Time Magazine’s Breastfeeding Cover…A Rant in Two Parts (Part 2)

First of all, thank you to everyone who checked in to Friday’s post! It was a record-breaking day followed by a record-breaking weekend for my little blog, and I appreciate the time you took to read as well as the opportunity to hopefully shed some light on the real scoop behind breastfeeding, and especially extended breastfeeding.

Stepping back for just a moment, to truly discuss this article, we need to understand the myths and facts about Attachment Parenting (AP).

Myth: AP is the latest in a long line of parenting fads.

Fact: The ideas that make up AP are a return to more “primitive” ways of parenting, and have been studied for the past 60 years. While applying all of the ideas of AP in modern life presents difficulties, it’s not because AP is new and unusual, it’s because our hectic lives have outpaced our biology.

Myth: AP is for moms who have a pathological need to keep their children dependent on them.

Fact: The whole goal of AP is to raise independent, yet empathetic children who are capable of forming healthy attachments later in life. The guiding philosophy of AP is that by having a consistent caregiver available to young children they will develop security and trust in their parents which will allow them to then explore their world without fear and become more independent.

Myth: AP requires moms to give up their own lives to cater to their children.

Fact: While AP is very labor intensive, especially for the mother, one of the principles of AP is that there is balance between parenting and personal self care as well as nurturing the relationship between the parents. In fact, the mom at the center of all of this Time Magazine controversy blogs about her experiences with Attachment Parenting and her “about” page states that her goal with the blog is to help other moms figure out how to parent without losing themselves.

Now, here’s the thing, I think there is a knee-jerk reaction to regard AP as being ridiculous, or extreme because the principles involved are different than what most of us grew up with. It’s easy to dismiss and scoff at something we don’t understand, and it’s easy to make pronouncements about AP instead of keeping an open mind and learning about it before forming an opinion. However, I saw a great quote on another blog (Mommy OM at newhealthom.com) which applies here, and reads:

The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about. – Wayne Dyer

So, what are the basic principles of Attachment Parenting?

  • Beginning before birth: taking care of yourself, and preparing yourself for parenthood before delivery.
  • Feeding with Love and Respect: This means breastfeeding if possible, paying attention to the baby’s hunger cues, and letting the child wean when ready.
  • Respond with Sensitivity: Meaning when babies cry, comfort them, provide physical contact. No “crying it out” or, in older children, telling them to toughen up.
  • Use nurturing touch: Almost constant physical contact for infants, lots of hugs and cuddling, no physical punishment.
  • Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally: Safe Co-sleeping or at least having children in the same room as the parents.
  • Consistant Loving Care: Having a consistant caregiver almost all of the time, this is usually the mom.
  • Positive Discipline: Have a good understanding of the child’s developmental stage so that parents don’t have unrealistic expectations of what behaviors to expect from a child. Praise good behavior and redirect bad behavior without physical punishment or verbal abuse.
  • Strive for balance in Personal and Family Life: As discussed above. This includes taking care of yourself physically through good diet and exercise, and mentally by making sure to indulge in activities that are personally meaningful

I’m guessing that if you’re new to AP philosophy, that as you read this list there were at least a couple of principles that made you roll your eyes. I get it. It seems like a lot of work, and it is, but then again, any parenting that does’t involve outright neglect is a lot of work. Dr Sears, who is probably the best known proponent of Attachment Parenting, is also pretty clear that while the AP principles have good reasons behind them and work together, that each family and each family situation is unique and parents need to figure out what works for them. No guilt. No finger pointing, and certainly no mommy (or daddy) one-upmanship.

I was not an AP parent. I wasn’t really aware of Attachment Parenting when I had my kids, and if I had been, I probably would have felt guilty because I couldn’t have followed all eight precepts. I prepared pretty well before birth, I breastfed, I loved wearing the kids in a sling because it was a hell of a lot more comfortable than carrying around a baby in a car seat and I could get more done than carrying a baby in my arms. However, I also got desperate for sleep and “Ferber-ized” them (do parents do this anymore?), I have been known to yell, and I slapped the occasional hand and swatted the occasional butt. Balance….not so much. I did the best I could with what I knew and was capable of at the time, and my husband and I parented the way that felt right to us….learning as we went.

