Thursday, January 8, 2009

One Big Boob

As seen in Valley Babies Magazine
October/November 2008

So you’re breastfeeding. Do you ever feel like all you are is one big boob? Your baby wants them, your husband wants them for an entirely different reason, and even though the boobs are attached to you, they betray you at every turn: they leak, they grow at alarming speeds, and just keep ‘em full for a couple hours too long, and they turn to stone.

The Issues

My choice to breastfeed was based on the well-being of my baby. I was terrified before and after he was born that he wouldn’t take well to nursing, and that I wouldn’t have enough for him. As my friend’s pediatrician tells her in heavily accented English, “You don’t worry for that!” I needn’t have worried on either count. On the contrary, Rafe had no problems, and when the milk came, it did so in abundance.

What I never imagined was that the choice to breastfeed would have such an impact on my well-being. When Rafe was around 6 weeks old, I began to experience postpartum depression. I believe if I had not been breastfeeding, I would have totally disconnected from him. I dreaded him, feared caring for him. My husband would send me out to shop, or to drive, or to exercise, or to listen to music, but when it was time to feed the baby, I had to come back home. While, at the time, I didn’t relish the idea of coming back home to a colicky baby, for a few minutes during and after the feeding, I felt relief from my symptoms. Of course, there’s a biological reason for this. God doesn’t fool around with his planning. For me, nursing kept me from running away from my responsibility as a mother. Make no mistake, I did ask for and receive medical and pharmaceutical help for postpartum depression, but nursing played a part in my recovery.

Modesty (or lack there-of):
What’s funny to me is what happens to your modesty when you’re breastfeeding. As a young teen, I didn’t want my bras hung to dry on a rack where my dad might see them. However, the modesty issue became a non-issue when I began to breastfeed. I didn’t go bare boobed directly in front of the men in my family, but I sure covered with a blanket and fed Rafe in the same room with everyone when I didn’t feel like missing the conversation. One of my sisters-in-law was the same. I’ll always remember after my nephew was born how careful my father was to knock and announce his arrival to a room, having gotten an accidental eyeful early on. It became a joke to make sure she wasn’t topless when visitors arrived.

And let’s not forget the pumping. I had an electric pump with a special bra that let me pump hands-free. I usually did this in front of the television. Without fail, someone came to the door while I was pumping, and I had to disentangle myself from the contraption and “get decent".

A dear teacher friend of mine was pumping in her locked classroom during her planning period when she was surprised by the custodian who unlocked the door to clean the room. For her, there wasn’t time to “get decent”. She was embarrassed, but mommy immodesty goes a long way in saving face in a situation like that. I’ll bet that custodian never unlocked her classroom door again!

I was sad when I began to wean my son from the breast. The last feeding time that I dropped was the bed-time one. The calming effect at the end of the day wasn’t just for the baby. You breastfeeding moms know the prolactin is fast-actin’! The bond lasts far beyond the actual nursing, and the “miracle of God’s perfect plan” moments far outshone the “one big boob” moments for me.

So if you’ve braved the wilds of breastfeeding, for however long, I raise my glass to you, and say, “Cherish your little one‘s babyhood, and cherish your firm breasts. Neither will last forever! Here’s to you.”