Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of breastfeeding. It’s healthier for mom and baby, cheaper than formula, helps keep kiddo from getting sick, yadda yadda yadda. Obviously I think it is great, or I wouldn’t still be nursing my nearly 20-month-old daughter. That said, there are times when I really, truly cannot stand it.
Let’s start by clearing the air; I have what Dr. Sears politely refers to as a “high needs” child. Among other things, these kids are characterized by their intense, difficult-to-please personalities, their need for frequent feedings, and their tendency for wakefulness. It’s those last two that make me wish I could simply lop my boobs off my body without them losing their lactation capabilities.
I love my daughter, but I swear she is something like 35% deer tick (right down to the ridiculously rapid growth feature). She absolutely insists on nursing through her naps. A good night has only 3-5 nursing sessions of 30-45 minutes each. On a bad night, she might wake me up every hour, or have multiple nursing sessions lasting an hour or more. Or both. And there are far more bad nights than good nights. Did I mention that she’s getting on toward two years old now? I did? Good, because I didn’t want it to be lost on you that I haven’t slept more than three consecutive hours in nearly two years, because this is a serious attempt to use humor to feel better about the situation, and I need to make sure you know that if it isn’t funny, it’s because I am tired. And not because I’m not funny, or a bad writer, or any of the other, numerous, more parsimonious explanations. Tired, got it?
So yes, despite her age, despite eating well at meals, my daughter nurses All. The. Time. It’s this wealth of experience that allows me to make the titular claim (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) regarding the appeal of breastfeeding.
Let’s start by talking about what it does to your body. Switching over from decorative fat pads to factories is metabolically complicated, and it shows. And by “shows,” I mean, “wow, I don’t remember everything being that…veiny.” Supply and demand rule milk production, and, as previously mentioned, demand is high. As a result, my boob has swollen out of all rational proportions. “But Julia,” you say, “there are plenty of folks who think large breasts are rather becoming on a lady!” While that may be true, please note that I do not have large breasts. I have large breast. As in one, very asymmetrical, enormous tata, thanks to my sweet daughter’s lifelong preference for one side. And let’s just forgo detailed discussion of nipples for the sake of dignity. Trust me, it ain’t pretty…and the beige, granny lace, flap cup nursing bras really don’t help.
However, even more than the sheer physical monstrosity that can be embodied by the lactating breast, it’s the situational horror that really makes me want to ride out my days in the emotional equivalent of ill-fitting sweatpants. Truly, you cannot understand the depths of maternal love until you find yourself trying to expose as little skin as possible to drizzly, 40-degree weather as possible while precariously balancing yourself and your giant toddler atop the strangely tall benches near the gorilla exhibit atb the zoo. You do the best you can; only unzip the jacket halfway, pull the sweater up and the t-shirt down, thereby compressing the exposed boob chunk into an awkward football (now with more nipple!). You sigh as your recently-tantruming toddler clams down just enough to snort and hiccup as she twines her fingers into your hair and pulls as hard as she can. You try to smile apologetically to passers-by while shielding yourself from the odd kick in the face. If you’re lucky, she’ll decide to pinch the other boob as hard as possible (read: really hard), thereby solidifying the mysterious magic of the moment.
Sure, breast is best, but for the time being I’m just going to do everything I can to forget that my torso exists.