What Will Become Of My Breasts Once I Am Done Breastfeeding?

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The question hit me like the hunter’s bullet hit Bambi’s mom:

What will become of my breasts once I am done breastfeeding?  

Emily and I were all snuggled up for her bedtime nursing session.  It’s a ritual.  I read a half dozen of her favorite board books.  Next she nurses.  Then I hug and kiss her before placing her in the mini crib next to my side of the bed.  We’ve played out this evening routine for the past six or so months.

Next month she will be two.  While I have committed to nurse her until she self-weans at whatever age that might be, I sense the end is nigh.   Our nursing sessions have become shorter and less frequent.  My son weaned at 23 months, and it didn’t hit me this hard.  But Emily is my final baby, and after she nurses her last, my breasts will no longer have a purpose in life.

They are now enormous, pendulous, fleshy mounds with nipples that seem to be permanently erect–  hardly a sensuous adornment on my chest, but rather a nuisance.  Their agreement with gravity make my shoulders hunch over and hurt.  They have ballooned two numerical sizes and SIX cup sizes since I got pregnant the first time seven years ago.

No cute bras come in my size- 38 I.  Did you even know that “I” was a cup size?  I shuffle past the glittery entrance to Victoria’s Secret, relegated to buying uber-expensive nursing bras online ($80 a pop anyone?), or shopping for regular bras in the section of the lingerie department with the grannie-panties.  The bras I buy now are the lingerie version of orthopedic shoes–  ugly, functional, gigantic.

To give you some background, here is a brief history on me and my boobs:

I hate them.  I’ve always hated them.  They have always been big.  Boys started looking at them when I was in seventh grade, putting an end for many years to my wearing of tank tops and the beginning of my love affair with turtle necks.

When I was a teenaged ballerina, my dance instructor told me I would never be a “real” dancer because my chest was too big.  Rather than refusing to engage her in any further employ, I fantasized about slicing them off in one swift, silent motion that would leave me sleek as an otter.  Since ace bandages were too bulky under my dance clothes, I resorted to winding duct tape (no pun intended) around my chest, putting a tiny square of gauze over my nipples.  In this manner,  would squash my breasts down.  Flat.

The attention they got in my 20’s did nothing to decrease the animosity I felt towards my breasts.  I had, however, always wanted to be a mom, so I kept the things around in hope they might one day serve a higher purpose than moving me to the front of a line to get into a club.

My desire to bear and nurse children was probably the one reason I didn’t have surgery to remove them all together.  Well, that and I never had 40 grand floating around to pay for a breast reduction and the thought of elective post-surgical pain was too much to bear.  Yes, I am well aware that my contemplating this is narcissistic and shallow, given that some women have no choice in the matter when diagnosed with breast cancer.  This face humbles and shames me.

When I finally got pregnant with Jack, I fantasized about breastfeeding, how magical it would be to nourish a baby.  I would nurse everywhere, I thought, including under weeping willows and on the backs of unicorns!  It turned out that breastfeeding was a little more complicated, but we made it work and at last, with my newborn latched on, I had a new found appreciation for my pale, distended globes.  That is, until my husband looked at me nursing Jack and declared, “Oh my god!  Your boob is bigger than his head!”

I took to wearing baggy tents to hide my freakishly big boobs.  There was a fairy tale I’d heard about women’s breasts shriveling up to half their pre-pregnancy size after nursing, and I clung to this notion for the entirety of Jack’s nursing career.  Alas, it was not to be.  Upon retiring my nursing bras, I trudged out to the speciality lingerie shop for “big girls,” only to have to go back for an upgrade several years later while pregnant with Emily.

During my child bearing years, my boobs and I have had a tacit understanding, and I’ve come to peace with my postpartum body, with its curves and bulges.

Which brings me up to where our story began, my question about how I will feel about my breasts once they have fulfilled their evolutionary purpose.  It begs a larger question: How will I feel about my baby weaning, and my journey from motherhood to menopause.  When they are no longer “in play,” I guess I could get a reduction.  I might even be able to claim it is medically necessary because of back problems.  My husband has never been a boob man, so its not like he would miss them.

While I lay there pondering these things, Emily fell asleep at my breast, something my tenacious toddler rarely does anymore.  Her chin quivered and she slipped off to accept her pacifier.  I kissed and nuzzled her round face before completing the final step of our nightly ritual.

On my way out the door, hitching up my nursing bra and zippering my hoodie sweatshirt, I concluded I could never chop off the old girls.  At least I probably won’t.

As women, we spend extravagant amounts of time and energy critiquing our bodies.  Sadly, this criticism is often projected onto the bodies of other women as well.  Hell, I’ve done it.  But when I actually think about what my body has given me- two beautiful and unique humans with whom I’ve had two amazing nursing relationships- I feel kind of awestruck.

Part of me is going to be heartsick when Emily weans, so maybe I should make peace with the fact that I will have an everlasting memento stuffed into the supportive embrace of an orthopedic bra- the size of which you never even knew existed.

Does your body retain any mementos of pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding?  If so, how do you feel about them?  

