Archives for category: Imperfect Sense

As parents of small children and babies, how many of us have looked at our four, five, six-year old, screaming, half-dressed kids today, and longed for the good old days when they were still itty bitty babies, who would wear whatever cute little outfits you bought for them, and survive on breastmilk and mush, and stay in the three-by-five footprint of a basinet/carseat that you could carry around to yoga class, the supermarket, and in some cases, even the movies?

Well I have. I was just telling Karli today after we’d just put four screaming kids into the back of her minivan that I’d admired her so much how she could always keep her cool, and how I’d need to look at baby photos of Rae and Sky to remind myself how angelic they used to be, every two or three days, just to get through the week without ‘accidentally’ leaving them on the street one day, to be raised by wolves.

And just when I start to dream about how nice it would be if my kids could be as easy to manage as they were when they were babies, a little article like this puts things into perspective.

Along with hormone doses to limit her growth, Ashley’s parents also opted for surgery to block breast growth and had her uterus and appendix removed.

Ashley’s parents say that because she will remain the weight of a child, it will be easier for them to move her around, bathe her and involve her in family activities – movement that will benefit her physical and mental well-being.

Far be it from me to judge these parents. God only knows how many sleepless MONTHS they must have gone through agonising over the decision to stunt her growth. But is it fair to the child to be denied the chance to grow into a human being of normal size, even though her life will never be normal? Is it really so hard for us, a society of normal parents with normal kids, to accept such drastic measures which can benefit both the caregivers and the child? A good example is the removal of her uterus. If this prevents her from having to deal with menstrual discomfort, AND if this also relieves her caregivers from having to, on top of her other needs, keep her clean, it is simply a practical measure.

In the end, it all boils down to one question: Who’s to say what the needs are of a special needs child?

I’d like to think of these special needs children as babies we still carry in our wombs. We have a responsibility to give the unborn child the best we can to these little beings. We can’t drink. We can’t smoke. We can’t eat raw fish or bad cheese that might not be very good for the baby.

But at the same time, we must do what makes us comfortable and happy as well, and try to achieve the optimal balance, whatever that is, to make the relationship good for both mother and child. We have that extra piece of cake or ice cream. We have sex. We lay in bed all day just to put our feet up.

In the end, WE decide what we need because like it or not, WE are the ones who have to provide for the baby.

Who are we, who have never spent a day living the tragedy of a special needs child, to say, “My convenience has nothing to do with this. I am a parent. Screw my life since I’m the one who brought this child into the world”?

Even as parents of normal children, it is a struggle to keep things in perspective. All of us want to be perfect parents for our kids. We want to give them the best. We want to be patient, loving, understanding, nurturing and in Asian societies, even subservient.

But seriously, how long can you do it without resenting your child just a little?

How long can you sit and reason it out nicely with a four-year old why she can’t have just ice cream for dinner when she screams bloody murder at you after a long, hard day?

How hard should you work to care for your handicapped child without making it just a little bit easier on yourself, for the rest of the world to believe that you love him or her – when he or she may not even know it her/himself?

It is impossible for the rest of us to imagine the enormity of what Ashley’s parents are going through. We can only thank God that we may never have to.

 

Suanie, one of Malaysia’s more prominent bloggers, made a couple of interesting posts recently. Female empowerment, sex in the media and real respect. These are very real issues which affect those of us who raise daughters, even if said daughters are still in preschool.

We Malaysians are quite a conservative lot, even for Asians. Compared to, say, the Japanese and the Koreans, we probably rate about four or five on a scale of ten, with regards to our attitudes towards sex and anything sex-related. You go out showing a little cleavage, you’d probably be leered at and judged as a slut. If you’re a lady who smokes and drinks openly, you’re a whore automatically, never mind that you’ve just spent all day saving lives. No kissing or open displays of affection allowed unless married. Movies and books get banned for dodgy reasons (the reasons are dodgy, not the books), although both really don’t matter anymore because of pirated DVDs and the Internet. It would’ve been maddening if people really cared, so now it’s just stupid.

Anyway, so we’re not really with it.

I’d have to say that a lot of these people confuse empowerment with respect.

Stripping, for example, is a legitimate profession here in the US. Women act all slutty on stage, will let you grace a thigh or stuff ones down their panties, but offstage, one must not judge them as whores and assume that one can have sex with them for money (although some may).