Now, finally, on to the second part of my Time Magazine Rant. Here is a confession….I didn’t like the cover photo either, just for different reasons than most people.

I should stop for a minute and give the people at Time Magazine who put this picture on the cover a standing ovation. Their job is to generate buzz about their magazine and boost sales. Mission accomplished. Seriously, when was the last time you were this interested in a magazine story? However, in picking the most provocative picture, they missed the boat on the essence of Attachment Parenting. AP is all about closeness and nurturing, but the cover photo does’t show that at all. Mom‘s face looks defiant, playing into all of the ideas/fears that the general public has about parents who practice AP, or just breastfeed past infancy that they think they are superior to the rest of us. She and her son seem disconnected, in spite of the fact that he’s actually breastfeeding at the moment the picture was taken.

I really wish that they had chosen one of the other mom’s they photographed for the cover. Either picture was more representative of the bonding and closeness that I think AP moms are striving for, but even at that, I kind of hate that they are staring out at the camera, and I really, really hate that they are all thin and gorgeous (but maybe that’s just my hang up).

I think this one is my favorite.

Love the way the older brother has his arm wrapped around the baby too.

Which brings me to my final point, the title of the article, “Are You Mom Enough?”….to which I say, “Are you Kidding Me?” That is precisely the type of inflammatory language that gets moms all defensive and upset. As discussed in some of my previous articles, parenting is so personal, and none of us get to know ahead of time what type of child we’ll have, what our feelings will be or what circumstances will surround us. We just plug along the best we can, trying our damnedest to not screw up so badly our kids can’t afford the therapy bills.

Attachment Parenting is a theory, with some good evidence behind it. There are many other theories of parenting with good evidence behind them. What is better for one family may not be better for another, and that’s okay. As always I feel like as long as we keep an open mind and are willing to learn about all kinds of lifestyles, and parenting choices (whether or not we use them ourselves) that is how we’ll move on in a supportive sisterhood of moms.

Ask questions first, then make up your mind. And no mommy wars allowed!

Time Magazine’s Breastfeeding Cover….A Rant in Two Parts (Part 1)

There are times when I forget how sheltered I am working at a birthing center where most moms choose to breastfeed. Then there are days like today.

My Facebook page has blown up with various threads of comments regarding the oh-so-controversial Time Magazine cover depicting a mom breastfeeding her 3 year old son. Now I looked at the cover first and I had some definite thoughts, which I will discuss in part 2 of this post. Then I started scrolling through the comments and really started to feel sick.

There was a mix of disgust, shock and derision. The picture was categorized as pornographic, and the mom as emotionally needy and selfish. Some comments equated extended breastfeeding with the sense of entitlement today’s kids seem to have and some comments equated extended breastfeeding with a right wing conspiracy to keep women at home and out of the workforce.


What all of those comments say to me is that the general public is still in serious need of education about breastfeeding, its benefits to children, and what it is and isn’t.

Before I get to my explanation, let me say once again, like I’ve said before, if you chose to bottle feed or breastfeed for a few days or a few weeks or a few months, I completely support your parenting decision. This is not about vilifying anyone who isn’t nursing their 3 or 4 year old. I “only” nursed my kids 13 months and 15 months, and that felt right for me; I don’t feel guilty about not nursing longer. That said, there is nothing “gross”, “disturbing” or “abusive” about nursing an older child. It’s unusual in our society, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Here are a few points everyone should know about breastfeeding. (I know its long but PLEASE, PLEASE take the time to read.)

1.) Breastfeeding isn’t sexual. At all. – I don’t understand why this is such a hard concept. Yes, breasts are sexy; they are also functional. Women who have nursed understand that their breasts have two separate uses, both important. Can nursing be pleasurable? Yes, of course. There is a whole cascade of hormones that are released when nursing which cause a sense of well-being in the mom, no doubt an evolutionary mechanism to ensure babies got fed long before there was such a thing as formula. However, and this is a big however, a baby or child suckling is very different than when done by a lover. Breastfeeding is not sexual for the mom and certainly not sexual for the child. Seriously people, how many of you are turned on by your mom’s breasts?….I’m guessing the answer is no one, yet to someone at sometime, your mom’s breasts were sexy. I can see some of you gagging out there, but you know it’s true. Different relationships, different functions.

