Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Those Versatile Ta-Tas: An Ode To Breastfeeding Moms

First of all, let's make sure I'm clear: it's not that non-breastfeeding moms don't get a shout-out. Moms and women for that matter, get my shout-out, any-day-any-place-any-time. I am spotlighting this matter, only to throw humor on my own issues (which are usually what makes anything I say funny because my "issues" are about as numerous as half-naked chicks on the Hispanic Telemundo). Let's also be clear about my view on breastfeeding, which will either surprise you, or lull you into boredom because you already know: in general, it's the healthiest and breast thing you can do [*chuckle chuckle*] but if you can't do it or you choose not to because it ain't your thang, then the important thing is that your baby eats. Or rather, that you do your best to give your baby what he/she needs to be able to eat well. After that, you can't sit around blaming yourself or you'll go nutso. The End. 

Anyway, I just find humor in how as women, we (and by we, I mean me) are so hell-bent on comparing ourselves to everything from what we aren't enough of, and what we're too much like and I think it quadruples when we become moms. It seems that as soon as we develop some insecurities about how we're "not as good at ___ as Susie McHomemaker" we forget that we're all just people. In fact, this Baby #4 is the first child to: smile at normal things, let others hold him, sleep, eat, and play with toys instead of cry at them. I say this because, there were three and half other years of people seeing Jim and I walking around grumpily like zombies, sleep deprived and constantly exasperated that our kids didn't "do things like other kids" did. Ya know, like SLEEP. Toddler #3 still doesn't really sleep normally. My point is, as soon as people saw what "a good baby" #4 has been (because when kids have sleep abnormalities, they're 'bad'??), I've gotten the, "yeah well, you're breastfeeding because you've always done well with that" or "well, your baby sleeps" etc. Basically, I'm like "WTF?!" (what the flippin' dipping heck?! Okay, I made that up...) because, suddenly when something goes a little right, you're no longer on Team Difficult so therefore, you might not have anything to offer. Then I started having insecurities about not being able to relate to Team Difficult...Laaaame.

Doing anything for your kids can be difficult, and I have found that even the most rewarding of these are sometimes the most difficult. I personally found breastfeeding the first three times to be...awful. Yup, I have no guilt in saying that. It was awful: Baby #1 had severe acid reflux and I spent most of my time as a new already-freaked-out parent, sobbing that all he did was scream and cry and puke. Baby #2 had severe allergies to dairy, nuts, eggs, and soy so breastfeeding felt nearly impossible. By the time Baby #3 had bad colic, I was done by 3 months, packed my little breastfeeding-fantasy bags, and called it a day. Then...there was Baby #4. I decided I'd try it but if it was too much, I'd have no guilt in saying, "Peace out, suckas!" to my milk boobs and lettin' 'em dry out back to reality. It actually went...well. This was scary. What do you do when something you try really hard for, works? And, you can't really piss and moan about it and...it's kind of...great? Then it hit me: maybe breastfeeding wasn't so bad; maybe my experiences of trying to do something--that to many moms, makes you feel like a failure if you are not successful at--were what sucked versus breastfeeding. Huh. I rolled with it, I still roll with it. I have taken one day at a time and have actually made it way farther than I had planned; some super-women might chortle at my six-month mark but for me, it's like completing the Iron Man and I'm pretty flippin' proud.

Mostly I think, I realized that once I let go of nursing (which that term I actually despise...makes me picture myself in a milk-maid outfit) as a means to prove something versus doing what was best for myself and the baby, things got a lot less stressful. With my first babies, there was this feeling and giant constant burden of, "It's time to feed the baby again--if I don't do this, it's failing/If I don't do this right, the baby won't be healthy enough/I'll let others down/I'll let baby down". This time instead, I felt, "This is my first choice and it seems to be working. If it doesn't work, I'll know I tried and we'll offer formula. If that doesn't work, we'll take him to the doctor and test for allergies. This is about feeding my baby, not how awesome I do it. There is no hall of fame for breastfeeding just to say I did it." To coin a super-cheese but good phrase, "Do your best and forget the rest."

Enough about the serious stuff. What I really want to write about, is the funny stuff. For example, that actually, I DO think there should be a Hall of Boob Fame. Or maybe it could be called, "The Hall of Great Knockers." So for those of you Pro Booby-Feeding Beauties that will accuse me of nay-saying nursing (milk maid milk maid milk maid), I'm not. But, I am going to talk about my perspective. Here goes...,

Let's talk abouuuuut...the leakage. Oh, that dastardly leakage! One minute, you're talking to the Comcast guy, wondering what is about your Ladies that seems to be the cause of his stuttering when suddenly, you've become the human peninsula. Your boobs being the source of fluid and your torso the only dry spot surrounded by the leak. So you walk yourself to the store and buy those special little breast pads you're advised to get. And, they're just that--pads for our breast, only they appear more like shoulder pads from the 80's when you wear them or like the times you stuffed your mom's bra when you played dress-up. Should you be brave enough (or stupid) to wear the "thin fit" pads on a leaky day, do I even need to share what happens? Other leakage faux pas scenario: you're in Target (pronounced [tar-zsay]) having some quality grown-up time when suddenly, you hear a baby cry that sounds oddly like yours or you just think it sounds like yours because when you're separated from your baby (and you're nehhhh-ver separated from your baby), don't all babies sound like him? Then, enter in--leakage. "DAMN you, Ladies!" you say loudly enough for all the cute young things in the lingerie department to hear and freak them out. How would they know you've named your bazungas? And the word leakage--eww. (For those of you who are confused: often times when you've been breastfeeding, even just hearing your baby cry can make you lactate because it's your body's way of signaling and responding to supplying your baby's needs. Yes, it's beautiful; it's a nearly fail-safe system...unless you're at Target with no breastpad-shoulder-pads and you talk to your breasts.)

