My Left Breast

People said, “Two babies, two breasts.  Nature provides” as if any other thought were absurd.  But we tend to utilize one hand, favor one foot, lean on one leg.  One nostril often clogs before the other.  One testicle yields more sperm than its partner.  And one breast produces more milk.  Maybe that’s why we have two, so one can pass the baton if the other is lame.  My left breast is a spigot.  The right, a trickling faucet.  I’ve consulted Lactation, my midwife, the doctors, friends, books.  No amount of water, massage, visualization, herbs, tea, avocado, oatmeal, hot compresses, can coax more out of it.  (NO ADVISE, PLEASE – I can’t take it.)  I’ve come to think of my right breast as a gym, a place where babies go to work-out, to strengthen those jaw muscles before partaking in the rich, fatty rewards of the left.  If the brain controlled breasts as it does motor skills, the artistic right side would be in charge of my left breast.  With each feed my little ones would be streaming with creativity.  But if the right were dominant, they might grow to favor logic and reason (clearly conflicting with our family dynamic).                  

We long speculated that breast-feeding was more convenient than formula-feeding.  So far, not true.  Perhaps it would be if there weren’t two hungry little beasts trying to latch onto one feeding station.  They have a habit of bumping each other off even when positioned in the (separate, but not equal) football hold.  When the big guy latches-on it always reminds me of a crocodile preying at water’s edge – a lot of wild gnashing and spinning.  Once the babies are settled it’s fine, but there’s truly nothing I can do to make them less comfortable and more focused at breast.  We could all stand naked in a blizzard having not eaten for three days and they would still be lulled into a state of pure bliss.  They become intoxicated, dreamily nursing all the live long day if I let them.     

People said, “There’s nothing like the breast-feeding bond between mom and baby” as opposed  to the formula-feeding bond.  But there’s virtually no difference between the bond I share with my daughters and the bond other mothers share with their biological children.  We had piles of skin-to-skin time, lots of loving eye contact.  I did everything I could to replicate what I believed my children would have received had I breast-fed them.  However, now that I’m in the thick of it, I’m beginning to understand the hype.  I’ve heard how beautiful it is, how difficult it can be, how some women love it, and others hate it.  But nobody has ever mentioned how empowering and divisive it can be.  As I see it, there are several rather dark and important aspects to breast-feeding.               

1.  The Ultimate Ego Boost: The lactator (in most cases) is responsible for not only growing a human being, but singularly sustaining its life with her body – how could this not go to one’s head?

2. Baby-Hogging: By far, the lactator spends more time than anyone else holding the baby and the rewards are great.    

3. Total Control: Not only does she grow, sustain, and hog the baby, but all other central figures must regularly consult the lactator as baby’s world revolves exclusively around nursing.

4. Vantage Point: By sheer default the breast-feeding baby’s drunken gaze is forced upward, straight into the eyes of the lactator.  A formula (bottle) fed baby can look around and still nurse, but there’s no other place for a breast-feeding baby to look.  Under the circumstances anyone would feel deep adoration.       

These points, one in the same really, carry with them the potential of swelling one’shead to regal heights.  While some of us feel imprisoned by the dependency, others feel significant, purposeful, whole for the first time in their lives.  I don’t know where I fall yet.  All I know is that this power is very new and intriguing to me and the phrase that keeps coming to mind is with great power comes great responsibility

Can you believe the boys are one month old today?


6 responses to “My Left Breast

  1. and happy beautiful one month to you all!

    i thought of just that comment “two breasts, two babies” – because, i know, i was one of the many to encourage you – on thursday. we paid a visit to a farm in yamhill (the town, not street). i was surprised to discover cows only have one calf. my mind whirred. the images of piglets suckling in a pile-on ran through my head. i looked again at the cow and the four teats. nope, one calf. they just need that much milk. hmmm, i said. so, people? twins? i repeated for the farmer my concept that three babies unusual, two babies bleh! (two breasts!) not so much. it’s about rotation. whoops.

    i wonder if there is always a “favorite” side. i have heard of this. baby b seemed to favor the right side in the beginning. i’m sure there’s some book out there (or twenty!) that has these answers and more if only i could keep my eyes open long enough to read them.

    thank you for writing about your nurslings. that milky look of satisfaction that you know only comes from you (is it the milk or you?! or both?!) is such a complete joy. i never get tired of it. along with the belches. and the lip-smacking. i am tired, oh god yes. but never tired of that satisfied feeling.

    and it is such a complex situation. i look forward to further developments!

    this last month of no entries has dragged on. and it hasnt even been a month since you last wrote!

    thank you for writing!

    love to you all.

  2. and one more thing.

    the looking right at you…. and not looking elsewhere?

    well, i wont spoil the ending but the eyes do tend to shift at times. that’s all i will say for now on that subject!

    but for the future…. that will be a fun entry to read!

  3. Good Ol’ Lefty!

    As for power related quotes, I always think of Margaret Atwood (I had to look it up to get it exactly right) “We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.”
    (Insert feminist diatribe about misogynistic society’s expectations, definitions and norms…)

    Of course, the other power quote that sprung to mind was “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” which may have some relevance to the parenting experience as a whole, though not necessarily about nursing!

  4. With these powers come great responsibility. Very cute! I think it was in Spiderman!

    Anyway, yes the one breast doing all the work is real, happened with me. I enjoyed nursing the second time around, not so much the first. I remember how when the milk let down, how calm you felt, stuck on the couch unable to get up and go. To me at times I felt so frustrated, seeing the house collect with crap here and there, feeling like I should be up cleaning, doing. I felt like some days I just stayed on the couch unable to move, each time finding the baby crying to be fed. The second time around I was more relaxed less uptight.

  5. In the spirit of political fairness. I think there is a new blog entry needed to address “My Right Wing”

  6. breast feeding! who needs it?!

    oh yeah, i guess those little helpless things do. but if they didn’t…well hell i certainly never would have done it!

    many many many will disagree, but what’s beautiful about leaky nipples, mammoth breasts, that unnatural pumping apparatus, being CONSTANTLY in demand and staring at the walls of your living room for the millionth time?

    yes yes…beautiful moments…blah blah blah. there are so many beautiful moments with your children, why put more value on those experienced during feeding time?

    it is ‘great power’ and it does bring great responsibility. i suppose my struggle was that it also brought with it an enormous loss of independence. when i finally met my own breastfeeding goals and weened, that’s when i began to feel empowered again.

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