Breastfeeding AKA Nipple Regeneration Part 1
Yes. They die and then come back. Like when you cut off a lizard's tail. That's the only explanation for the transformation. It's a re-birth of a part of your body that you never thought needed to be reborn. It's a very unholy resurrection though. Nothing glory, glory hallelujah about it.
The day Emmy was born, after all the goo was wiped off and we had a couple hours to stare at each other, the nurse put her on my boob to feed. Meaning: she placed Emmy's mouth within 2 inches of my nipple, well within striking distance, and let go. Emmy snapped in like a magnet to the Earth's core. Instant suction, like those commercials where the bowling ball is lifted off the ground by a vacuum. Emmy was my bowling ball.
The nurse nodded, and goes, "Hmm, good! She’s a real clamper!" And as she's watching Emmy wield her Clamping Power, I'm grimacing and squirming in my bed and looking at The Good Doctor all bewildered like, "This sort of really hurts like a mother but I don't want to be a wuss so I will just smile weirdly and nervously laugh heh heh," as the beads of sweat begin popping onto my forehead.
Now let's be real. I wasn't in this post partum predicament because I'd never had my nipples sucked on before. Dare I say, I even liked it very, very much. But THIS sucking was NOTHING like THAT sucking. No No No. It was more than uncomfortable at first. Like, Hey Baby, do you need to suck my brains out through my nipple holes? But apparently, that's what Nature intended. The first few days, nothing much really comes out. Just a few drops of fatty colostrum. Which, by the way, my lactation nurses were more than willing to squeeze out. I've told you how you lose dignity during and after the birthing process, right? This falls squarely in that category. When several women can just reach down, grab your boob, and pinch it HARD until a drop of liquid comes out, you have not one shred of dignity left to worry about.
So there we are, me looking at Emmy, Emmy looking at my boob, and The Good Doctor looking at me. For 30 minutes. She just sucked. And it was a searing pain unlike anything my boobs and I have ever known.
Worse than labor. Yep. At least the poopy pains could be shooed away with a well-placed epidural. There was no epidural for breastfeeding. It was E-X cruciating. Not at all what I had in mind. Those pictures of mothers looking lovingly down at their babies perched on the nursing pillow with their little swirly head of hair and angelic eyes looking back up at Mommy. No. The sucking felt like a tow truck grabbing a nipple piercing and yanking it down the freeway at 98 miles an hour.
But that's just part of the trauma. The bits of nipple that become chapped and cracked and even BLOODY, THAT part was just WRONG. My lovely lovely bits were not meant to become baby mincemeat. Raw mincemeat. The Books said you should air out your nipples. Don't wear a top! Let them sunbathe! It was April, rainy, and I happened to live in a city where going topless, while exciting, would be frowned upon.
So I folded up Kleenex into squares to line my nursing bra, slathered nipple butter on after every single feeding, which was every 3 hours, and bit my lip every time I peeled off the nursing bra only to discover another piece of my boob was no longer attached to me, but instead, stuck to a tissue. And then I would brace myself and feed what was left of my boob to Piranha Emmy.
It was disheartening and the hardest part of being a new mom. Even harder than the interrupted sleep and hemorrhoids and patchwork quilted parts. And it was so unexpected. Maybe I should've gone to those parenting classes instead of self educating with three episodes of "A Baby Story" and one YouTube video called "El Parto," but I definitely DID NOT get the memo about how much breastfeeding sucks. Pun semi-intended.
A dear friend of mine recently wrote me from NYC, to thank me for "talking her down" after she came home and apparently also missed the memo about how much breastfeeding sucks. But I was all over it, with the Cliffs Notes version of the memo: They die. It hurts like a mother. But eventually, they come back...