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21 responses »

  1. Linda the Bra Lady online has big sizes that aren’t ugly and aren’t all nursing bras. Check it out.

    My boobs have finally started deflating since we’re near weaning and they’re now closer to my original size, but floppy and with the perma-erect nipple. And they too cause the back to hunch forward, which makes me a good 5’11 instead of my 6’1 stature 🙂

    I don’t mind my boobs, for the most part. It’s annoying to try and buy bras, or shirts, but I don’t really think about them much. I was super self-conscious when I was first nursing because not only was my boob bigger than his head, but there’s a picture where my areola was about the size of his head…yeah…good times…

  2. I don’t mind mine, but I don’t love them either. They are just there. I am grateful to have them back all to myself after breastfeeding three babies. While I loved breastfeeding, my body never felt like my own when I was doing it. Three kids later though, they could definitely use a lift! 🙂

    • I often hear women talking about happily getting their bodies “back” after having a baby. . . I’m not sure if I even want mine back. It is kind of sad since I want more babies but can’t have them. But good on you for nursing three babies! Yay boobies!

  3. I have wondered this too, and I’m so glad to hear that I’m not the only one whose gotten the “bigger than his head” comment! Focusing on what our bodies can give to us and do for us, it is pretty amazing. But we rarely see this perspective in the media, where it’s all about being perky, slim, toned, tanned, flawless, etc. If we can think about where our desire to change a physical aspect comes from, like what are some of the real root causes- disappointment, comparison, mourning times long gone, unrealistic expectations, etc.- it’s helpful in getting to a more positive place.

    I wrote a post about how I came to value my thighs in a different way, along the same lines, called, “Those Thighs”. Check it out if you’re so inclined. 🙂

    • Hi Hannah! It is always great to hear from you. I will definitely check out your post. Not sure how I missed it, since I love everything you write, but sometimes my reader can be funky… Your posts really do make me think, and help me to consider my body in a more healthy way. Thanks so much for that! xoxo.

  4. What a raw and beautiful post. I have always hated my boobs but for the opposite reason; they are small and I always felt like a little girl rather than a woman. When I first brought Quinn home in June, I remember nursing her and the man I love so much said to me, “It is so beautiful. You are all she needs and you look gorgeous holding our baby girl.” I finally felt beautiful. He loves to see me naked (not that he didn’t before) but I think my sexiness took on a whole new meaning.

    • See that. YOU are the woman that I have probably been jealous of my whole life and vice versa! So, it just goes to show we should be happy with who we are for what we have. I’m so happy to hear that you are having a beautiful nursing relationship with your daughter. BTW, I love the name Quinn. Thanks so much for your comment and congrats on your baby! Enjoy every moment. xo.

      • I was always envious of you! I guess the grass isn’t always greener on the other side! Thank you, about her name. It was Daddy’s choice! I’m loving every moment and I hope you soak it all in with your baby since you fear it could be over soon.

  5. 36GG (years after nursing), so I feel your pain. When I bought my first molded-cup bra, my husband saw it on the dresser and said, “Hey, your boobs are over there!” Button-down shirts are impossible for me, unless I have many pins. Cute 2-hook bras are only a fantasy. For years I’ve looked like I could be in National Geographic’s magazine. I could go on and on, but you know it all. And you also obviously know the grace in being able to nurse. Your post reminded me of getting up at night with my second baby – oh, how I loved that time! I hated missing my sleep with my first baby, but when I knew those moments were nearing an end with me second, I cherished all of it.

    I am so grateful for your blog.

    • Well. It is nice to finally meet someone who knows how button down shirts can be such a hindrance! It is also funny because I often make the comment that during my hard core breast feeding days it is all like National Geographic up in our house! Your comment made me smile. Thank you. Thank you Kelly!

  6. I appreciate your honesty. I, too, am closing the chapter on childbearing, so I can relate to many of the feelings you have expressed. With respect to boobs, I have the opposite problem — full C to barely an A after nursing 3 babies. I’m OK with it, most of the time. But the “memento” I focus most on is my c-section scar. I had three of them, and it is because I was not blessed with “birthing hips” that I cannot have the fourth child that I really want. My doctor has advised it would be life threatening for me due to the thin lining of my uterus after 3 surgeries, and I am not willing to take that risk. I have a loving and committed husband and 3 beautiful, healthy children — I try to keep my focus there and do most of the time. But sometimes, my heart aches for that 4th child, and my c-section scar is a reminder of what I can’t have. Sounds ridiculous given the fact that I have been blessed to have 3 children when some women can’t even have 1, but it’s the truth.

    • I often wonder how women feel about their C Section scars. . . I’m so sorry that you can’t bear that fourth child, and I don’t think your sentiment is ridiculous at all. We all have our own walk in life, and if you had fantasized about a family with four children, than I can see how that would be a loss for you. I’m so glad that you have three beautiful and healthy children to show for your battle wound or tiger stripe (scar ;-)) Thanks so much for your comment. Be well! xo

      • Can I just say when you said that there is no reason for you to be ashamed of your body after having birthed two inquire children. That really helped me. I’ve been saying if to myself ever since.

  7. Pingback: My Boobs Are Sad | momaste

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