Prostitutes, too, deserve respect. In the show “Men in Trees” you see the town prostitute treated respectably by all in town, even when she’s serviced most of them (there are like three women in the town of Elmo). Is that art imitating life, or vice versa (or just wishful acting?).

Such compartmentalizing is confusing. To help you are The Valid Reasons. Survival is number one. (“I have no choice but to do this to feed my kids, my husband left me” and so forth). Second is, apparently, just good business. Reduce the act and call it a service in exchange for money. When you think about it, it’s the one thing all women have over (straight) men. So if anybody’s to be exploiting it, the rationale is that it should be the woman herself.

But therein lies the problem of respect. Except for Valid Reason #1, if that, the Rest of Us really have a problem with according to these individuals the respect they think they deserve. At the back of our minds, we will always have that nagging suspicion that they actually enjoy selling the sex. That they are too lazy to get out and do it the ‘hard way’. That whatever it is, flashing your tits and singing about your ‘milkshake’ and instantly be propelled to MTV fame and glory is NOT what good girls do. Good girls get their college degrees, get married and raise a family, that’s what good girls do. Or at the very least, you must TRY to.

And do we still get the respect we yearn for then?

In the end, we learn to live without it. Except for family members and friends, we teach ourselves not to care. We say, I’m not hurting anyone else, so leave me alone. It’s just too much work, this earning of respect that we all should be doing. I’d rather be earning money.

It’s a hard choice for a hard world. When my girls come to me and ask, although I’m doubtful they ever will, what respect is, and why they shouldn’t be prancing around on TV with their boobs hanging out for billions of dollars, all I can think of to say right now is, “Because the richest man in the world creates software, so do that instead?”

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When my friends and I were still single, and not swinging as much as we’d like to, we often talked about two things:

1. How do we know if a guy is The One; and

2. Should we have kids right away after we get married.

I’ve always sort of had a plan. Get married by 28 (it never occured to me that I might’ve NOT been able to find a man when I turned 28, so it was a very good thing I did or else I might’ve had to, who knows, go on one of those supposed soul-searching trips to India or Cambodia or something, when I would’ve really been shopping for a subservient husband).

Next on the list was to get pregnant right away, mostly due to my exceedingly function over compliance mindset. Why get married if not to have legitimate children? I’m not so hip as to do the pregnant thing first before making sure the sperm supply is, at the very least, free (not least important that they are 1. visually and medically accountable; and 2. are readily accessible!), should my eggs suddenly decide to play hard to get.

Both things were quite on schedule, I must say. I got married one month shy of turning 29. Got pregnant one month AFTER turning 29. Cut a little close but on track nonetheless.

To answer the first question I’ve so often been asked since most of my single friends seem to think I’ve found the perfect man, a question I’ve long evaded simply because I never knew the answer to, and I still don’t, but after seven years and two kids with the same man, I think I might have an inkling, a little idea, as to how I identified the correct man with whom I’d decided to spend the rest of my life with.

Firstly, it’s not as simple as finding someone who makes you laugh or is independently financially sound (as opposed to being born into money, with all due respect to you poor rich bastards) because it’s not so much as to provide for you but it at the very least hints of a person who’s grounded, at the very least speaks of a mind that’s anchored by beads of responsibility and duty and practical thinking, a mind that does not take flights of fancy until he’s at least in his 50s, by which he should be able to afford his flights of fancy without dipping anywhere.

I think, mostly, it is about finding someone who weathers nicely with you. Not just the fights you have, be it with regard to one’s financial ups and downs, or even racial/religious persecution, but someone who, at the end of the day, after the tears and the rough words and perhaps even a night spent at a hotel or two, comes back, and feels, or perhaps even clings on to, the very need to make it work. Someone who still sees the good in you even when you can only see the worst in yourself. Someone who will ultimately, seriously, realistically, look at all the silver linings and good memories and lights at the end of tunnels of any given situation, and say, “there is a way to solve this.”

A man who never gives up on you. On the us, no matter how fat you’ve become, how horrid, how disillusioned, how…changed. And you see – you CAN see, even without looking very hard – that he never even comes close to giving up. Not even as close as how you’ve THOUGHT you’ve come to the end of the line, feeling unworthy and undeserving.

