When I had my first child, one of my husband’s colleagues was the first to visit us in the hospital. And wouldn’t you know it, he showed up right at feeding time. As did the next visitor and the one after that. In fact, every visitor that came in the first month or so came right as my kid was clamouring for a boob.
I can remember in painstaking detail just how awkward I felt trying to feed my child in front of a crowd. I built incredibly complex shields consisting of pulleys and levers, blankets tucked under my bra strap, tank-top/nursing bra/shirt combinations so that at no point in time would a single square centimeter of my skin be on display. When all else failed, I retreated to the nearest bedroom to hunch over in a dark corner and feed my child.
All this modesty from a person who spent a whole summer during college swimming in a bright yellow bikini that became see-through in the sunlight. The same person who, just one year earlier, flashed her boobs at strangers during Bay to Breakers to raise money to fight breast cancer. I was no stranger to the skin trade, but I was not willing to admit that motherhood was slowly but surely taking out every ounce of my dignity. Even alcohol and youth have it’s limits (which in my case are most definitely well before the line where you expose your lower half and crap on the floor in front of a group of strangers.)
I breastfed my first child for six months, four of which I spent glued to the couch watching reruns of Meerkat Manor on Animal Planet. I needed at least 24 hours notice to pump a bottle or else the “must be a growth spurt” excuse rolled right out of my mouth. My boob and my scraps of dignity were staying home, thank you very much.
Somewhere though, in those last couple of months of feeding, the damn meerkats stopped being cute. My butt began to outgrow the impression I had left on the couch cushion. My boob began screaming for fresh air. And so I learned, nearly too late, that no one gives a shit when you whip out your boob to feed your child.
By the time the second kid rolled around, my dignity was booked in for tour at Caesar’s – Las Vegas (as a back-up dancer for Miss Spears, natch). I had two kids, a cat, a dog and a husband to take care of and I did NOT have time for any bullshit. If the boob said it was feeding time, it was coming out whether the baby was there or not.
Dinner with the in-laws? Oops, there’s my boob. Skype call with a client? Oops, there’s my boob. Cafes, trains, planes, shopping centers – no shirt, no shoes, who the hell cares. I was out of my self-imposed prison and I was not going back.
My boobs saw more daylight than a 20 year old’s tits at Mardi Gras. Between feeding time, air-drying and udder creaming, they were barely put away before it was time to eat again. I was a self-propelled milk machine and I was not ashamed of it.
Oops, I breastfed again. And again and again and again. And if there was just one piece of advice I could give to new mothers, it would be this: Don’t hide your headlights under a bushel. Let them light your way through the wide world. Because trust me, ain’t nobody looking but you.