As a young girl, I was embarrassed to bring friends to my home. I dreaded seeing them wrinkle their nose, and I didn’t want to answer the question, “What is that smell?!” I knew the pungent odors and aromas that permeated the carpet and upholstery and every stitch of fabric in my home were offensive to the nostrils of the kids that I so wanted to impress. I’d scoff, “Ugh, just some nasty Korean stuff my mom’s cooking! I hate it so much!” We’d agree how gross it was and I’d quickly find an excuse to leave again.
Later, I’d sit with my mom and eat anything she dished up, every spicy, chewy, hot, cold, red, brown, black, cooked or raw, tentacled or jiggly, whether it was identifiable or not — I loved Korean foods and even though I’ve been estranged from my mother for a long time, I still think of many meals she and I enjoyed together growing up. I’m grateful for Korean food because of these memories and because I am proud that I am open to trying all sorts of foods from other cultures.
When my older three children were babies, they were each breastfed and formula-fed for various lengths of time. Formula was a much more convenient way to feed the babies without worrying about pumping and inflexible employers and all of those complicated issues. My fourth baby was exclusively nursed because I had the luxury of staying home with him, but there was no milk for my youngest, my tiniest and most fragile baby.
No one can tell me why. It may have been stress or sleep deprivation or laziness — whatever the reason, I could not produce milk. And that choice to breastfeed or bottle feed that I’d made so flippantly in the past, just based on my own convenience, that choice was unavailable to me now.
And so I am very grateful for the donor breast milk that nourished my premature infant throughout the third trimester that he spent in an artificial womb. And I’m grateful for the formula that I’m able to mix for his feeding tube. He was never able to take enough of anything by mouth to survive, so I am absolutely grateful to live in a time and a place where there are other options for him.