The determination in his face, manifested in his set jaw. The fire in his eyes. His unyielding grasp. And after so many years still, for you, for the us, he fights. And will continue to fight.

And that is the man you want to find. The guy who never gives up, on anything.

Now he may be the same man who is loathe to change. The man who fights against you asking him to tuck in his shirt or put the toilet seat down, against having to ask for a promotion because he thinks he deserves one without having to ask, the man whose ego gets in the way, because that’s his fighting spirit. A spirit that will not break, not even for you.

Is such a man worth loving?

I do very much think so.

Now if only they’d wear some sort of bright orange vest with blinking lights. Like, you know, a fire fighter. That’d be helpful.

 

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So what is with the official Scrabble dictionary?

Does anyone know what on earth is up with that?

I was playing Scrabble, downloaded from Shockwave.com (of which I am, ahem, a member). Fancying myself a ‘whiz’ at word-making, I started at that level (there was Novice, Student and then Whiz, after which was five more ranks to the highest, that is ‘Perfect’). So I really wasn’t underestimating ‘Maven’ aka the robot I was playing against.

But come on. Ashy? Joky? Who the hell uses words like that? Even Google can find no meaning for ‘joky‘ but nooo, the Official Scrabble Dictionary says that ‘joky’ is an adjective as in JOKIER, JOKIEST jokey. And lo behold, Merriam Webster has a definition for it as well. It’d better, since it publishes The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (truncated to “OSPD” for those ‘in the know’).

Don’t think I’ll be taking part in any Scrabble tournaments in the near future. Probably pop a vein contesting why words like “Mus” (apparently a plural form of the 12th letter of the Greek alphabet) can be used while everyday words like “non” are not allowed. And how ‘nam’ can be the past-tense for ‘nim’ (it means ‘to steal’) when MW itself only defines it as a geographical name to describe rivers, and that the past tense for nim, is actually nimmed.

Again, who in this sweet earth still uses the words nim, nam or nimmed is beyond the understanding of my tiny brain. Nim incidentally also means to steal a little bit in the Cantonese dialect. Would love to see my dad’s reaction the next time we play Scrabble and I start pulling these words on him. As an ex-English teacher, don’t think he’d appreciate my attempts at being ‘joky’.

God, what I wouldn’t give for a smoke and a drink. Scrabble just isn’t doing it for me!

We live in a world full of choices today, thanks in part to the advancement of technology and the evolution of mindsets and melding of cultures.

Will it be nasi lemak or granola for breakfast? PC or Mac? Buy or rent? Terminate this pregnancy, or give up college?

Evidently, some choices are more difficult to make than others. Very rarely do choices come in black or white, and sometimes, even the grey ones aren’t all that great either.

And as if that’s not enough, science gives you choices such as this.

At first, it may be to avoid having a child with Down Syndrome or hemophilia. But being human, we tend to exploit. And being Chinese, we will most definitely do so.

In Malaysia, there is still a lingering cloud that hangs over every Chinese mother-to-be, and it is a cloud noone likes to acknowledge: the stigma of not having any sons. Even the most liberal, open-minded, educated women in our country are faced with this old-fashioned view on reproduction for the purpose of lineage: the need to have someone carry on the good family name.

When you announce the good news that you’re expecting, and if you’re at the appropriate stage, one of the first questions people ask is: boy or girl? If the lady is sure it is a son, she will most definitely announce it proudly, knowing full well that ultrasounds are not 100% accurate, but you’d rather believe the doctor is rarely wrong.

If the doctor says he or she isn’t sure (and from experience, this usually indicates after four or five visits, it will most likely be a daughter), the lady will tell the inquirer that she isn’t sure. Adversely, if she has dealt with the fact that she WILL well have a daughter, come what may, the mother-to-be will slip in a very casual “…but I think most likely it will be a girl…”.

The conversation will turn slightly awkward when that happens, either because the lady thinks that the inquirer will, out of slightly embarassed sympathy, say things like, “Oh, but can try again next time!” or “Aiya, better to have a daughter these dayslah!”. Or because the lady feels a little sorry for herself even though she knows it’s horseshit. Sometimes, the inquirer will launch into a series of after-the-fact suggestions, such as “Aiya, you didn’t tell your husband to drink lots of coffee and eat steak before doing it ah?” or “You must make sure you do it like on the first day of ovulation! Boy sperm swim faster than girl sperm!” or “You never check the Chinese calendar meh?”

