Boobs. There I said it. Boobs. Such a comical word. A word that conjures up images of a cackling Sid James chasing Barbara Windsor around a hospital where she is, quite obviously, dressed as a nurse, albeit one with more cleavage and leg on display than your average ward sister.
I always found my own boobs a terrible disappointment when compared with those of Ms Windsor and the other, more recent paragons of womanliness that graced the pages of the nation’s less highbrow print media. How would I ever compare? I wailed, as I failed to fill my bikini to a level I felt would pass as satisfactory to a generation of young men raised on Jordan and Melinda Messenger.
Well, I wish I could go back and hit the sixteen year old me over the head with a copy of Nuts magazine, then rip it up (the magazine, not the head) and tell myself quite firmly that NO ONE CARES if you never make the FHM Top 100 Sexiest Women, because NO ONE CARES. Boobs-no, I am going to bin that word, BREASTS, to use their more grown-up name, the name you won’t find being giggled by ageing schoolboys in Carry On films, are amazing, not because of how they look, but because they FEED BABIES GODDAMIT. Like, actually keep them alive.
I was reminded of this the other day when I asked Piglet if he wanted milky-pops and he came running-literally BOUNDING-towards me, with the biggest and happiest smile ever.
I’ll take that over an impressive cleavage any day.
Now I am aware that not everyone has an easy time with breastfeeding. It hasn’t all been plain sailing for us either. There have been sore nipples and blocked ducts, unexplained pain and seemingly never-ending worry, but I have still been lucky. I have been able to continue. When I look back on those chaotic first days of life with a newborn, I feel I was pretty well informed about most things. I had read all the books, been to every antenatal/hypnobirthing/yoga class going, and soaked up the birth stories of friends and relatives like a sponge. I was Totally Prepared for Everything.
I was also wrong. What I was actually totally prepared for was anything and everything pregnancy and birth-and when I say prepared what I really mean is able to put the NCT class Stages of Childbirth flashcards in the right order. What came afterwards I simply hadn’t considered at all. After all, how could I be sure that there was even a baby in there, and not just a very large and wriggly beachball? It was with this in mind that I sat through an NCT breastfeeding class with a mixture of sceptical awe (NO WAY THAT NEWBORN BABY DID NOT JUST CRAWL TO ITS MOTHER’S BREAST. It has only just BEEN BORN) and intellectual point-scoring (I WILL get all the answers right to the breastfeeding Frequently Asked Questions, because I KNOW STUFF).
One thing I did learn from the breastfeeding class, however, was that breastfeeding was not as easy as it looked-and it didn’t even look that easy. For something that was apparently the most natural thing in the world, I was fully prepared to endure cracked nipples and tongue-tied babies, because that was what happened, right? I knew it was going to be hard. Being the last of my NCT class to give birth, I knew from second hand experience that my nipples were going to hurt, bleed and quite possibly fall off from the sheer trauma and exhaustion of it all. I knew that the baby would struggle to latch on, and that I would probably want to give up within a few traumatic weeks. In the end the baby latched on perfectly from day one, and my nipples were fine (eventually. Thanks lanolin!), but what I was not prepared for was the sheer amount of time I would need to spend perfecting this art. It. Took. Literally. Hours. If only I had bought a Kindle. I could have read the complete works of Shakespeare over the months of hour-long feedings that followed (and still do, eighteen months later), and become an expert on esoteric Shakespearean put-downs. So if anyone is interested in my advice on the matter (anyone?) my advice is buy a Kindle. You won’t regret it. You just might not be able to hold it. It’s a two handed job unfortunately, and you will at some point be sat in Pizza Express being hand-fed pizza by your own mother. It will happen.
And on that note, a word about feeding in public. NO ONE CARES. I wish I had known, while I tentatively fiddled with a bra strap under an enormous feeding cape in those early days, that in Real Life one can whip out a boob in Cafe Nero quite freely without sending the masses running from the building clutching their pearls in disgust and heading straight for the Comments section of the Daily Mail to write about how Britain is going to the dogs. So, new mum feeding discreetly under that muslin and looking around wondering what people are thinking, they are thinking nothing (at least nothing that involves horror, disgust or the Daily Mail). Get those boobs out with pride!
Breastfeeding is not the be-all and end-all. It doesn’t determine my worth as a mother, but it is pretty great for someone who once cried because the only bra in her size in M&S was labelled “My First Bra.”