5 moments in the life of a human milkshake

This one goes out to "traveleat" who requested a post on breastfeeding.

Ah, breastfeeding.

The most natural, beautiful, loving way to be literally devoured by your loved ones.

Ryan and I were talking to Buster the other day, and it went a little something like this:

Me, to Buster: See that tall guy? That's your meal ticket right there.
Ryan: Yep. And you see that woman right in front of you? That's your meal.

There are about 8 million articles about how breastfeeding is NOT EASY, and about 8 million articles about how breastfeeding is TOTALLY NATURAL AND BEAUTIFUL AND THE ONLY WAY TO FEED YOUR BABY UNLESS YOU ARE A MONSTER, and about 8 million stories of women feeling shamed for breastfeeding in public.

In trying to come up with something original to say about breastfeeding, I decided to give you 5 moments in the life of this breastfeeding mama.

And so, without further ado...


5 Moments in the Life of a Human Milkshake


1. ROOKIE MISTAKE

I'm holding a 20-minute-old Chicken in my arms, and I ask the nurse, "so... should I... should I feed him?" And she says, "sure!" So I lie him down flat on my lap and kind of pry his mouth open with my thumb and forefinger, and then I, you know, bend over in such a way to dip my boob directly down into his mouth. Apparently, the "osteoporosis hunchback tit-dip" is not an accepted breastfeeding position. The nurse shows me the cross-cradle, and says, "now, don't accept a bad latch, okay? If it hurts, take him off and try again." And then she leaves.

Okay. So. It hurts.

Oh, nurse? Quick question? You mentioned something about a "bad latch." See, I've never heard that phrase before in my entire fucking life? So how the fuck am I supposed to know what a bad latch looks and/or feels like?

Of course I didn't call the nurse back in. Like a proud moron I just stiff-upper-lipped it through a truly hideous nursing session. 45 minutes on that one nipple, in which he was latched really, really, really quite badly as it turns out.

I spent the next three weeks nursing on the right and pumping on the left, until that cracked, painful nipple recovered enough for the Chicken to take another crack at it.

And the moral of the story is that shit hurts. Until you have a baby your nips have not ever seen that kind of action, unless you're a 50 Shades fanatic, in which case, you know, you're probably primed to be a very nutritious - sorry - nurturing mama.




2. NEW MATH

I have found a few things to be true between 3 and 4 am.

First, nobody really posts on Facebook so you just refresh and refresh and wait for that one workaholic friend on the east coast to post a pic of his breakfast.

Second, you will sit, awakeish, for a full hour without turning on any lights because you "don't want to wake up too much." The TV, iPad, or phone, though, that's an absolute necessity.

Third, this hour is one in which all kinds of uninhibited mental acrobatics spring into action.

It's a circus of fantasy, a mish-mash of half-awake, half-asleep stream-of-consciousness random associations. I make to-do lists not just for the next day, but for the rest of my life. Buy more Ritz crackers, read The Brothers Karamazov, become a philanthropist, shave legs.

Random memories resurface - songs, car trips to the library, that shirt I wore to picture day in 5th grade. I spend melancholy moments remembering my first boyfriend in middle school, how after we broke up walking by him in the hall became a stomach-knotting, look-at-the-ground-or-way-off-in-the-distance thing, every single time, until we graduated and, like two lovers held captive by a fairy tale spell that broke at midnight, finally felt able to speak to each other again.

And I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how many hours of my life I am going to spend sitting on a fucking couch with a fucking baby helping his damn self to a mommy-snack.

For any woman with an "I got shit to do" mentality (let's be honest. That's all of us.) the "sit down and do nothing but leak milk for 30 minutes, every 2 hours, every day, for at least a year" imperative is a slow form of torture.

Let's scratch this out.

0.5 hours
x
8 feedings per day (I'm praying to God that I don't have to feed this baby every 2 hours at night)
x
365 days =
1,460 hours of breastfeeding in a year.

Is that right?

Can that be fucking right?

Sweet lord, that's 60 days of breastfeeding. I mean, it's not going to be quite that long because at some point the baby will go longer than 2 hours between feeds... so let's say 40 days.

40 days of indentured servitude. 40 days of being someone's meal. 40 days.

The same amount of time it took God to destroy the world and start again.
The same duration as the biblical flood.
The same as Lent.

That makes sense, actually. Because I swear, in the dark hour between 3 and 4 am, sometimes I feel like I'm drowning. And I know that I've given something up.




3. ONE MORE HURT

This is a sad story.

My sister lost a pregnancy in her second trimester - beautiful twin girls who only ever knew life inside the warm heaven of their mother's body. I won't go into detail - not because the story shouldn't be told, but because to paraphrase Lemony Snicket, if you or someone you love has lost a child, then you already know how it feels. If you haven't, then I cannot possibly explain it to you.

After the birth but before the funeral, my sister's milk came in. And it was just another reminder of the utter cruelty of nature.

Are you numb from the pain of loss?
Are you shattered, reeling, utterly adrift? 
Okay, then let's make sure your boobs balloon into painful, rock-hard tissue. 
Let's make sure they leak the milk that your children will never drink, 
just as a constant physical expression of how unnatural this loss is, 
how confused the body and heart must be, 
how agonizing it is to have to just sit with your pain and wait for relief that will not ever come.

Fuck you, nature. Fuck you for adding one more hurt.




4.  SHE WORKS HARD FOR IT HONEY

After I had Chicken I briefly returned to work for the holiday season - my old team needed a salesperson for the busy shopping days in early December, and my mother-in-law would be able to watch Chicken during my workdays.