All the unmentioned sympathies of the misfortune of getting a daughter will continue to be unmentioned because both asker and askee are already aware of it, even though they know it shouldn’t even be an issue. The doctors know it. Even though somewhere in the world, we STILL insist upon it. It is like interracial marriages and premarital pregnancy and being gay: all the good, old-fashioned Asian taboos we are all taught never to commit the day we understand the words ‘honour’ and ‘family name’, even as we hurtle along in the 21st century.

Is it, then, not unreasonable to expect a couple to go to the extreme of genetic selection to avoid all this melodrama? And if we have the means to pay our way to having children through IVF, why not take it a step further, and choose exactly what kind of baby we want? It seems like a natural (or rather, unnatural) extension.

Yes, we live in a world full of choices today. It is making the RIGHT ones that’s the trick. And when traditions (and in some cases, even with the intervention of government policy) such as the persistence to have sons refuse to die, allowing science to intervene will make it an even bigger tragedy than it already is.

I was reading this report of an interview Britney Spears had with NBC, and as much as I am NOT a Spears fan, I felt immense pity for the celebrity. Which the writer did predict but really, do you have to kick someone when she’s already down? And a new mother at that. It’s just…tasteless.

I think until and unless you actually go through nine months of something that can grow up to the size of two or three watermelons (not including your breasts, which are also reaching melon proportions themselves); struggling to keep food down because you’re worried you might not be ingesting enough for the baby because you’re constantly throwing up; having to sleep in awkward positions just to get comfortable enough to be able to actually sleep without being crushed by your own weight (and being ever mindful of not suffocating the baby inside of you should lying on your back be the most comfortable position you can find); go through hours of labour only to end up in the cutting room; pay thousands of dollars to a hospital and doctors and nurses who may or may not know what they’re doing; breastfeed when your nipples are bleeding and chapping; sleep in episodes of one, two hours up to what may be six months; and THEN find out you’re doing it ALL over again – you should just keep that yap shut.

Granted Ms Spears has the money to go for all sorts of pampers and spa treatments to become her fabulous self again, and to pay five nannies to take care of her one kid that’s already out so she can look her absolute best, it is still horrid to write such a hurtful piece about a new mother who’s struggling to keep both her kids and career AND her appearance together. All moms, new or old, feel they’re the worst mothers in the world already without being made to feel that way. Plus she’s pregnant. How does one go down to the level of writing such trash about a pregnant mother?

A friend of mine, who constantly worried about her appearance, asked me once if I ever fretted about the way I’ve let myself go since I became a mom. Yea, she doesn’t mince her words, but she knows I don’t really give a shit.

Well you know what? I am trying my best to keep my priorities straight. Raising my kids up right. Keeping our home clean and cosy. Putting food on the table. Making sure my husband and I have quality time together. Making sure my mind stays sharp through through reading and writing. I like looking nice as much as the next girl, but something’s gotta give, you know. And I think I’d rather let my appearance go, than my head (rather than let it go TO my head).

So if the reason why Britney Spears looks like crap is because she’s trying to be a good mother and enjoy her pregnancy, more power to her. She might’ve wanted to redeem herself in the eyes of writers like Robin Givhan, which as one observes, hadn’t worked, but I say, fuck it. You’ve got enough money to do whatever you want with your life and your kids anyway. Disappear, work on raising them properly for five years, reinvent yourself and THEN make a comeback.

And if you don’t, so what? Between your kids and your fans – something’s gotta give. Who’ll it be?

I was listening to the latest Bloggercon (IV)'s podcasts on ZDnet, and they had one called "The emotion (sic) life of bloggers", which featured, among many semi-famous bloggers in the US, Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome fame (who'd led another session called The User Complaint session, which turned out to be another mega-software corp bashing session and didn't make any real sense at all in the end, but that's another story).

And it got me to thinking about why people blog, and why it's just so popular.

Was journal-writing and diary-keeping ever this hot? Is putting your thoughts out there for friends and strangers the reason it's hot? If so, why?

Why do I blog?