2.)Breastfeeding past infancy while not the cultural norm in the United States is normal and how our bodies are designed. –And until we, as a society, stop and look at the scientific evidence for breastfeeding and realize that there is value in supporting moms who want to nurse for whatever period of time works for them and their children, new moms will continue to have a high failure rate and “fringe” moms who breastfeed beyond infancy will feel shame and keep the practice hidden. Yet according to most, if not all, health organizations, breastfeeding can and should be encouraged, even beyond 2 years.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child… Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother… There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.(AAP 2005)
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that breastfeeding continue throughout the first year of life and that “As recommended by the WHO, breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement. It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years. Family physicians should be knowledgeable regarding the ongoing benefits to the child of extended breastfeeding, including continued immune protection, better social adjustment, and having a sustainable food source in times of emergency. The longer women breastfeed, the greater the decrease in their risk of breast cancer.” They also note that “If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned.” (AAFP 2008)

3. Extended breastfeeding has a measurable impact on the mother’s health as well as the child’s health.- There hasn’t been a lot of research into breastfeeding past two years, however the research that has been done so far shows that the same immune system benefits that babies receive while nursing continue throughout the nursing relationship. In the US where we are lucky enough to have decent healthcare and infection prevention, this may not seem like a big deal, but in other parts of the world extended nursing can save lives. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 10% of the deaths of children 5 and under would be prevented by continued breastfeeding. As if that weren’t enough, the longer a mom breastfeeds in her lifetime the lower her risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers.

In case you don’t know, the woman on the right is wearing a nursing cover up.

4. Women who breastfeed in public are not trying to make you uncomfortable or make a statement.-Women who breastfeed in public are simply feeding their babies. I would love for someone to tell me why it’s acceptable for young girls to run around the mall in skimpy tops, but if a mom wants to nurse she should cover up or go to a bathroom because “no one wants to see that”. Most moms I know who nurse in public are very discreet, and don’t want to attract stares and attention. I have never in my life seen someone in public whip out a breast and leave it exposed for any amount of time. For the most part, a baby covers up far more of the breast than today’s fashion does. When a baby needs to eat, it needs to eat, and any mom should be able to feed her baby in any place without fear of reprisal. Personally, when I see a mom nursing in public I try to give her an encouraging word or smile because every time a mom nurses in public, it makes breastfeeding less out-of-the-ordinary and begins to normalize it.

5.Extended breastfeeding is not some new age-y parenting concept.-Actually, it’s the idea of breastfeeding only during infancy that is relatively new in the course of human history. From the La Leche League website:

In a study done of 64 primitive cultures in 1945, it was found that only one culture weaned their children as young as six months. Mothers in China and Japan still nursed their children for four or five years well into the 20th century. During World War II, Burmese children nursed until age three or four. Up until 1950 in Kenya, mothers nursed until five, and in Mongolia mothers nursed until two or three and sometimes as old as six and seven. In New Guinea during the 1960s, children were nursing freely up until two, three, and sometimes four years of age (Bumgarner 2000).

As explained in A Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning, Margaret Mead and other anthropologists discovered that mothers wean in the way and at the time that their cultures prescribe and that peaceful, cooperative societies tend to wean later using gentler methods. Furthermore, it has been estimated the median age of weaning throughout the world is between ages three and five. That’s years, not months.

Here’s the thing, we know that in modern society we’ve figured out how to survive without extended breastfeeding, but what we don’t know is what the lasting effects are. We may have guesses or opinions but in the absence of research, it’s all just conjecture. So what gives anyone the right to speak authoritatively about the detrimental effects of extended breastfeeding, telling moms they need to stop what they’re doing, or that they are damaging their children, when really it looks like the opposite may be true, contrary to our social mores? The answer I guess is that anyone has the right to say anything….but that doesn’t make it right.

Whew…..that’s a lot of information, and if you’re still with me I appreciate you taking the time to perhaps get a new perspective. Please share this post so that as many people as possible can hopefully learn something new. On Monday, I have a lot more to say about the picture that Time used, and especially the title of the article. See you then!