I spent exactly one week pumping at work. And let me tell you, guys, that shit is balls.

Did my workplace adhere to guidelines protecting my right to pump in privacy? Of course. Did I have a pumping room? Sure did. Did I have the opportunity to pump every few hours? Yep.

But here's the thing, guys.

I was working for commission. For me to earn my keep I had to sell. And it's pretty fucking hard to sell clothes when you're in a locked conference room with your milking machine whirr-sucking hot streams of milk out of your body in what can only be described as an agricultural experience.

But the worst part was, my first day back, I forgot the power cable for my sporty backpack breast pump. After 4 hours of selling, I looked like pretty much every Miami plastic surgeon's second wife, and I badly needed to be drained.

(side note, to anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of feeling "engorged" - it's not like, ooh man, my water-balloon boobs are so full! They're extra bouncy now! It's more like, someone has sewn hot glass marbles under my skin that are rubbing against each other. Engorged boobs might sound like fun, but they are like lady blue-balls. Hot, tender lady blue-balls.)

So there I was, sitting in my car, hand-expressing into a napkin just to relieve the pressure until I could get home and basically water-board my son into drinking ALL OF THE MILK. And I just thought, holy shit, there is no fucking way I would do this if I had to go back to work full-time. Not even in the room with the comfortable chair and the locking door. Not even with my electric pump.

So if you did your time strapped into your pump, if you committed to breastfeeding after you went back to work, no matter how long you did it, my hat is off to you madam.





5. A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

It's 5:30 pm. Buster is crying.

Ryan holds him out to me, "I think he's hungry."

No.

No he is fucking not.

I filled his tank 20 minutes ago. He's a baby. He's crying. And it's your turn.

This is the two-edged sword of breastfeeding.

On the one hand, YAY! Tits are marvelous. They are pillowy soft, smell sweet, and gush forth a warm nectar that calms howling babes in a matter of milliseconds.

On the other hand, BOO. Tits work so well that everything else seems kind of feeble by comparison. Which means Daddies do a little bouncy-bouncy, a little binky-binky, and when that doesn't work they pack the wailing parasite off to Mommy again. Someone needs something from her again. How refreshing for Mommy.

Ryan is not a sitcom dad. Let me just say that right now. He puts forth some pretty fucking heroic effort and pulls more than his own weight with our entire house and both our babies. But let's be real here... if he's been walking back and forth holding a binky in Buster's mouth (against Buster's will) for the last 20 minutes, and then magically I appear, wielding two dairy-fresh weapons of immediate baby-silencing, I mean, shit. I get why he jumps at the chance to stop the screaming.

Buuuuut here's what's going to happen if we put that baby on my boob right now:

1. He will stop crying and latch immediately, nursing while making those creaky-groany baby sounds that basically mean "finally!" I will go a little dead in the eyes as I calculate how many years of my life I will spend in this position. Daddy will put his hands on his hips and exhale. "Poor guy. He was just hungry! Well, I'm going to do the dishes. Do you need anything?"
2. 20 seconds later Buster will pop off my boob and look around the room. But when I say "pop" I mean he will clamp down with his gums on my nipple, continue to hold that tender nubbin in his vice-like jaws, and turn his head, essentially pulling my nipple across his face like a long piece of screaming taffy.
3. I will scream.
4. Buster will turn into me again and nurse for another few sucks. He will look up at me and smile.
5. Taffy pull.
6. Scream.
7. Suck.
8. Smile.
9. Taffy pull...

You get the idea. If he's not hungry, my boob is basically his chew toy. And he's not hungry.

So Daddy, you just need to figure something out. If you think what Buster really needs is a nipple, I'm pretty sure God gave you a pair too.




A FINAL WORD ABOUT BREASTFEEDING:
(a nipilogue, if you will)

As I wrote this post, I started to think of more and more points I wanted to make about breastfeeding.

For example, when I told Ryan that he was lucky he was married to me because if there was some disaster I could be a food source for the whole family without us having to resort to cannibalism.

Or the article I read that said that "mothers should use breastfeeding time to bond with babies and not get distracted with TV, phones, or books, lest the baby lose out on a critical opportunity to connect with the mother and feel safe and loved" and I thought, "well, my kid's fucked. We've watched three seasons of The Good Wife and I AM NOT STOPPING NOW. Alicia and Will! Will they or won't they?!?"

But at the end of the day, or at least this post, I wanted to make sure that a few last things got said.

No matter how you feel about breastfeeding, it's important to remember that this, like every part of your child's infancy, is not going to last forever. This, like every part of your parenthood, is a phase. For better or worse, it will end.

If you are reading this and you don't breastfeed, I want you to know that it couldn't matter less. Anyone who gives you shit about your choices can fuck off, get a parking ticket every day, buy a carton of strawberries and get them home and discover that they're all moldy, and have every single flight they ever take delayed at least 4 hours.

If you are breastfeeding and you hate it, just remember that it will not last forever, and you have the right to stop when you want to. Your own happiness is not beside the point. Your happiness is exactly as important as your child's happiness, and your partner's. Don't put yourself on a forced march when sweet relief is one trip to the store away. It's unfair to you and your entire family to resent a situation you have the power to change.

I can tell you that someday down the road when you find yourself awake at 3 am, you may find yourself wandering through the memories of all those hours spent as a personal buffet, chest-to-chest with a child who's now asking "why?" writing book reports or borrowing the car.

There's really nothing else like it - being your baby's bread and butter. And yes, it's absurd, painful, and not at all natural, but I have to say, it's also, well...




lovely, sometimes. Actually.

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