You might think that I wouldn't like a book entitled Boob Hell.
I would, too, especially if it has a cover like the one to the right. But I have a real appreciation for this breastfeeding memoir, self-published by Rebekah Curtis.
Boob Hell is a story, too familiar to some of you, about breastfeeding and pain. The author writes about her struggle with pain that lasted for months, a nipple so atrociously cracked it practically becomes a character, and the pain of suffering in relative isolation.
But as I read it it became clear that the author's story is largely about the pain caused by what the Best for Babes Foundation would call "Booby Traps:" institutional and cultural barriers to breastfeeding which make it so hard for us to meet our breastfeeding goals.
From her 8 week obstetrical appointment, at which she's handed a formula "gift" bag, to health care providers who fail to give her good treatment, to discomfort nursing in public, to family members who tell her that she should toughen up her nipple with a toothbrush and that her pain is a result of her fair complexion, Rebekah bumps up against these barriers again and again.
As I read it, I got more and more angry in particular at the health care providers (from physicians to lactation consultants) who repeatedly fail her. In the end, it's another mom who provides the breakthrough advice. No mother should have to suffer like Rebakah did, but I'm afraid that it happens all the time.
Rebekah is a smart, and saavy woman who has resources a lot of women would envy, but even as she recognizes the barriers she encounters, she's mostly powerless to break through them. I've been writing a long series for the Best for Babes Foundation about the Booby Traps. The more I write about them, the more I think that we place far too much responsibility on mothers and far too little on our providers to prevent stories like Rebekah's from happening.
In spite of my frustration, I found this book a really enjoyable read, largely due to the author's sense of humor and writing style. The only other breastfeeding memoir I know of, How My Breasts Saved the World (after reading it I still wasn't sure how), isn't much of a comparison in those areas. If a book about pain can be fun, this is one of them.
The only thing I would have liked more of in this book is a bit more reflection about the experience. What did she learn about herself - in particular, why didn't she stop? What did she think, looking back, about the support that she got? What should have been different? Knowing what she knew, why on earth did she sign up to breastfeed her second baby? And if, as the cover states, it was worth it, how?
In spite of this, Boob Hell is a good read and, in my mind, a call to action to work to eliminate the Booby Traps. I'm happy to recomend it.
* I received a review copy of this book.