Breasts (or if you’re 12, like me, “chesticles”): I have them. And while my experience with the breasts of others is limited, I’m somewhat of an expert when it comes to my own boobs. A boobspert, if you will.
They are always there, like two roommates who refuse to leave the house and just hang around like good-for-nothing layabouts.
Sure, every once in a while they provide a nice benefit, like attracting attention or earning free drinks, but I have to support them because they are unable to support themselves. Think of them like your stoner friend who knows a guy that works at a pizza joint and can get us free food on occasion. Friendly, easygoing, but sometimes just kind of in the way.
The only time I’ve ever viewed my breasts as anything but a fun accessory was during the first year and two months of my son’s life, when I was essentially a milk cow.
Having a baby changed the way I thought about my body. Not only was it capable of growing a person, without any effort on my part after conception, but it could give birth to that person and then sustain life by making food that nourished the person it had made. Mind-blowing, kinda.
Growing my son inside my body required a lot less effort than maintaining my vegetable garden, which, by the way, is dying outside as we speak. Bodies are amazing.
Prior to that, my breasts were just two fleshy bags of nerve endings that sometimes pissed me off but were a nice accessory for walking around in low-cut shirts. They were also like, the most important second-billed cast members during sex. Maybe not the lead, but certainly two key supporting actors.
But post-partum, they became so much more.
Along with this new view of my body came a period of a sort of desexualization of my body and its various parts, specifically my breasts. The thought of doing anything other than feed my son with them seemed vulgar and nasty and gross (and not in a fun, hot way).
After all, my baby’s little innocent mouth went right there, over the nipple; that area was strictly off-limits to my partner. I didn’t even want them touched in any sexual way. Because when your breasts are producing food for a baby, anything can happen. They leak. They can get engorged and hard, and hurt like the dickens. Sometimes the force of the milk rushing through the milk ducts is so powerful that your breasts can become some sort of magical milk fountain.
This actually happened once: I was feeding Oliver and my ex was sitting across the room. Oliver got distracted by something, turned his head and un-latched, and a stream of breast milk shot my ex IN THE FACE. It was funny then, and it’s funny now!
But what would not be funny is for my partner to get a mouthful of milk during sex. I mean, yes, it would be funny, but at the time the thought of it happening was horrifying. My ex would have been totally OK with a milk mishap or several, but I was not OK with it.
For a year, I wore a bra during sex, partly for comfort (they were heavy) and partly to reinforce the “no touching” rule. There may as well have been police tape and barbed wire surrounding my chest.
We talk a lot about how mothers feel after having a baby, but very little about how the fathers feel. And I think that’s just as important. In my own experience, a new dad can feel excluded from the relationship between mother and child, and neglected by his partner. Here is this new little life that is suddenly the focus of everything, and now the breasts belong to the kid. A little jealousy doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.
So when I read this piece from a guy whose wife is still breastfeeding their five-year-old, I felt conflicted.
There are some things in life most men cannot share with first-graders, and two of them used to be called breasts. Now, my first grader called them boobalies, and history is written by the victors.
My first thought is that five years is an awful long time to breastfeed a kid. I would be very uncomfortable having a child who not only can casually walk up to me and ask to suckle at my breast, but whose favorite foods happen to include pizza and breast milk.
But then I think about how I’m in no position to judge other parents’ choices. You do you, parents who are breastfeeding your five year olds! I also know how it can feel to put your kids’ needs (in this case, food) above any other needs (in this case, your husband’s), and you know, it’s tough. I understand that it’s tough.
But then I come right back around to the guy who wrote this piece; I can see where he’s coming from. Five years is a long time to play second fiddle to your kid, when it comes to your wife’s breasts.
Of course, the main biological purpose of breasts is to feed human babies. I get it. But if biological function prevents the enactment of other fun activities involving breasts, someone is bound to get hurt after a spell.
I thought I would wean Oliver when he was about 18 months old, but I didn’t have to; he weaned himself when he was 14 months old. One morning he just didn’t want to nurse, and then he didn’t want to that night, either. I was happy to have my body back but also a little sad that my primary function as walking baby food was coming to an end.
My ex and I have never really talked about the no-boobies period of our relationship, except for yesterday, when I called him to ask if I could, oh I don't know, talk about this with the entire Internet (he’s the one who reminded me of the milk-in-the-face incident).
But I understood how he felt, because I would feel the same way if our roles were reversed. The first time he had access to my boobs in over a year, his face said it all: like a man who had finally found water in the desert.