Overtouched, underpampered, and ballooned to a cup size I don’t even bother to measure.
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“So they’re definitely large,” the lactation consultant declared. She was jostling my four-day-old son in one arm while studying my breasts. “But with a smallish nipple.” I was sitting on my couch with my husband to my left, my mother to my right, and the consultant front and center. Everybody was inspecting my faulty equipment—its plump, naked expanse propped up on a nursing pillow like a cigarette girl’s wares—to figure out why, having lain dormant for 37 years, these breasts of mine were struggling to rise to the challenge of sustaining human life.
Five months later, my son safely out of harm’s way, I can see the humor in the situation: big boobs, small nipples? Yep, that’s me. These days it seems almost disloyal that I ever doubted my trusty former Ds—they may have been frustratingly slow to get into the breastfeeding game, but now they are the hardworking MVPs of motherhood. As such, they suffer many of its humiliations. Overtouched, underpampered, and ballooned to a cup size I don’t even bother to measure, they spend some 23 hours a day hoisted into the kind of bras you hope no one else ever has to see, apparatuses sized merely “large” and “extra large.” Subjected daily to a high- powered, hospital-grade breast pump, and, as of a few weeks ago, a pair of precocious, razor-sharp little incisors, they are, sadly, strictly off-limits to even the most tender romantic advance. This temporary injunction seems unfair, even unkind, to my husband, the man who has the temerity to desire them (and me) even at my deepest postpartum low. But look, I tell him frequently, these breasts of mine deserve a break—and maybe a raise, a promotion, and a first-class ticket to a tropical vacation.
For look at what they can do: At night, in the shadows of my bedroom, my son absently skims a dimpled, long-fingered hand—an uncanny miniaturized version of my own—back and forth, back and forth across my right breast as he eats, and I am flooded with gratitude. Not just because this creature, so frighteningly (to me) bird-like at birth, has speedily morphed into a sturdy cherub whose every gained ounce gives me a little ripple of pride and relief. But also because at the end of every day that I spend at work and my son spends with his nanny—a kind, capable woman whom we’re lucky to have found and who is, inevitably, the one present for most of his waking hours and many of his mile- stones—it is my breasts that give us this sweet, sleepy, peaceful intimacy, this 20 minutes of absolute connectedness. In this circle that is ours alone, he is mine and I am his.
This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of ELLE.