Moving on to..."personal space for the Ladies." You've just worked all day cleaning, taking care of kids, breastfeeding, cooking...breastfeeding and breastfeeding...And your exhausted but hopeful husband gets home. You beg like a gypsy in Florence to get a shower if he'll just watch the kids for fifteen minutes (but really it's thirty mwamwaawaaha! Poor sap!). Maybe it's a loose, comfy cotton shirt; maybe it's a secure stretchy bra but all in all, you finally place your milky burdens in comfort and hunker down for the night.  You close your eyes and feel like you're being watched. Somehow, the Ladies have made a break for it (they're so flippin' huge with all that milk in there) and are flopped out there, and they've cast a spell on your husband. "Well Ladies--it's YOUR fault for prostituting yourselves out there! I tried to keep you safe!" you whisper angrily. Then you have to explain to your husband why you talk to and have named your breasts and why you're angry. Any case here, can't help but ending interestingly.

Let's call this next topic: "I Wanna Wear A Normal Shirt/Dress/Tank Top To ___ Instead Of A Nursing One" or we could just cut to the chase and call it: "Project Normal: Fail." At least for me, I put on a normal shirt and say, "This is normal, right? This looks modest and normal." Then, in an hour when I'm still in King Soopers (which is a whole other post to write about) and haven't nursed (milk maid milk maid milk maid), suddenly I'm knocking down displays, smooshing my children in my bosom trying to get them out of the shopping cart, catching the unwarranted attention of seventeen year old bagging boys and I swear the Ladies have somehow ingested some steroids because they're like Hulk Ladies. Similarly, I have tried so many times for weddings, Mass, parties etc., to be stubborn and get away with wearing that "sort of like" a nursing dress/shirt outfit, only to be that woman who has to just whip out her milkies because her baby is screaming so loudly and kicking away any possible cover that comes near his little head. He seems to be screaming, "Don't you DARE put anything between me and my milkies! I'll kick everyone's ass in this room!" (Yes, sometimes I imagine my six-month-old sounds like Mike Dexter from Can't Hardly Wait in this scenario, okay? What's your problem?) Sometimes, I'll almost get away with breastfeeding in public during these functions discreetly, only for my 3 year old to say things like, "Mom, is that your BWEAST? Why does the milk come out of it? The baby LOVES bweast because they're so BIG!" Why haven't I learned to just wear a tarp of gortex for a top? Then, it wicks away moisture, hides bulk, and no one gets hurt...

Lastly, let's talk about the feeling of being attached to watermelon all day that can suck out your life-giving-energy. Even though you love this lil' melon with all you've got, it's just that--you give all you've got and you feel...empty. (Pun intended.) It is a daily battle, even at six months, for my kids and I to get a schedule sometimes. The oldest will be asking every five seconds for me to read, come see his latest creation, his latest turd, or make him food, and the other little gremlins follow suit and I say, "when the baby is done eating" so many times I feel insane. There's no simple answer here, and if you've breastfed, you'll know what I mean. You can't just "unlatch" the baby because this causes stress and maybe you've been trying to get baby to latch well, but if you yell at your other kids, that's also no good. So, you sit there like a veal named Lil' Bessie, helplessly watching your children take down the empire like the Fall of Rome. It gets better, it really does, but that's not to say that it's all easy-peezy.

Sometimes, I laugh out loud when I think back to pre-kid days and I had this friend--she was a skinny little energetic mom, who smooshed her baby in a wrappie thing around her body, and taught baby to nurse whilst she did various jobs around the house. No joke. I remember being like, 'Yup; that's gonna be me.' (This is the part where some sort of pre-recorded audience of laughter ensues.) I tried that: baby couldn't breathe or latch and it turned out, my baby lacked the ability to breastfeed like a monkey in the jungle. Turned out also, that my nipples weren't all perfect and shaped like a baby-bottle either, like those pictures they send you home with at the hospital. I still see those pictures and am like, "Where do you COME FROM, Perfect Nippled Woman? What class or surgery, or  gymnastics course did I miss signing up for to nurse sideways with one hand behind my head, all smiley? Seriously--I missed out. My sister-in-law (she's one of those "Smiley Hand-Behind-The-Head- Pros"--I love you, sista--don't hate me!) always talked about how happy she felt after nursing. Like all was right with the world. Actually, the really funny thing is, with Baby #4, I do feel that way, but then it's off set by the murder I have on the brain when I see my other three gremlins having eaten after midnight--because I was busy nursing, of course--and swinging from the light fixtures (true story). So I kind of feel like a perfectly insane person--like The Riddler at the end of Batman Forever. "I'M Batman! WHAWHAHWA!"

I could go on and on about late nights, falling asleep in funny positions while nursing (milk maid milk maid milk maid), to sleep, the fact that I never lose weight while nursing and instead, get hungrier; pumping and the fact that it's called pumping, because that either sounds really dirty, or like you should be connected to a machine with cows mooing in the background--but it all comes down to this: I have no regrets. I will be very excited when I have my Ladies back as guests on the show rather than the hostesses with the mostess but, I can also tell in those (often too short) moments of stillness and perfection of looking so closely into my baby's eyes, giving him what was made just for him, that I'll miss it exactly as I should.  On the other hand, I mean, if it were up to me, I'd lactate rum instead of milk on certain nights and we could both sleep well for once...

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