Motherhood: harder than a lead boob

Early last week I developed an agenda for my upcoming Saturday, and that agenda included a long list of things like Go To A Coffee Shop and Go To The Park and Finally Get Some Shit Done and just generally Have a Good Day By Golly.  I was still flying high on stress fumes from a disasterous Spring Breakdown and needed a place to land to set that stress down, and I wanted that place to be the couch at Dancing Goats Coffee or the picnic tables at the playground next door, or even my bed that afternoon as I took a luxurious forbidden nap.  I didn’t care where it happened, just so long as it happened.  It was past time for me to chill the hell out.

And then Saturday morning I woke up with a lead boob.

I wasn’t so much concerned at first as I was annoyed.  Having a clogged milk duct was uncomfortable, sure, but it didn’t seem to bother Rosie, and the two other times it had happened it had gone away fairly quickly and without much work on my part. I hadn’t even been worried enough the other two times to Google it, and that’s saying something since I’ve been known to Google things like “baby’s bellybutton lint, funny color” and “I’m tired” (that only pulled up one result: YOU HAVE KIDS, DUMBASS).

But after my first attempt to feed Rosie resulted in her wailing and frustrated and me white knuckled and cussing, I realized that this third strike meant I was now out.  The river was dammed, the milk wanted out, and I did not know the magic lever that would open the floodgates.  And like Anne Lamott often says: I could hear the jungle drums beating. I couldn’t believe that there was going to be one more thing, another THING that was going to be stressful and exhausting and hard and that I was going to be cheated out of a break again. AGAIN.  I was pissed.

L, being the wise benevolent soul that he is, herded me straight to the car and toward the coffee shop and sunshine, where the drums could fade into the distance, at least for a little while.  And it was nice, or as nice as can be expected when you have a throbbing, pulsing, titanium BOMB on the left side of your chest whose explosion you simultaneously desire and fear.

But back at home the situation became worse with every hour.  I was hot compressing and massaging and voodoo hexing the shit out of my boob, to no avail.  My right side was doing its darnedest to keep up with the demands of a hungry 18-pound baby, but you could almost hear it say “Damn, girl, AGAIN?  Didn’t we just do this thing?” every time I fed her, which was a lot.  A lot.  And every time the right side tried valiantly to satiate that empty stomach, the left side would fill up dutifully along side it, stretching my skin to its thinnest.  The weight of my shirt was excruciating.  My bra had long since been abandoned.  The asymmetry of my chest would have seemed comical, if I hadn’t felt so homicidal about the whole thing.

By far however, the worst part of all of it was not being able to do the one thing I was supposed to be able to do for my baby: feed her.  It was like holding a bottle full of nice warm perfect milk up to the mouth of a famished infant and not removing the top.  She would suck and suck and then turn away wailing.  She was frantic.  I was frantic.  I would hold her red tear streaked face up to mine and we would cry together as she mouthed my cheeks, desperate for something, anything in her mouth. It was heartbreaking.

Finally, L took her outside to give us both a rest, and carried her around the yard pruning hedges and showing her flowers and birds.  Exhausted, I took a hot shower and then lay my lopsided body down in the middle of my bed.

I dozed a little, and then got up and tried to get at least one thing done, so that I could at least attempt to cross item three off my list.  I felt miserable, in every sense.  I felt like I had failed Remedial Mothering 101.  The feeling of dereliction was so consuming that as I stood there folding laundry, I noticed that a pair of Noah’s jeans still had the “Remove Before Washing Or Wearing” tag and I started to cry because I realized that I was such a wretched excuse for a mother that I HADN’T EVEN REMOVED THAT TAG, and by not doing so had pretty much insured that my children were bound for a future of orange jumpsuits and license plate manufacturing.

Clearly, I was at the end of my rope.

It was now evening and the whole day had been a wash.  Nothing had gotten done (save the folding of a few shirts and one NOW TAGLESS pair of pants) and I was completely drained in all ways except the one that was the most important.  L brought a hungry-once-more Rosie back to me and I marveled that she still greeted me with her feet kicking in joyful anticipation.  Didn’t she know I was a dud, a flop, a lemon?  Tiredly, I lifted my shirt once again, too weary to hope for the best.

But as my toes curled with the horrible pain of letdown, I heard a glorious, marvelous sound: SHE SWALLOWED.  And then she did it again.  And again.  And then she could hardly keep up with the flow, because it was FLOWING.  Flowing and overflowing and flooding and filling her belly all the way.  She drank and she drank and she drank and with each passing minute the weights on both my chest and my soul were lifted.

Finally she slowed to a stop, and I held her upright.  And with eyes bright and shining and belly taut, she put both of her chubby hands on my cheeks and opened her mouth wide and she burped right in my face.

And I swear: it sounded just like the Hallelujah Chorus.

6 comments

1 Jill Tolbert { 04.20.09 at 2:42 pm }

Oh my gosh, you describe that SO WELL! It takes me way back to the days when I was a nursing mom. Glad I did it, glad I’m done. Thanks for the memories, girlfriend!

2 Trenches of Mommyhood { 04.21.09 at 10:19 am }

Was feeling phantom pains in my chest for you as I read this…and I haven’t breastfed for almost 4 years!

3 Morgan { 04.21.09 at 10:37 am }

I think the boob could tell that Rosie was cheating on it by eating that crazy solid food! Seriously, though, I feel your pain and it is not cool!

4 Laura { 04.22.09 at 12:07 am }

I totally felt your frustration as well as the sheer exhilaration of nursing. Beautifully written post!

5 ramblin red { 04.22.09 at 8:43 am }

I am just days away from delivering my 3rd baby and this brings back so many memories that I am about to reexperience. You wrote about it magnificently, so much so that I’d say it should have a spot in a story collection for nursing moms!

6 racher { 04.22.09 at 6:50 pm }

Ramblin’ Red – If I knew of a collection like that that was being assembled, I would be happy to submit this post for it, but would be even MORE happy to read the collection so I could find stories of commiseration as I sit for hours attached to my pump…
Good luck with your delivery!

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