Amidst all of the awful and scary things I have been thinking about lately (mastectomies, fertility treatments, chemo) as a result of my cancer, I have also been trying to think of some of the some of the good times my breasts and I have had together. This hasn’t been easy. It’s not like a guy and the way he thinks about his penis in all of it’s glory. I bet guys can conjure a slew of top notch memories. But my boobs, what have they done?
Here are some I have thought of:
1) They have fit nicely into button down shirts without stretching out the button across the bosom.
2) They have gone braless in spaghetti strapped dresses.
3) They have gotten guys (and some girls) interested in me, most importantly, my husband.
4) They have saved me money because I only need to wear one sports bra, not several, to hold me into place.
5) But the greatest thing they have ever done is this:
Nursing was not easy for Oliver and I. We had a rough go of it at first. In the hospital, he would not latch at all and I came home not knowing how to feed my baby. It was devastating. He was screaming from hunger and I cried in desperation. He lost a whopping 14 oz in his first few days of life and I had to supplement with formula.
Looking back, this was not a huge deal but for a new mom who was insistent that breastfeeding was the best and only way to nourish her new baby, it felt like failure. But failure makes me angry (I don’t fail!) so I was determined to make sure we could do it.
I sought help from lactation consultants and a cranial sacral specialist and finally, after six weeks of bloody, cracked nipples, milk coming in slowly, and what felt like contortionist tricks to find comfortable positions for both of us, it worked.
We ended up nursing for 17 months. And I loved it, most of the time. I loved stroking his head and cheek as he would gently and slowly fall asleep. I loved staring into his eyes and forgetting about everything else in the world. I loved how empowered I felt taking him out into the world and feeding him without a cover and getting approving smiles and nods from all walks of people (if you haven’t seen my boobs, you’re one of the two people in Brooklyn at this point). One of my favorite memories is when Oliver was about 4 months old. I was nursing him in the middle of the night and reading a really funny article on my phone. I was giggling quietly so as not to disturb him so he could fall asleep when suddenly I felt the sucking stop. I looked down and noticed Oliver was watching me laugh and started laughing along with me but with a curious look on his face as if to say, “What’s so funny, Mommy? Oh, I guess it doesn’t matter. If it’s funny to you, it’s funny to me.” And we both started laughing harder. It was the moment I realized he watched my every move and was learning from me. It’s one of my favorite parenting memories ever.
Sometimes I wonder if I hadn’t insisted on nursing, if I would have caught this cancer earlier. It’s one of those questions you can’t really answer because the answer is, maybe yes. But maybe not. And maybe by the time I felt it, it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference anyway. I’ll never really know. I often ask myself, if I could go back in time, would I do it differently. And every time the answer is, absolutely not. Maybe my prognosis would be better if I did. But my dedication to nurturing my son through breastfeeding has helped me make this.
Hell no. I wouldn’t change a thing.