Breasts. I have such a strange relationship with my own. As girls, we stuff socks down our shirts to play make believe. When we start to grow our own real ones, many of us try to downplay them. As someone who started developing very early (fourth grade was... interesting), I did my best to hide them and appear as undeveloped as my classmates. They kept growing and growing, and by middle school, I was in a C cup. High school brought on the boys who loved to stare at my chest regardless my baggy band t-shirts, and lots of photos of me with my arms crossed.
My large breasts became a running joke in my group of girlfriends. Humor was my defense mechanism then, as it is now. Several of us were well endowed, and commiserated over the struggles of being a teen girl with huge boobs. Looking back, I could see the start of me feeling that I was just a pair of gigantic tits and not much else. Continued unwanted attention that got more aggressive as I got older made me dislike them even more. My senior year, I joked that I would have cleavage in a turtleneck. They were always just kind of there, making button down blouses pull and forcing me to go up a size in clothing. At best, I was ambivalent about them. At worst, I hated them and was secretly jealous of my smaller chested friends.
In college, they went from annoying to empowered. Reading magazines like Jane, Bust, and books like The Beauty Myth helped me understand that my feelings towards my breasts were caused by the way they were viewed by society. Especially during those formative years, my developing emotions about my breasts were tainted by unwelcome attentiveness from boys and men. My boobs became empowered. There was something about getting my nipples pierced seemed like sticking a big middle finger up in the face of the male gaze. Or something like that. They became a part of my sexuality and I somehow felt liberated and in control of my body. I stopped hating them. I kinda started to love them.
Then came pregnancy and I didn't know what to fucking think.
They were tender, they were leaky, and holy hell, how could they get any bigger?! After my oldest was born, he was immediately put on my chest, right in between my breasts. I didn't know all of the amazing things they were capable of, like changing temperature to keep my late preterm baby warm and preventing him from expending precious calories. I had a hard time the first few days postpartum due to my milk volume taking (what felt like) forever to increase. I felt betrayed and angry at my breasts all over again. Finally on day 4, my breasts felt like they had rocks in them. I worked hard to breastfeed him and increase my volume to meet his demand. Finally we persevered and I was amazed by their power.
To be honest, I had probably been amazed by their power for years - the way they made men open the door for me or offer to buy me a drink. But this was different. Not only did they make milk to help my sweet baby thrive, but they were able to help a few other babies as well. I was proud to breastfeed, especially after the difficult start we had. As I began to learn more about lactation, I was in awe of what a woman's body was capable of doing. The divine design that went into making milk astounded me, and to be honest, it still does. I had a newfound respect for these two gigantic things on my chest and was grateful for the ability to even produce milk. Learning about breastfeeding in public laws and some of the crap women have had to deal with made me mad. I knew I wanted to do something to support others with lactation, policy, and maybe even more. The way breasts are perceived by some is enough to get me going on a rant - just ask my husband. I knew I wanted to make a difference for other girls who find themselves putting on baggy t-shirts and crossing their arms. A fire was lit. I learned more about becoming a lactation consultant and got involved with my local breastfeeding coalition to help make a difference. Now that I counsel women who may have trouble seeing the incredible power their breasts can be, I help them navigate through that journey. I hold space for those in the difficult days of seeing their breasts differently. Being able to nourish a child helped me see my breasts in a new way. Now that my breastfeeding days are over, I am thankful for the two pendulous, soft, saggy breasts that have become a big part of who I am.