-Breastfeeding is Life-
This monologue was first performed onstage by Jeannette Bezinque in Wilmington, Delaware’s production of Listen to Your Mother.
I need to get something off my chest. Well, not exactly. I need to talk about two very important features on my chest. My Boobs. These little siphons of liquid gold are causing quite a storm these days. Not just mine, but EVERYONE’s boobs. It’s taken me a long time to realize that boobs aren’t just for magazine covers.
I hate the slogan, “Breast is Best.” Don’t get me wrong, I love breastfeeding, but that phrase just doesn’t work for me. I don’t recall thinking that it was the best as an infant. It didn’t feel like it was the best when I was strapped to a pump suctioning every last drop for my newborn. It certainly wasn’t the best when I nursed through the pain of mastitis. Which, if you’ve never experience this, feels like someone is pulling a piece of barbed wire from your back all the way through your nipple. And now, even though breastfeeding really feels like it’s the best for my second baby and the best for me, I’m plagued with the guilt that it’s not the best for everyone. Breast isn’t best. Breast is life.
Putting a boob into a baby’s mouth is a pretty weird concept to grasp if you’re not comfortable with the topic. It’s one of those things that feels natural, but doesn’t really seem natural since it’s usually done in secret. I myself do not alert the general public when I am breastfeeding my baby. I like to breastfeed in ways that don’t draw attention to the act. Which is becoming increasingly difficult as my baby gets bigger, louder, and more capable of pulling my nipple with her as she attempts to swan dive out of my arms.
My early breastfeeding experiences were a ridiculous display of how to fumble with nipples. First of all, I didn’t have to take it so seriously. Each time, exactly three hours after the previous meal started, I sat down to nurse my baby in our special chair, with my special snack, and my special reusable water bottle. Now, I hardly even sit down to nurse my baby. If I do, I get to have a toddler crawl all over us.
I don’t even want to tell you how many hours I spent deciding how to feed my first newborn in public. I debated wearing a blanket or pumping and giving her a bottle. I packed a cooler and all the handy breastfeeding supplies from the formula company into the diaper bag. I’m pretty sure that the kit of bottles made me forget that I had boobs. It’s hard being a mom at first! There I was, stressing and fumbling while my husband and I passed her back and forth over my boobs. I completely forgot how handy they were! The worst part is that I didn’t even realize how silly I was.
This is how I feed my second baby. Uncover nipple, put baby near boob. It’s much easier this way and it allows me to feed her anywhere and everywhere. I’m a stealth nurser. You could say that I nurse incognito. The thing that kills me is that people never know. A lot of times I’ll wear my daughter in her carrier and shimmy her down to let her latch. People will come over to me and peak in. They have no idea what they are in for when that happens. My poor Grandfather is probably still trying to recover. For as long as I nurse my baby, it seems like people will get an eyeful or an earful on the topic. Particularly my husband.
What is it about men that makes them want to grab engorged boobs? I get it, they’re bigger, but they’re also about to leak. That can’t be a turn on for anyone involved. I finally understand how teenage boys feel, except that every time my husband walks by in a tight black tshirt, I get TWO erections. Everything about breastfeeding is a combination of good with bad. Everything about breastfeeding is just like life.
Take, for instance, the extreme joy of sleeping for more than 4 hours in a row for the first time. We all long for this for months and then, when it finally happens, we wake up to a baseball sized hard-on in our boob that screams when we touch it. Oh, but don’t our husbands just love that? I have the perfect counter-defensive tactic. Simply squeeze from the outside in to deliver a stream of milk to the eye. My Super Soakers are unmatched on the marital battleground.
Everyone knows that breastfeeding Moms need support. Marketers took this statement literally and bombarded us with advertisements for nursing tanks and nursing bras. I hate nursing bras. I don’t understand the appeal of a ‘free bra fitting’ either. They ogle and measure and get all in my goodies only to tell me that I’m a size that isn’t available in the store. The worst part is that I didn’t even want one of those ugly tan bras to begin with. If you’ve ever heard that you can’t get pregnant while nursing, it’s only half true. The truth is, nursing bras are an unmatched form of birth control.
But let’s talk about real support for breastfeeding. My friends started this Facebook group where we can talk about breastfeeding and share tips and support. One of them had the idea to take a photo of a ‘boy and his boob.’ It caught on pretty quickly. I still can’t figure out why they got all weirded out when I sent over a picture of my husband latched on. After all, Breast is Life.
Whether or not we deal with breastfeeding, we Moms all deal with Breast Milk. It swells our breasts and fights to make the course into our infants. It is as persistent as a lactating woman on a quest for an oreo. As true as the journey into Motherhood can be filled with complications, so can breastfeeding. That’s why I’m inviting all mothers to be allies in feeding our babies. For some, breastfeeding is easy. For others, it’s the greatest challenge of Motherhood. Sometimes it is cut short, and sometimes it dwindles through the years. Breastfeeding is vibrant, humorous, sad, terrifying, challenging, healthy, happy, and everything in between.
We can all agree that Breast is Life.
Photo credit: Donna Harlev