Revisiting this topic, it's because I was a journalist, and I'd wanted to write about other things in my life, put stuff out there I otherwise would not have the opportunity to write about, use that creative side of my brain a little. Rant a little. Share info, links, opinions. I started blogs for my girls because I'd wanted them to have something to look back at when they grow up, an accessible, searchable archive of their lives as little babies and kids.

Looking back, blogging rounded out my 'public personality' a little. It used to be that I was this geeky writer who was neither here nor there, writing about games, technology, AND relationships (yea, I'm diverse like that). People, friends and strangers, got to know me as a woman who had relationship problems, who found the love of her life, got married and now living out the rest of her life as a muddled-up mom. It was my way of letting the world know that I existed.

You don't have to climb Mount Everest or swim the English Channel or pose naked for Playboy (well, maybe some still do) to become famous these days. All you need is a computer and a blog account, average writing skills, a nose for what people want to read, and you're in the race to be seen and heard. Even if you're not in it for the money (direct or otherwise) or fame, simply putting your life out there will get you enough attention to make friends out of strangers, and enemies of friends and family members.

After three years of partaking in this pleasure, I've observed three things about blogs and bloggers:

1. If you're just coming into this phenomenon, the best kind of blog to have is an anonymous one. This is odd coming from me because I hate anonymous commenters but I think if you want a blog that gives you the freedom to vent and rant and say what you want without getting fired or get any significant backlash from, you will need to stay anonymous. Assume an alter ego because when you can blog in the knowledge that nobody will ever find out who you really are (with the clever omission of certain personal details and the right software), you will be able to say whatever it is you want to say. The downside is, of course, you can't publicise it as much as you like and as twisted as it may sound, the reason TO blog is that other people, complete strangers, perverts, quite possibly your mom, will read it. Otherwise, you'll keep it offline.

2. There are bloggers and there are writers. That is why journalists and writing in the traditional sense is still necessary. Bloggers like Scoble, I find, are famous not for their ability to write, but for their knowledge of the industry they're in, the status they're in and the resources they have. Bloggers like my friend Karli and so many like her, may not blog about much, but man, can they write the hell out of their otherwise mundane lives. Ordinary people who write extraordinarily about what it is to be human. They may not get a lot of hits and hence, make a lot of money, but if the blogosphere ever wants to be considered seriously for its artistic, emotional and intellectual integrity, it is people like these that will carry the legacy of humanities through to the next generation, not the technology.

3. Podcasting and vlogging are quickly coming into their own as popular platforms to be seen and heard, which sends a very simple message: You don't have to know how to write to blog. You don't have to have a recording contract or movie deal to be a star. And as an audience, we don't have to pay to be entertained anymore (well, except your ISP bill). All you need is the right technology, genuine talent (for stupidity or otherwise), and you're set.

So what happens when most of the world put their lives online, in more ways than one? What happens when you have so many outlets to speak up and be heard? What happens when everyone lives so publicly?

I can hear my father's answer to this question.

"Then noone really is."

I had this really bitchy post up before this but decided that while it was really satisfying on my part (a girl's gotta be a bitch sometime, you know), it wasn't one of my best. It was also not very constructive.

So then, I decided to write an open letter in my humble blog, to new mothers or mothers-to-be, who may visit it regularly, or may have stumbled upon it.

So you are on one of the most important journeys of your life. You may have just begun. If so, congratulations. You must've heard or read it a million times before, and it does sound cliched, but you are indeed the bearer of a most precious gift. Money may be able to purchase it these days, but it is a gift nonetheless. Even if you're not religious, you must believe in the force of nature which makes possible this miracle that we call a soul, that no amount of science in the world will be able to produce.

If you're halfway through, I have felt your pain. Take pride and comfort in the fact that you're pregnant, eight little letters that can evoke the most extreme of emotions in people. Enjoy your pregnancy – and your life as a wife or a non-'dependee'. And know that no matter how much research you do, stories like this letter you are reading, advice you accept, you will never be prepared enough for motherhood. That's what makes discovery fun.

If you're almost there, take some time to reflect on your life before the Big Day. Go for a stroll with your husband or significant other. Start a blog or a journal to write down all the ideas and memories and opinions you have about the way you see the world. This is to remind yourself, after that Big Day, who you were. And to witness for yourself just how much motherhood will change you six months from now.

Now here's why I came to write this letter.

