Thursday, April 25, 2013

Trying to do my part

It's National Infertility Awareness Week.  I've never really fit into the Infertility Crowd (except, of course, age-related secondary infertility...fertilization is easy!  Creating viable embryos and housing them properly is beyond my capabilities.  Except for that one time.).  So, my efforts to do something for NIAW will have to be unconventional also.

I was reading an article about an interview with Michael Pollan - I'm sure everyone but me has read his books on our food culture.  If you haven't, you probably should - all my friends seem to be big fans.  Anyway, as I read his interview responses, one sentence struck me and I couldn't let it go.  Normally, I'm pretty good about flushing the stuff I read on the internet pretty quickly, but this one sentence inspired me to find some contact information for Michael Pollan, so I could send him a little piece of my mind.  Here's what I wrote through the FB messaging system:

Mr. Pollan,
I just read an excerpt of your interview from Lucky Peach Magazine in The Daily Beast, and a part of it struck me. I'm sure it was a somewhat off the cuff remark, but it's definitely a trigger for many people. Perhaps you are unaware of the so-called Mommy Wars, in which women who do not or cannot breastfeed are made to feel inadequate. You have given ammunition for those kinds of attacks with this remark:

"But we still can’t make formula as good as breast milk. There’s still that mystery X-factor because babies raised on formula simply don’t do as well... It’s human arrogance to think we can outwit nature."

As someone who has a nephew who was failing to thrive because my sister couldn't produce enough breastmilk, and whose own daughter required supplementation with formula, I object to your assertion that babies raised on formula simply don't do as well. To me, alive and thriving is better than dead from starvation. While I agree that breastfeeding is the best option, it should not be implied that it should be the only option. Formula is a life-saver (quite literally) for many children.

Based on your words, I suspect you have not had a great deal of exposure to women who have had trouble breastfeeding. I'm sure, as an author, you know the value of choosing your words carefully. So, this is simply an attempt to let you know that this might not be an example that you want to use in the future. Certainly, formula cannot match the benefits of breastmilk, but since, for some, it's the only option, it would be better to measure your words on this topic.

Very Respectfully,

Are You Kidding Me? (I actually used my real name since it was through FB anyway, but this would have been a more amusing close.)
P.S. I found the rest of the article quite interesting, and look forward to reading your books - several friends have recommended them.

So while I don't have anything useful to say about infertility, I have tried to do my part to raise awareness of at least one women's issue.  If you have a hard time making a child, the last thing anyone should do is make you feel badly about feeding that child if you have the good fortune to get it here.