I just wanted to say thanks.
You and me haven’t always got on. It’s ok. I’m going to be honest here. When you first appeared, I wasn’t impressed. You were, well, a disappointment. I hadn’t seen that many boobs in my life but enough to know that, frankly, you were meant to be bigger. Whilst all of the other girls in my communal school changing room (sob) were pinging bra straps, I sported glorified crop tops for far too long. And when that wonderful ‘90s trend of cropped t-shirts came around, I clung on to baggy ones, without much to put under them. I’ll be honest: you were thoroughly underwhelming. And you continued to be, every summer, every Christmas party, every time I wanted to look older than 13, for a good twenty years.
Until my first baby arrived. After a day of labour, hours of pushing and an emergency C-section, I lay on a hospital bed with a tiny raging baby in my arms. A midwife pushed my son’s head forcefully onto you – and he latched on. This was not the wonderful moment my antenatal breastfeeding session had prepared me for. There was no crawling up my tummy. I was covered in wires and tubes. In the photos I look completely exhausted and like I’m not quite sure what’s going on. But it was ok. You took over. He sucked, you provided and he stopped crying. Now ok, over the course of the next few weeks, he thanked you by ripping you to shreds (sorry about that). But you didn’t give up. You stuck to that crying-feed-stop-crying routine for months and months and months. Every two hours, for 30, 40, 50 minutes each time, you turned Chocolate Pop Tarts (again, sorry about that) into a healthy diet for my little boy. OK, we had to get through leaking and mastitis and blockages and bleeding, but now I’m over the early days, I’m going to do my best to see past all of that. You might have leaked so much I thought I might drown in my bed, but also – you grew a person. A full-on walking, talking person. And now my second baby’s here and you’re doing it again. I’m no less impressed. To me, it’s magic.
I had no idea I was carrying such a superpower. Of course, 16 year old me couldn’t have known. If you’d revealed your secret powers to her then, she’d probably have asked to switch it for a D cup instead. She didn’t get that boobs were capable of something even more awesome than looking good under a tiny Superman-emblazoned t shirt. (Don’t blame her; she grew up in the shadow of the Wonderbra.) But now, I get it. That all this time, I was wearing something far more amazing, something that could stop tears, soothe pain, bring on sleep, comfort a toddler, and make a whole person grow. All with, in all honesty, very little real effort from me.
I know that breastfeeding is not always this easy for people. I know that it was pure luck that I got you and because of that I am all the more grateful. I don’t take you for granted. I appreciate so much that you saved me from hours of bottle washing and sterilising and trying to work out formula in the middle of the night. I’m so grateful that I always had a comforting snack on me, at the park, on a train, in the cinema, on the beach, even when I’d forgotten to bring wipes and muslins and a spare outfit. And I thank you, for helping my toddler to adjust to life with his new baby brother, for adapting to feed them both. When we sat on my sofa, bleeding and sore, all those thousands of feeds ago, who knew that actually, you were building up to that?
Maybe it’s just the oxytocin talking, but to me, you’re just bloody brilliant. And when this phase is done, in one, two, three years, I promise, I won’t forget everything you’ve done, for me and my babies. However you end up looking in a bikini, I’ll never forget this.
This post is part of our A-Z of Parenting series where we take a look at the whole alphabet of things that can go right – or wrong – with parenting. A new letter is added every couple of days. Check out what’s happened so far here.
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