thought: Activism is not what most people think it is.
It's not about winning or proving a point. It's not about getting heard or getting attention. It's not about being superior or right. It's not about hoping someone else feels inferior or wrong. And it's not about forcing anyone to live or feel a certain way or to make a particular choice.
So here's the completed title: Activism is empathy in action.
It's genuinely wanting the very best for everyone around you. It's heartfelt compassion and love for the anonymous people whose homes you pass on your way to the store, the drivers who wait at red lights with you, and the kids in the shopping cart next to yours. It's seeing and feeling their pain, past, present, or future, and doing all you can to heal it, end it, or prevent it.
This is activism and this is why I post incessantly on facebook, talk to anyone who's open, support anyone who's wavering, and speak truth in the face of lies.