I have two beautiful daughters. Raeven turned four today, and every year on her birthday because she's my first child, I reflect on the year that was her life. I look at her baby pictures from the day she was born until now. I look at that personal journal I was talking about, about my life before I had her and then after. I cry a little at how much I've changed as a woman. I feel sad and happy about many things. Guilt and relief at some of the choices I've made.

But most of all, I feel blessed.

Same goes with Skyler, my 19-month old. She was born 10 weeks premature and had Patent Ductus Artereosis, confining her to the ICU for 53 days. For 53 days, I went to the hospital once, sometimes twice a day, to see and touch her not only because I was sick with worry, but because the doctors said it would help her develop. For 53 days, I pumped breastmilk and brought it to her (and you know how difficult that is when your baby isn't at home with you, I had to look at her picture to get the juices flowing). In 53 days, I learned to drive my ass through busy traffic to the hospital by myself, which was about 15 minutes away, up the narrow carpark building, and my licence was just one month old then.

For 52 days, I cried everyday, blaming myself for whatever it was I did that made me go into pre-term labour, praying to God to spare Skyler's life for whatever I did wrong. On the 53rd day, I cried tears of joy because the doctors let me take her home – but not without making sure I could care for her on my own (she had apnea).

People say you start to look at the things you take for granted when something bad happens. That is a shame, but it is true. I never appreciated my blessings until Skyler came along, making the 53 days not only the most challenging, but the most contemplated time of my life.

I breastfed Raeven only for two months and blame my confinement lady then for secretly feeding her formula when I could've stayed vigilant about giving my daughter the very best I could give.

I took my in-laws for granted, letting them care for her while I continued to work, thinking that she was better left with them than a maid, when all I was doing was depriving a child of the attention and love only a parent can give. I could've re-evaluated my priorities (I was a freelance writer) given the blessing that my husband was earning enough to keep us moving along. Instead, I chose to work for that extra money which I thought would give us a better life with the expensive vacations and 4X4 car and branded clothes.

I took the easy way out – yes, working hard and earing money IS the easy way out – and never thought that I would be missing out so much on my kids. And more importantly, that they would be missing out on me, especially Rae, who was practically raised by my in-laws until we came to the US.

Giving up your career and opting out and breastfeeding or being a homemaker or stay-at-home mom – these things are not about trying to be a hero. They are not regressive or backward but rather, life-changing, heart-breaking decisions that took a LOT of sacrifice to make, particularly today when anything is possible for a woman.

But being a woman is nothing compared to being a mother.

Parenting will be the most important role you'll ever play as a person. Sure, many working career mothers who never breastfed or coslept with their kids still raised great individuals. But I'm pretty sure it's not because of the designer clothes or expensive holidays or big house your hard-earned money and time away from them bought. And frankly, I would like to meet one of these women whose kids have now become useful individuals and shake their hand, because God, I sure could'nt have done it without sacrificing something essential, like my sanity.

Or my kids.

I'm not advocating that you should give up your career to be mother of the year. But ask yourself one question: of all the sacrifices you are NOT WILLING to make, which is the LEAST painful that you can make, that will benefit your child the most?

The answer is breastfeeding.

After two kids and knowing perhaps close to a hundred other young moms, I find the decision NOT to breastfeed the most selfish one a mother can ever make. I cannot tell you how much I regret not having nursed Raeven (I nursed Skyler until she weaned herself off at nine months) as long as I should've, and all because some people told me I wasn't producing enough and I believed them.

You probably have read and heard about all the benefits of nursing, so I won't reiterate them here. And still, the decision can be so difficult to make, simply because of how it inconveniences one's life. 

The thing is, it's not even inconvenient. 

So mothers-to-be, and new mommies who are on the verge of giving up – heed this. Without my breastmilk, Skyler would've stayed at the hospital with PDA much longer. Think about all the benefits of breastmilk you are depriving your child that no formula in the world in the world can substitute. Think about the fact that your baby has no immune system until he or she is six months and relies on the antibodies your milk contains to protect them.

And if that doesn't work, think about the fact that you won't even need to get up five times each night if you learn to nurse your baby with him/her sleeping next to you. Or the fact that you won't need to lug out warm water and tupperwares of formula and bottles everytime you go out. Just your boobs, diapers, wipes and you're good to go.

Breastfeed, my friends. It's the least you can do.