31 for 21: A Tale of Two Titties


This morning, at the ripe old age of 44, I finally had a mammogram.  See, it’s taken me this long because up until about six months ago, I had spent the previous ten solid years being pregnant and/or nursing (yes, the two often overlapped).

Being that I’m feeling a little sentimental about the long, successful career of these two appendages, I’d like to share their story:

A couple of weeks ago I got myself involved in a brief exchange on Facebook about breast feeding.  Someone posted something about definitely not breast feeding her three-year olds (twins), and I responded with something along the lines of “But you wouldn’t knock someone who was still nursing a three-year old, would you?”  I don’t think she even responded, but a friend of hers (not anyone I’m acquainted with), responded that she doesn’t “judge” people who do breast feed that long, but thinks it’s “unnecessary.”  (Hmm, sounds like a judgment to me.)  Fortunately, the exchange was pretty brief and didn’t get too heated, but I did point out that a lot of things we do for our kids are “unnecessary,” but they still have value.

When I was longing to be a mother, I knew that I wanted to at least try breast feeding.  In all honesty, though, I had no plans to nurse Kevin for more than a few months; being uninitiated, I had preconceived notions about the weirdness of breast feeding a baby for more than a few months.  Also, I knew I was going to have to return to work when Kevin was only a few weeks old, and I couldn’t fathom the possibility of continuing to nurse for very long when he and I were going to be separated by my job for large chunks of the day.

Let me just say that I had no idea – no inkling – of how much breast feeding was going to mean to me – and to my baby (and future babies).  After a bit of a rough start (improper latch = toe-curling nipple pain, but easily put to rights by a good lactation consultant), Kevin and I found ourselves enjoying a most pleasant nursing relationship that went on for 18 months.  I invested in an expensive breast pump and would take breaks to go pump in my truck (it had an adapter to plug into the cigarette lighter, and I parked in a dark parking garage, so it was actually ideal), so that he would have breast milk when he was in daycare, and when I was home, I nursed him.  By the time he was a year old, a lot of people were giving me a hard time about still nursing – I was surprised at my own self for still being at it!  But I wasn’t ready to give it up, nor was Kevin, and being much more yellow-bellied then than I am now, I went into the closet with it, so to speak.  I continued to nurse him, but on the sly.  It was my dad who offered me a nugget of support and understanding that I hold dear to me to this day: he was at our house visiting, and he wandered upstairs to Kevin’s room where I was hiding so I could nurse him (he was well over a year old).  I felt my face go hot with embarrassment, ready for another scolding from another person about it being high time I stopped that nonsense.  Instead, my dad said, “Honey, you don’t have to explain or defend anything to me.  I know you’re doing right by that boy.”  (Still brings tears to my eyes.)

I was sad when I did wean Kevin.  I felt it was time, but given where I was in my life at that point – an awful marriage going down the tubes fast – I had to accept that Kevin might be the only child I would ever have or nurse.

Fortunately, things took a turn for the better: I married Michael and had lots more babies.  And I nursed them all: Joey for 21 months, the twins for 18 months, Lilah for 15 months, and Finn holds the record at 31 months.

At times I suppose it’s appeared positively masochistic to people on the outside, the lengths to which I’ve gone to keep my babes in breast milk.  Pumping in my truck.  Doing double duty with the twins (and even the postpartum nurses kept plying me with formula samples, telling me I wouldn’t possibly be able to nurse twins exclusively or long-term; well I did!), and oh, the hurdles with Finn.

I want to stop here and say that there seem to be a lot of misconceptions about nursing babies with Down syndrome.  It can be done.  I wrote all about Finn’s and my breast feeding adventures last year; take a look: Breast Feeding A Baby With Down Syndrome.

It’s all been so worth it to me.

Finn self-weaned this past Spring.  I thought I would be a lot sadder about it than I actually have been.  I thought I’d go through some sort of mourning process.  Instead, it was a sweet goodbye.  We had a lovely, long run at it, and I feel extremely fortunate and glad to have had that to share with him and all of my babies.

So now these boobs have been put out to pasture.  I really think they deserved some sort of retirement party, replete with cake and champagne, but alas, it didn’t happen (probably because I didn’t organize it).  And now I am left with two very different breasts (heretofore referred to as “flaps”) than what I started out with.  Thankfully, I am told, flaps are much easier to perform mammograms on than perky, young boobs.  Who knew how stretchy they could be, or how interesting they look smashed under glass?

I guess I went into it this morning with a reasonable, healthy dose of anxiety; I have no reason to suspect anything is amiss, but I’ll rest easier when I get the official results in a few days.

“These aren’t just for show – these were working breasts!” – Debra to Ray on Everybody Loves Raymond

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One Comment on “31 for 21: A Tale of Two Titties”

  1. mumofone
    October 21, 2011 at 1:39 am #

    Lovely post – thanks for sharing. One of the things I’m most proud about is BF my only son for just short of 38 months. No where near your record though!! I agree that sometimes I feel I have had to “excuse” this behaviour…along with co-sleeping..amongst other things. But I have no regrets whatsoever. BF my child was a precious gift that I may never have again but I will always remember with a sense of tenderness and joy. Probably won’t remind him about it when he’s a teenager though 🙂

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