Reflection on Birthing and Reproductive Choice

In my last post I did a little Bill Maher bashing, but more importantly I brought up the bugaboo topic of abortion, and then spent a good chunk of the next day reflecting on how I feel about that difficult subject especially in light of my chosen profession as a labor and delivery nurse and, as of this morning’s acceptance letter, a student midwife.

In light of my return to school and following a dream, let me take a moment to post George Takei‘s Happy Dance, since his is much more fun than mine:

OK, back on topic……

I haven’t always been pro-choice. Actually, as a teenager and in the early years of my marriage I was strongly pro-life. I remember having a heated debate with a friend about this issue when I was quite pregnant with my daughter. It was somewhat horrifying to feel my baby moving inside me, and anticipating her arrival so keenly, while listening to my friend argue that every woman should be able to terminate a pregnancy if she feels she needs to.

My pro-life leanings never had anything to do with religion. Back then it was really about biology.  I was so fascinated by early ultrasounds and how you could see heartbeats, arms, legs and movement, and I couldn’t understand how anyone could decide where to draw the line  for abortion being okay, so I drew the line at never. I figured that a fetus, while not viable, was a potential life and deserved to have a chance to live. Of course, as you may have been able to tell by my previous post on sex ed, I was also all about excellent contraception information and access in order to prevent an unintended pregnancy in the first place.

Over the intervening years, I didn’t give the issue much thought. I was raising my own babies, trying to balance kids, work and an across country move and it just didn’t seem have anything to do with me or my life. The furor had died down a bit; abortion wasn’t a big topic in the news. It was all about terrorism, the war on terror and the economy. Then, all of a sudden it seems to me, abortion was in the news again. There were new protests, and new pushes to place restrictions on abortion, so I sat up and started to take notice. And what I noticed most of all was a shift in my own thoughts on the subject.

Maybe I’m thinking of my own daughter, and her options as she nears adulthood. Maybe I’m just being contrary and adopting liberal ideals in response to being in such a conservative area. Maybe I get to see babies born every day who are desired and cherished and want that for every baby that is born. However, as I reflect further on my change in allegiance, I think that the thing that has most influenced my opinion is that as I’ve gotten older and gotten more experience I understand that motherhood is not about being able to conceive. Motherhood is about raising a child.

Having a baby is the easy part. Nurturing, teaching, and enabling a child to be their best self is challenging beyond description. It is at minimum an 18 year job, and truly, it is a job that lasts as long as you live, and I feel that every child that comes into this world deserves parents who want them, who want to care for them, and who will do their best to love them.

There are so many stereotypes out there about the kind of woman who would have an abortion, the three most prominent I think are careless teenagers, women of low socio-economic status who use abortion as birth control, and older, professionally successful women too self-absorbed to have a child. In my experience, though, while there are certainly some women who fit into those stereotypes, most women who seek abortions are just like you (or me) or your best girlfriend. They are single, married, younger, older, and from every economic background. They are from every race and religion and every part of the country. I have sought out friends and acquaintances who have had abortions to ask them their stories and they are all deeply personal and deeply varied.

I have never talked with a woman who had taken their decision to have an abortion lightly, although I guess it happens. The decision was always made with a lot of thought and generally a lot of tears. Yes, there may occasionally be thoughts about the child that might have been under other circumstances, but there is not a lot of regret. They know that, for whatever reason, they were incapable of carrying and parenting a child at that time in their lives and were unwilling to bring a child into this world without the best possible start. Now with the benefit of time, and hopefully, wisdom, I see their point.

I can’t imagine a world where women are forced into carrying a pregnancy that they feel they cannot. Pregnancy and birth are such all-consuming, life changing events; women have the right to be in control of their own reproduction and the timing of when they become mothers. That’s what’s right for women and that’s what’s right for their babies.

Breast is Best, Right?

Well, in a word….yes.

So is not feeding solids until 6 months of age, no TV until at least age two, having babies sleep only on their backs and avoiding fast food like the plague. Out of all of those parenting choices, the only guideline I was able to follow was breastfeeding for at least a year.

