An insistence on exclusive breastfeeding became dangerous

A photograph of my son when he was a newborn
A photograph of my son when he was a newborn
Photo by Author: For the first few months of his life, my son’s weight was an ongoing concern.

I was at the paediatrician’s office for my son’s two-week check in. My son’s weight had dropped below the 10% allowance and the doctor didn’t mince words.

I sobbed as I clutched my son to my chest. I promised the doctor, my son, myself, and the universe that I would get this breastfeeding business sorted out. I would do whatever it took, and I didn’t care how much it hurt, how little sleep I would get, or how difficult it would be.

I would breastfeed, because I wanted to be a “good mother” and I would…


There were consequences I never anticipated

Photo by Johannes Daleng on Unsplash

In times of trial, people can rise to new heights. It’s why we read books and watch movies — to see people overcome great challenges. It’s entertaining to watch people get through nail-biting situations in heroic ways and, once the mission is accomplished or the challenge conquered, the story usually ends.

We don’t see Jason Bourne going through months of therapy, working on his trust issues.

We don’t read about Bilbo’s relentless nightmares long after the ring has been destroyed.

We don’t see Dorothy’s bedroom cluttered with haunting charcoal sketches of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Rarely do we…


Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all my fault

Photo by Alex Boyd on Unsplash

As I sat in the pediatrician’s office and explained the situation, I knew how he saw me: a frazzled, overtired, desperate new mother, grasping at straws, Googling solutions to sleeping problems, diagnosing issues without any medical experience.

I stumbled over my words, rattled by his lack of empathy, while my son squirmed on my lap.

The doctor sighed and glanced at the clock. “Let’s have a look.”

He wheeled toward us on his rolly chair and held a tongue depressor toward my toddler, who stared back defiantly. …


Trying to help ruined everything

Photo by Pawel Janiak on Unsplash

You were one of my closest friends for over twenty years. You were my Maid of Honor at my wedding. Our friendship had survived a variety of questionable boyfriends, lengthy road trips, and long distances — even living in separate countries at one point.

But it couldn’t survive the workplace.

I was trying to help. You were out of work and I was taking a year-long maternity leave. We met in college, in the same communications program, and you were qualified to step in. It felt like serendipity.

I love my job. Sure, it’s got its ups and downs, its…


You’ve got this!

Photo by Micah Williams on Unsplash

Start off Strong

First, be born with a vagina. The odds are roughly fifty-fifty here so we’re starting strong.

Join a Big Family

Ideally, have a bunch of sisters you can be competitive with and who constantly remind you of your failings. The eldest should be especially overbearing. This will help ensure that any self-esteem you’ve brought with you from the womb or that you pick up early on will be gradually and consistently picked away at, like old nail polish.

Help the Youth

When you’re in elementary school, volunteer to read picture books to the younger kids because, hey, why not, books are good, right? The apparent harmlessness of…


I spread my legs for a Pap smear but couldn’t open my mouth

(Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash)

I was at my doctor’s office for a Pap smear. It was a follow-up required after a test last year that yielded “uncertain” results.

My doctor, a bright young woman (highly praised on a rate-my-doctor website), didn’t seem particularly concerned, so I was doing my best to not be particularly concerned either. My Pap had been scheduled for March but, well, March was March. So here I was in August, finally getting an in-person appointment.

The visit felt more like the opening scene in a dystopian future sci-fi novel. There was no one else in the clinic. The front door…

Barb Summers

Writer, communicator, fellow human being

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