These Boobs Belong To You, Babe

sleepingbebeI never wanted to breastfeed.

I know, I know. This is something I’ve always been wary of sharing.

With those people who dared to pry, in fact–those in my breastfeeding and hypnobirthing classes, those in my new mom support groups, those veteran moms who are a part of my life–I’ve always just said, “I’m going to give it a try and see what happens.” This only to avoid the pitchforks and angry mobs.

I always assumed it wasn’t for me. The cracked and sore nipples. The leaky boobs. The wrestling with nursing cover-ups in public places. The pressure.

Heck, I hadn’t been breastfed, and turned out okay. Why should I feel guilty for wanting to do the same with my own daughter?

When the time came, though, the both of us took right to it. Emily to the boob. Me to the act of nurturing my baby with my body.

Not that I enjoyed it. On the contrary, it made me feel as if I was suffocating, especially in that first month when Em cluster fed and when I made the mistake of allowing her to self-soothe on my breast for extended periods of time. Heck, I changed my mind every other day in regard to how long I’d do it. Whether or not I’d supplement. Whether or not I’d pump. The proportion of boob milk to formula. When I’d eventually wean.

But the two of us were good at it from the very beginning. From that very first day in the hospital, when I overheard one nurse murmuring to another that we were naturals, I found myself experiencing an odd sense of pride.

But a couple nights ago, just two days after turning 3 months, Emily refused the boob.

I had heard of babies self-weaning before. Deciding they were done. Over it. Kaput.

But I had never heard of it happening so early.

Instead of relief–this was, for the most part, something I had been waiting for with bated breath–I felt a complex, unexpected mix of sadness and disappointment.

I considered the pros:

  • I could pack away the pump, the storage bags, the pumping bra, the hand-me-down nursing tops, the nursing pillows, and the nursing scarf.
  • I could leave the blinds up in my home office without worrying about inadvertently giving the neighbors and landscapers a free show.
  • I could stop wearing bras at night.
  • I could stop worrying about leaky boobs.
  • I could drink entire pots of coffee with abandon.

But then there were the cons:

  • I’d just spent money on those goddamn nursing sports bras.
  • Sometimes, it was just more convenient to take a boob out, rather than mix a bottle.
  • I could still type while Em was on my boob; not so when giving a bottle.
  • I could also stick Em on my boob during conference calls and phone interviews, effectively keeping her quiet as I carried on conversations and took notes.
  • Considering the high cost of formula, I could only assume it was made out of liquid gold. Boob milk was free. (Ignoring, of course, all the breastfeeding accouterments.)

Then there was the biggest con: in rejecting the boob, it felt as if Emily was rejecting me. Though I’d gone only one day without nursing, I already felt wistful remembering the closeness we’d shared during nursing.

(Lord almighty, those “breast is best” people with their poetic remembrances of breastfeeding were right. Kill me now.)

This morning, upon first waking up, Em continued to refuse the boob and I cautiously began to embrace this new way of life. When I took my nursing tops out of the dryer, I set them aside to be packed away. I pulled up the blinds in my office, letting in the sun. I placed a bulk order for formula through and daydreamed of the bedtime sometime in the near future when my boobs would be able to hang free.

Then, several hours later, when I offered the boob to Emily, just to see what would happen, she took it. I sat there, completely baffled, as she snuggled in closer to me. I stroked the hair at the back of her neck, stared at her eyelashes, stared at her chubby cheeks.

Huh, I thought. Look at that.

You little punk.

You clever little munchkin.

Well played, Emily. Well played.

I see what you’re doing there. I see you manipulating me into wanting to breastfeed.

I reached for the burp cloth so it would be close by. I pulled her in closer. I sighed.

I guess these boobs belong to you for just a little bit longer, I thought. I smiled.

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