Breastfeeding has the same level of impassioned folks on both sides at birth choice.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a big breastfeeding supporter. I loved doing it and I think it’s important that as many babies as possible receive the benefits of being breastfed. It was very meaningful to me personally and even though I struggled at times with it, I found it rewarding; plus the smell of formula makes me want to gag. (Although I guess at one time in my life I thought it was fantastic.) I am never more satisfied at work than when I can help a mom who is struggling to nurse and give her the support and guidance she needs to make it through the rough patches and have a successful nursing relationship, and I feel badly for myself and every other woman who wants (or wanted) to breastfeed, but doesn’t have anyone in their family or circle of friends who has BTDT and can support them through the (sometimes) rough early days.

To me, radical breastfeeding advocates, or “lactivists“, are kind of like evangelical Christians. They mean well and think they have your best interest at heart (or at least your baby’s) but then they go too far with it all. Clearly it’s the same psychology. They’ve found something amazing and life changing and they want to make sure that all of the poor lost folks who don’t know what they’re missing get a clue before it’s too late.

There is a difference between education and condemnation though, and that is where overzealousness and mother guilt collide with disastrous consequences. If you google “breast vs. bottle debate” (which I’m not suggesting you do) you can find page after page, blog after blog and message board after message board where  women hurl the most ridiculous insults at each other and condemn each other’s choices.

I think I speak for most pro-breastfeeding moms when I say that, for the most part, any frustration we feel in this regard is not directed at bottle feeding moms but at the system which still doesn’t know how to teach and help new moms learn how to nurse or how to overcome nursing problems. I frequently hear stories from moms who are really committed to breastfeeding, but who are actively discouraged or given poor advice by friends, family and even our pediatricians. Our moms and grandmothers were told that bottle feeding was the healthier choice by all of their doctors, and by the formula companies, so for the most part, they all bottle fed thus breaking an important link between the generations when it came to breastfeeding.

So those of us who do want to nurse are feeling a little adrift. We deal with the dirty looks when we try to nurse in public. We deal with trying to figure out things on our own, and we feel proud when we manage to overcome the current culture and breastfeed our babies for more than a few weeks. Sometimes, that pride looks more like an accusation to moms who couldn’t or didn’t want to breastfeed, and that’s a shame for both sides, because once again, instead of helping and encouraging each other, we moms turn into “mean girls”.

So, bottle feeding moms, I think you’re great. I know you’re bonded to your babies and that you made whatever choices you made after careful thought and after assessing your own personal situation. If any breastfeeding mom calls you names or says anything disparaging about your parenting skills because you bottle feed you have my permission to throw them the finger.

Breastfeeding moms, I think you’re great too. I know you’ve probably endured some sore nipples and you’ve postponed getting your body back to yourself because you’re trying to give your baby the best start you can. If anyone tries to tell you breastfeeding is gross and makes you feel bad for nursing in public you have my permission to throw them the finger.

Can we just remember that we are all trying to do the best we can with the information and circumstances we have? Trying to educate and encourage a dialog is one thing; assumptions and judgmental statements are something else altogether. Be kind to one another. Being a mom is hard enough and we need all the support we can get.

Related articles

The Birth Wars (Part 2)

Because I’m a nurse in the labor and delivery arena, I follow a lot of organizations on Facebook that post links to articles about birth. Last week, my midwifery school posted a link to an opinion article about the benefits of non-intervention in uncomplicated pregnancies and births. The actual article  isn’t what bothered me, it was the epic comment section.

Enter Dr Amy Tuteur, a woman who is fed up with the natural childbirth movement.

Reading the comment section was like staring at a car wreck as you pass by, or following Charlie Sheen‘s meltdown, you know nothing good can come of it, but you just can’t seem to turn away. I read for at least two hours; first I read the comments, then I went to Dr Amy’s blog and read her postings and I was just sick. Not because I disagree with her opinions because we’re all entitled to our opinions, but because of the lack of respect or compassion for women who may have a different philosophy of birthing than she does.

