I recently saw one of my best single girlfriends (shocker!) and of course, Sophie was in tow. Magically, she sat quietly and played with her toys while I lived vicariously through my friend’s exciting, unpredictable life. (She goes on vacation! She goes to restaurants! She gets dressed and leaves her apartment with nothing but a bag and her keys and maybe a coffee in tow! She sleeps without being fondled by hungry lips! Whose life is this?)
We chatted on her floor, curled up like primates. Midway through the conversation, I felt my breasts balloon, signaling it was time for Sophie to eat. I pulled her to my chest, mid-sentence, and popped a boob in her mouth.
If you are a breastfeeding mom, you don’t think a lot about this action. I do it in public, at home, on the phone, wherever. I’m not flashing anyone – I’m simply nourishing my child (well-covered, of course). And yet, you’d think I was stripping while shouting derogatory words due to the eye shielding and embarrassed looking away this causes by some. It’s as if they’ve been blinded by the sun.
“You’re still breastfeeding?” my friend asked. Incredulous. Almost tinged with a hint of disgust.
“How long will you do it?”
“Until my body doesn’t produce it or she lets me know… Who knows? Could be three years.”
“Three years? You’re not going to be one of those moms whose child can unbutton your blouse, are you?”
“Well, I don’t wear blouses. Or buttons. So we should be good.”
I’ve never been able to understand the disgust with breastfeeding or phrases that start with “one of those moms.” The people who make faces about breast milk are the same ones who have guzzled from a cow’s boob from the time they were young. Except those boobs are attached to dirty machinery, which are often infected with puss, radioactive particles or even flame retardants. Tons of bacteria. Not to mention dairy is incredibly hard to digest. But this is normal, despite the fact that we are the only species to drink another species milk.
Yet, because I give my child the food that was provided for her around the clock (no machinery or pus included) for the past nine months, I am icky.
As my friend Lauren and I took our little ones to the zoo a few days later, both carefully snuggled in their Ergos, Sophie drifting amidst the sea of monkeys and lions, we stopped to feed our babies. We happened to find a bench by the monkeys. As I fed my daughter, I watched them caring for each other, smashing what looked like poo against a window and eating it from the streaked glass. I studied their sad eyes and hunched shoulders. I wondered how happy or miserable they were, or if they might have been separated from their young.
As we focused on a mother sitting by us, eating that green looking dung, I looked at her nipples.
“We have the same nipples,” I joked.
As if in response, she got up and moved, her ballooned, very wrinkled vagina on full display.
“She is one of my people!” I exclaimed. Why didn’t people find her offensive? Vagina and nipples hanging out, pressing against the glass, practically blinking at people. Eating poop no less! But no one was judging her. They were photographing her.
It’s a fine line to discover what is “socially” acceptable as a mother, and there’s no more touchy subject than breastfeeding. It just so happens that it’s not for everyone, and while my life would be so easy if Sophie had formula or I pumped (you mean someone else could feed her???), it’s simply not an option. This is part of my job – the part that I love the most. Her lips opening and searching wildly and then clamping down with such relief, she sighs. Her free hand slapping my chest, probing my face, or curling up next to her chin. Her heavy eye lids as she slips into a milk coma. Her signal of being done as she pushes away from me in search of other pursuits.
Will I ever regret losing sleep, not having more sex, not spending more time with my hubby, not going to movies or to as many restaurants as I want in order to take care of my (barely) still small child? Never.
I have the rest of my life to to have sex, take trips, sleep, work, take naps or do what I please. My child is just a child for only a few more months. I will only be able to cradle her on my Boppy for a little while longer, and each time I pull her to my chest, I am trying to memorize every detail: how I missed that second nail; how the back of her hair is forming a devil’s tail of wispy blond; how she has leftover smoothie dried to her nostril; how the gray of her eyes is being tinged with hazel; how her cheeks are dry; how her teeth have grown even more, changing the entire shape of her mouth and smile.
Years from now, it will be nearly impossible to conjure these memories. Will I be able to remember what breastfeeding even felt like? How she literally gives me the female version of blue balls as she gets me to the let down only to pull away like a tease? What a phenomenon it is that a full breast can be emptied in five minutes and that she can play for hours subsisting on those few ounces; how I don’t have to purchase or use machinery or water to give her what she needs – I simply make it, without doing anything at all. What a miracle.
To me, it is the only choice, and I will miss it when it’s gone.
I know I’m only nine months in, and having a child walk up to me and demand my boob might feel different in a year. Or perhaps my body will decide it’s had enough before then.
But, as I’ve learned, I’m not predicting what will happen. Or bragging. Or setting anything in stone. I’m just taking advantage of one of the only free things left in this world, which happens to be the best thing for my daughter: me.
But, like my fellow friend, the monkey, I am simply following my nature (thankfully, my nature doesn’t involve slapping poo against a glass window and eating it) because it feels right to me and to my daughter.
And that’s all that matters.