This is Harder Than I Thought: Lactation or the Art of Milking One’s Self in Public
Ladies, love them or hate them, we all have boobs. For most of your life, these constant companions are merely aesthetic. We strap them down for workouts, we push them up for dates, but mostly we treat them like any other normal body part. Until the baby comes. While pregnancy boobs are delightful—your C cups swell to DDs as your husband looks on in awe and respect—post-baby breasts are the worst. When your milk comes in, I was informed, your breasts will need to be “expressed” every two hours or so to prevent them from becoming “engorged.”
Engorgement is incredibly painful. Your breasts become hard and stiff due to blocked ducts, and shooting pains begin to radiate across your chest. This is the reason milk cows line up to be milked every morning. Every moo is really a cry for help. I know this now. The only way to relieve the pain is to somehow get the trapped milk out and relieve the pressure.
You can do this one of three ways: by nursing, with a pump, or by hand. My first experience with engorgement happened on a city bus. My husband had forgotten to pick me up from an appointment before work, so I was forced to take public transport to get my car. Waiting at the stop in the hot sun, I started to feel an uncomfortable tingling in my chest. Once on the bus, the milk continued to “let down,” and pressure began to build, becoming increasingly painful. Shamelessly, I started to grope myself, ignoring the stares of my fellow passengers in an attempt to massage away the pain.
It didn’t help.
As the pain began to shoot deeper into my chest, my eyes started to water. The injustice of it all crashed down around me. I was a nice girl! I didn’t deserve to be the crazy lady squeezing her own boobs and crying on a public bus! After an eternity elapsed over the next five blocks, I reached my stop and ran frantically into the bathroom of the restaurant where my husband works. I took a moment to look at my face in the mirror, to contemplate the need for what had to be done. What I saw was that it definitely had to be done. I took off my shirt. I removed my bra. I began to milk myself in the sink of a public restroom. And I was unashamed.
This is the second of a series of posts offering a candid first-person depiction of motherhood in all its wonderful/horrible glory. Check out the introduction to the “Harder Than I Thought” series. And keep your eyes peeled for Part 3.