Some of the inflammatory things she said included that natural childbirth advocates are uneducated, that midwives learn everything they know from obstetricians and how it doesn’t take any skill to catch a baby that’s coming out alright anyway. In one fell swoop dismissing an entire profession of caregivers and the work they do. Now, I can understand her bias towards the medical model of care, and I don’t fault her for that. Hell, most women agree with her if you look at the numbers. But why the rhetoric? Why the nastiness? Why not try to talk to your audience in a way that makes them want to learn more, instead of fanning the flames of discord?

Don’t get me wrong; I know there are plenty of people on the other side of the argument who are just as inflammatory. They minimize the great service OBs do for women who have complicated pregnancies or emergencies during labor, characterizing them all as greedy and unfeeling about the women they care for and that is just as despicable.

Can’t we all just get along?

There is a huge spectrum of birth choice out there with a planned unattended home birth at one end and a planned c-section (without a medical cause) at the other. My guess is that your birth (or your wife’s or partner’s or whatever’s), like mine, fell somewhere in the middle. I tend towards the “crunchy” end of things in that I birthed with a certified nurse midwife in a hospital based birth center. I have friends who would have gotten their epidural placed at 8 months pregnant if they could have. I don’t think my births were better or more special or more gratifying than theirs. I think my births were the births I wanted.

An open discussion and trying to figure out why we gravitate to the models of care we do is a fascinating conversation, and here is where I get passionate. I don’t care what you choose for your birth, and you should never feel judged for the birth you had.  What I care about is that all women have access to good information which will guide them in the direction that’s right for them, and that when they decide on a hospital, birth center or home birth, they are supported and encouraged instead of being made to feel like they are already screwing up as a mother. Not only that, but that a full range of choices are actually available to them. What is more personal than how your baby comes into the world? Why would we ever think that one size fits all? Yes, we all want healthy moms and healthy babies, but there is more than one way to get there and “health” has many meanings including emotional and psychological health.

So next time one of these topics comes up and you feel yourself getting defensive or feeling threatened, take a deep breath and remember someone else’s choices have absolutely no impact on who you are or what you’ve chosen and if you’re ever tempted to dismiss someone else’s choices as just plain crazy, stop a minute and listen to why they did what they did. It will probably not change your mind but it will give you a new perspective to consider. Even I learned something from reading the hateful commentary of Dr Amy; I realized how important it is to me to make sure I’m informed about the latest research guidelines so that I truly know what I’m talking about when I recommend something to a client or get into a debate with someone about the risks and benefits of  an out-of-hospital birth, but most of all I realized that I could have a part in stopping some of the spite and name-calling and help us be gentler to ourselves.

And here I am, blogging because of it.

Related articles

The Birth Wars (Part 1)

Oh, I love, love, love being around pregnant women and the process of birth. It’s a subject that never gets old for me. I’ve been the labor nurse/birth assistant at hundreds of births and consider myself supremely lucky to go to work every day to do what makes me happy. So, I guess it makes sense that it would be a debate about birth that would be the precipitating factor to do something as out of character for me as starting a blog.

I’ll talk about birthing babies to anyone who’ll listen. We just met? Doesn’t matter. I’d love to hear your birth story (or your wife’s or partner’s or whatever), and don’t leave out any of the gory details; I’ve heard it or seen it before. Oh, and can I share my birth stories with you? Both of them? Each one was incredible in it’s own way. We can compare notes, and commiserate, and bond over such a life changing experience.

Except…..there’s a good chance that’s not what’s going to happen. Something about such a personal event makes us feel worried or defensive or militant when we come across someone who’s made a very different choice than we did…..and then begin the Birth Wars.

You know what I’m talking about. If you’ve had a baby you’ve probably had an uncomfortable conversion or two. There are blogs and message boards all over the internet where mostly moms, but sometimes others, fight tooth and nail about why their birth was better, smarter, and safer than yours. You got an epidural? Then you drugged your baby and missed a bonding opportunity which can’t be replaced. You had a home birth? The you put your desires and your fantasy birth scenario ahead of your baby’s safety.


We need to be kinder to our fellow parents and more open and accepting of different philosophies in general for ALL our sakes. In the interest of not writing a novel for each post I’ll wait until next time to tell you exactly what got me all riled up and in the meantime, leave a comment, follow or share this blog or better yet, tell me about your birth story. I promise not to judge.