Breast is best. Yeah yeah yeah, we get it. We believe you. But please don’t call breastfeeding “magical,” and please stop smiling like that.
A mother’s milk may very well be the “perfect food” but the process sure ain’t perfect so let’s not pretend it is. Is it nice to be able to nurture the fruit of your loins with the nectar of your nips? Of course it’s nice. It’s convenient, even. But it is NOT magical. Unless curling your toes while your vampire baby sucks your nipples four inches down into his throat is magical. Om no.
And then there’s the pressure. I don’t mean the pressure to breastfeed (although there is that, big time.) I mean THE PRESSURE. The ratio of force to the area over which that force is distributed. There is a volcano ready to erupt and that volcano is your tits.
The day Max was born, they told me he could suck away on the ol’ chesticles but my milk wouldn’t likely “come in” until the following day. They did NOT mean that a nurse would bring me a milkshake. They meant that I would develop a huge, rock-hard uniboob that needed to be relieved or someone would lose an eye – if not by my projectile milk than by my fist. Milk would literally shoot across the room in multiple directions like a sprinkler skitzing out on the lawn.
One way or another, you MUST get the milk out of you. If the baby is not hungry when you’re ready to feed, someone is getting a mouthful of sweater-meat and you don’t care who it is. Doctor, nurse, husband, janitor, hospital pastor: I don’t care who you are, just get over here and suck on these globes for the love of god.
This rarely happens, of course, because your baby is a voracious glutton. From the moment Max came out, he was sucking: the world’s newest little perv, looking for the nearest nipple. The day we brought him home from the hospital, we caught him trying to suck the shit out of the car-seat. The Bobbsey Twins were in for it.
His savage sucking relieved the pressure. But don’t get me wrong: it did NOT feel good; it hurt like a bitch. But it was the only way to restore some normalcy to my tender torpedoes. I bit my lip and kept my eye on the prize: 30 glorious minutes of feeling relatively normal. (Let’s leave my hemorrhoids and vaginal scar tissue out of this.)
And then the weird sensation of the milk replenishing itself inside me would begin. Just in case I forgot for a second that I was a freakin’ COW. I could actually feel the milk travelling through my ducts, from some tiny little milk factory deep inside me run by the doozers from Fraggle Rock.
This is a delicate balance between my bongos and my baby. A reciprocity that must go on, 24-7, with no escape except death. We are attached at the tit forever. It will never, ever end. IT CAN’T END. If he decides he’s had enough of the girls, I’m screwed. I will have to steal another baby. I will have to pull a Selma Hayek. I will have to slap my lady-lumps into a sandwich press. I will have to sneak into Central Dairies after hours and hook my teats up to the milking machine. When you and your babe are apart, something MUST take his place. Anything. Anyone.
Max was about four months old when I spent the first night ever away from him. Andrew and I went to a wedding about an hour out of town. Conveniently it was at a hotel, so we booked a room, pumped the milk, bought the wine, and left Max with my mom. It was time for this new mama to par-tay.
Of course, there’s no switch on the fun-bags to turn off the milk production, so I’d have to pump at intervals to alleviate the pressure. I packed my trusty breast pump and a couple hundred breast pads and off we went.
An hour or so into the wedding reception, I was practically mooing. Busting at the seams. It was time to express myself and not in the way Madonna intended. I went up to my room to pump and dump. But the bloody batteries in the pump were dead and I hadn’t brought the plug-in. KILL ME NOW. Okay wait, don’t panic. I got some new batteries from the front desk. Crisis averted.
But the pump still wouldn’t work. FUCK YOU, DURACELL. I had had it with this pumping thing anyway. Max could fill his belly in ten minutes flat but I’d pump for a half-hour to get a half-ounce of milk. (I eventually posted an ad online and sold the bastard pump to a guy named Tony.)
Okay. Plan B: manual expression in a hot bath. In other words, milking myself with my own hands, like I’m the farmer AND the cow all in one. The hot bath helps, don’t ask me why. I had tried this in the bathtub before out of sheer curiosity and I knew it wasn’t an overly effective method, but I had no choice now. It was either do it myself or wander off into the woods to find a baby beaver to latch on, buck teeth and all. I’d leave the wedding every hour or so, run upstairs to our room, whip off my dress, toss my soggy breast pads in the garbage, and jump in a scalding bath to milk myself. Just a shot glass full, but beggars with bursting bazookas can’t be choosers. Then I’d jump out of the tub, throw my dress back on, insert two fresh breast pads, and go back downstairs to the wedding. Until I just couldn’t take it anymore. Again.
This went on all night. So much for my relaxing evening. This night was gone tits-up. This wedding was dead to me. And don’t even bother trying to get frisky later, husband. I’m busy SURVIVING over here. Sorry for my lack of romance, but I’m a little occupied with NOT DYING. If I can just make it through the night I will have ALL THE SEX, I swear.
I thought about just leaving. Getting in the car and just driving home. But my husband couldn’t drive because he was, of course, drunk on life with his tiny nipples all tucked into his cute little shirt. And I couldn’t drive either because I literally could not bring my arms up to hold a steering wheel; there was just too much boob in the way. If we had an accident on the highway, my airbags would cushion the impact (YAY) but we’d all drown in breast milk (DAMN).
We were here for the night. But sleeping was impossible. I had to lie flat on my back because lying on my side, with my side-boob touching the bed, was excruciating. Nobody touch me. Nobody breathe on me. If a feather escapes from the down pillow and lands on my chest, I will surely die. I begged for sleep to overtake me so when I opened my eyes again I’d be just one hour from seeing my boy with the mouth.
We drove back to town as early as possible the next morning, my back straight against the seat holding on for dear life. Drive, muthafucka, drive. Oh look, a hitchhiker. And he looks thirsty – pull this fucking milk wagon over! If a cop had stopped us I would have shot him right in the face; my machine guns were locked and loaded.
Max is four years old now, and while he does exude a curiosity about mommy’s “tiny pillows” when we’re lying in bed reading a book, he has no idea they were his breakfast, lunch and dinner for nearly a year. I’ll tell him one day when he’s older, when I catch him and his friends with their first White Russians.
So why didn’t I tell this story earlier? I would have told it years ago, but the best part of it was off limits, and I didn’t think the story was worth telling at all without it. But that’s when I still gave a shit about what people think. Since then, I’ve blogged about my broken vagina and written a friggin’ book revealing everything those What to Expect books so conveniently leave out. Guns blazin’, balls out, baby. So now it seems kind of silly to hold back on one of the weirdest moments of my life so far.
I won’t get into the gory details. Let’s just say there was a Plan C. There had to be. Shit was getting primal up in here. I was that guy who got trapped between the rocks for 127 hours and sawed his own arm off. I was one of those rugby players who crashed in the Andes and ate someone’s arse to survive. I was up Tit Creek without a paddle. I was truly and unequivocally desperate in this moment. And desperate times call for desperate measures… RIGHT, HONEY?