Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

August 19, 2002

It was the breast of times...

Now that she’s two years old, Lucy is finally weaned. She still tries to “drink a little mopple, just a little sip” every now and then. But those attempts are coming farther and farther apart.

I never thought I would be one of those people who would nurse a kid who’s old enough to negotiate for breast milk. The whole thing shocks me. I can’t believe I’m even writing about breasts.

My boobophobia goes way back. When I was in middle school and needed a little trainer bra, I was too embarrassed to ask my mom for one. I joined the track team, which practiced after school, and I had to cup my nubbins with my hands as I ran laps. That same year, I came home from a dance once rather badly chafed. But that beat discussing my walnut bulges — and the fact that I was changing in ways I couldn't predict or control — with Mom.

Life has a way of making you confront the things that frighten and embarrass you most. It’s called parenthood.

Kids are great at sensing your weak spots. They sniff them out, and then they poke away until those weak spots lose all their nerve endings. They might still be weak spots, but you can’t feel them any longer.

Do you fear passing gas in public? Once you become a parent, your teeny newborn will honk like a tuba. The noise will be so loud that everyone around you hears it. And because no one believes how loud a baby can fart, everyone will think it’s you. So what are you going to do? Blame the kid? Then everyone will think you’re gassy and cowardly.

Do you fear emotional displays? Your gassy newborn will someday be a toddler who, when denied a brownie, will scream loud enough to rattle your spine out of alignment. And if the denied brownie is resting in a public display case, people will assume the safety leash you’ve got your child wearing to keep her from running out into the street is actually a modified canine shock collar. They’ll think you’re evil. They might even yell at you. My advice: buy the brownie. You'll both be happier.

Lucy somehow knew that I was embarrassed about my you-know-whats, and from the moment of her birth, did everything she could to be drinking from them, twiddling them and worse. It wasn’t enough for Lucy to quietly nourish herself. She had to lift up my shirt and show everyone what was going on down there.

I used to wrestle with her to keep my dignity. Once she got to talking, we actually had arguments about “shirt up” versus “shirt down.”

Eventually, I guess, I got used to it. Before Lucy was finally weaned, we had dinner with a priest. The next day, Father Tom wrote an e-mail that said, “I am pretty sure that you are the first person I've ever dined with who, as we proceeded from course to course, was being forcefully disrobed by her curly-headed table companion.”

But here’s the thing. If he hadn’t mentioned it in his e-mail, I wouldn’t have even remembered Lucy’s valiant attempts to strip me naked. In front of a holy man!

The person I was before I became Lucy’s mother would have died before flashing a man of the cloth. When Lucy was just a few days old, I didn’t know how I’d have the strength and patience to nurse her for even a year. And yet, I managed to do both things and somehow, I survived.

People talk about the great and wonderful things parents do for their children. But that misses the mark. It’s just as much what your kids do for you. They help you do the hardest things. You don’t have time to think about your fears or your pride. You simply think of your children — what they need, and how good it feels to give it.

No wonder I miss nursing Lucy so much.


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