Parool from Pune shares her postpartum relationship with her breasts.
“The first few days, I felt like a cow. I think I was beginning to understand the irony of the situation. As I sat in bed, my body numb from the waist down, my nipples rained milk all over my hospital gown. In the background my newly born daughter wailed. My mother, my mother-in-law and the nurse all gathered around to help her “latch” onto my sore, wet left nipple. I suddenly felt like this was someone else’s body. It all seemed so alien to me. I could make milk. I had no control over when it would come out. I had to feed it to a wailing child who just came out of a gash in my abdomen. I was bleeding in two places. I could pee into a catheter and a heady cocktail of saline water and paracetamol made sure I was sane enough to be this – a new mother.
A week later I was home, slightly more in charge of this new situation (thank god for breast pads!) but still struggling to make sense of my new body. It is difficult to explain how it felt every time I had the “surge” in milk pressure. Is there a word to describe that feeling that comes when you know you’re going to drip milk? Or when you know you’d better squeeze it out because if you don’t your squishy, hyper-endowed boobs will suddenly become hard as rocks and hurt like hell? So I tried. I tried to feed my hungry child who just couldn’t find a way to suck it out of me. The world went on endlessly about this unnatural behaviour, her’s and mine. And in the middle of all this, my poor nipples were exposed to concerned, puzzled, disapproving and even sympathetic women, who would come, examine them, apply ghee, twist, push and pull them and even bless them. But nothing worked. After everyone would go, and I’d be alone, with my baby and my boobs, I’d look at them and wonder what went wrong. As the milk continued to flow, making me smell of egg yolk, I tried to remember how my breasts had looked before I got pregnant. I realised I didn’t remember much. Only that in a space of nine months, I had gone from 36C to 40D. At nights as I pumped out milk for my daughter, who still hadn’t made friends with my nipples, I dreamt of the time before motherhood. Of boobs that were perky. Of nipples with smaller, wrinkle-free, shiny, deep red areolas. Of beautiful bras that could hold up my mountains without much trouble. And I would cry.
Contrary to popular perception, my daughter did survive this crime on the part of my nipples. By month four, my Niagra falls finally gave up and what remained were two downward slumped sacks of mush. Exhausted from vaccinations, frequent bouts of cold, loose motions and unexpected baby injuries, the boob situation relegated to the back of my sleep-deprived mind. I was still using maternity bras because they well loose, comfortable and my worst fears had finally come true. My boobs were gloriously sagging. And with dupattas and stoles I managed to get my way past the public space.
It took me almost a year post childbirth to finally muster the courage to address the situation and look for a bra-makeover. It took time and a lot of pep talk and patience to measure, re-measure, look for stuff, try it, understand what was comfortable, what was not comfortable, what fit, what didn’t, what was me and what wasn’t. It involved letting go of the hurt and shame that I had endured all these months with regard to my body, my mothering and being as a woman. I know I still am a long way from loving my breasts but I think we are on our way to a more honest, and fulfilling relationship.”