Pregnancy Getting Pregnant

Hey, Formula Companies, Stop Spamming Me!

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Photograph by Getty Images

A few months ago, I got home from work to find a package of Similac baby formula in front of my door. I certainly hadn’t ordered it—I’m struggling with infertility.

Rather, like so many before me, I had wound up on a mailing list that must be geared toward pregnant women or new moms. The practice of receiving unsolicited formula is so widespread someone has even addressed it via a Change.org petition which claims that when formula companies “put their product directly into the hands of new mothers, it can prevent the development of a healthy breastfeeding relationship altogether.”

That’s not quite my concern at the moment, because I shouldn’t be on this list in the first place. For a woman struggling to get pregnant, the package of formula was like a slap in the face.

Not only was it utterly wasted on me when it could have gone toward an actual mom who needed it, the package reminded me of everything I’m missing out on.

I immediately threw the box away. I couldn’t stand to see it and figured that would be the end of it. But then I received not just one but two pieces of mail from Similac—one touting their new “first of its kind” formula that’s arrived “just in time for your baby’s first year” and the other from their StrongMoms Rewards program. On the back of the letter is a tender photo of a mom and dad staring adoringly at their perfectly dressed baby, who is gazing up at them with equal wonder in its eyes alongside the words “We’re Here to Support Your Choice.”

What I don’t need is to be reminded by a baby-formula company that I don’t have a baby, let alone one I’m struggling to breastfeed.

Look, I’m also a copywriter and I understand that no marketing message will speak to every single consumer or potential consumer. But since I’m being spammed, I want to share exactly how this particular message made me feel: horrible.

Because when you’re trying to conceive, especially at age 41, it feels like all your choices have vanished. The biggest choice I wish I could make is to go back in time and try to have a kid at age 28 or 33 or any era from my past, when my chances of successfully conceiving would be higher. I can’t really get it together to care an iota about breast milk vs. formula when every day makes it more and more clear to me that I’ll probably never give birth or raise an infant.

I’ve been slowly making my peace with the fact that I’ll just have to live with myself if I never become a mom. I’ve even considered defriending every mom I know on Facebook, because while I adore their kids, seeing them often just reminds me of what I don’t have.

Which brings me back to the Similac spam in my mailbox. I wish my biggest problem in life was sorting through endless possible options for my baby, from what milk to feed them to what detergent to use on their clothes. I would gladly give up the minutiae of my career for a year or two to focus on making sure my kid is healthy and strong.

There’s already a barrage of infertility related products, services and advice—each of which seems to promise that it can predict my ovulation dates more precisely than another or create optimal conditions inside my body for the perfect melding of sperm and egg. I’ve willingly dove into that world, buying a fancy thermometer I use every morning, trying fertility teas and supplements and diets. I know that I may be wasting my money, but I don’t mind because I still have a shred of faith that they may work.

What I don’t need is to be reminded by a baby formula company that I don’t have a baby, let alone one I’m struggling to breastfeed. I’ll be sending them this essay, which hopefully should do the trick and get me off their mailing list. And, should I ever be so lucky as to be welcome a baby into the world, I’ll be sure to ask to resubscribe.

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