As I continue to call upon the Ghost of Blogging Past to help me through this crazy week, it seems only fitting that I share the guest post I wrote around this time last year for Gigi’s Summer of Love series at Kludgy Mom. Especially since I’m preparing to embark upon the very same vacation that inspired the original piece.
It’s one of my all-time favorite posts. And while it was written as a humor piece, the events surrounding it were anything but funny. Perhaps someday I’ll share the more sordid details here and shed some light on exactly why I get so twitchy about the exhaustive breast-vs.-bottle debate, along with my general contempt for the La Leche League and its deceptive propaganda.
But for now I’m content to simply look back and laugh at the most well-timed personal crisis ever as I recall that fateful week when my breasts as I once knew them took their last bow, to paraphrase the great Margaret Mitchell. Look for them only in pictures, for they are no more than a dream remembered. A glorious vision, gone with the wind.
When my daughter lost interest in breastfeeding at just shy of seven months old, I nursed her one last time, tearfully kissed her forehead, and whispered, “It’s OK. We did good.”
I did, however, plan to keep pumping. There would be no painful engorgement for me, thankyouverymuch. I would continue to pump until my milk simply dried up, allowing me to transition Lil’ Bit from breast milk to formula while easing The Pointer Sisters back into a non-bovine state. Win-win.
I even planned to lug my breast pump with me during an upcoming vacation to West Palm Beach, Florida. I was just that dedicated to my plan.
But somewhere along the line, my plan went awry.
It began with the mood swings. The violent rages in which I would lash out at my husband one minute and collapse into a sobbing heap the next.
Then I went back to work and the mommy guilt set in. The feeling that I was only giving a fraction of myself as a wife, mother, and employee, and not really excelling at any of the three.
Next, Lil’ Bit started to catch every virus that came through her daycare, resulting in my ongoing absence from work. And that’s when I began to feel like I was drowning.
Throughout all of this, Lil’ Bit was showing less interest in breastfeeding, which brought about more stress and anxiety. So, when I suddenly stopped nursing altogether, the resulting hormonal imbalance along with my [now obvious] postpartum depression pretty much sent me over the edge. And one Saturday evening in late June, I sat at my kitchen table and completely lost my shit.
My parents were the unwitting spectators to this massive meltdown and, clearly alarmed, encouraged me to call my OB/GYN immediately. Two days later I received a prescription for 20mg of Celexa, along with an immediate cease-and-desist on all nursing and pumping-related activities.
This was not part of the plan. I hadn’t yet weaned myself from the pump, nor Lil’ Bit from breast milk. Which as it turned out, was the least of my worries as she immediately took to formula.
But there was another matter complicating things.
“Will I get engorged?” I asked the nurse.
“Probably,” she answered.
“But… I leave for vacation in three days. And I’m going to the BEACH!” The panic mounted as I imagined stuffing my painfully full pillows into a swimsuit.
“Well,” the nurse said, a little uncertainly, “You could always keep pumping. But you’d have to throw it all out.”
I weighed my options. Engorgement vs. hauling my breast pump 1,000 miles south to hole up in our condo milking myself like a cow, only to pour the fruits of my labor down the drain.
My breast pump. The torture device to which I had been tethered for nearly seven months. The source of much boredom and humiliation, not to mention the loss of all dignity and desirability. In short, the very bane of my existence.
Yes, I weighed my options. And then I chose engorgement.
In the days leading up to our trip, I watched with trepidation as my breasts grew hard and taut, turning first red and then an angry purple. A mere brush of an arm, and I winced in pain. I cradled them gingerly, protectively, and glared warily at anyone who strayed too close.
And I cried. Because I feared the worst when it came to my impending vacation. A vacation that I desperately needed.
But then something amazing happened. Soon after arriving in Florida, the engorgement began to subside and I was left with two perfectly voluptuous melons.
They looked spectacular.
With the aid of breastfeeding and good genetics, I’d lost all my baby weight and then some. Which combined with my impressive post-engorgement boobs, gave me a rather Betty Boop-esque figure for my beach vacation.
It was, in short, a very well-timed optical illusion. And I took full advantage by donning every bikini I owned. As the saying goes… if you’ve got it, flaunt it!
Alas, “it” was short-lived. Toward the end of the week, I noticed one boob had deflated and was noticeably smaller than the other one.
But its companion soon followed suit. And then they both began to shrink equally, in earnest. Over the next few months, they grew smaller. And smaller. And then they may have even turned inward. Until eventually I was left with nary more than two shrunken balloons where a bountiful bosom once lived, along with the fading memory of the most glorious boobage I’d ever seen. On myself, anyway.
Now, years later, I recall them with fondness. After all, they sustained a little life for seven months. And then helped me totally rock a bikini – possibly for the last time.
Thanks for the mammaries.