If someone had told my husband ten years ago--before he met me, married me, had four children with me-- that he would one day marry a woman who walked around the house half-nude with her rather large bosom hanging out for him to ogle at his will, he probably would have been thrilled. In fact, I'm quite sure that when he did meet me he had some fantasies that involved coming home from work and finding me wearing nothing but a dressing gown (and heels, his fantasy probably involved heels) with my breasts proudly out. I've done my best to live up to these fantasies, but it doesn't really seem to be having the effect that I'm sure he imagined it would.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that he's not the only one seeing them. Alot of people have seen my breasts over the last eight and a half years. Most of my neighbors have seen them. I'm sure all of the neighborhood boys have seen them. My children's school friends and even their mothers (and one or two of their fathers) have seen them. They are a common sight at my church, even at my parents' church. Restaurant owners and restaurant goers-- yup, they've seen them. One of my brothers informed me last summer that he'd seen more of my breasts than he had his own wife's, so you know they make a regular appearance at family gatherings as well. A friend called me the other day, knowing I was about to do my first ever Mom's group meetup (a big first for me), and advised me to keep them covered up-- other moms don't want to see your breasts. I followed her advice, for the first hour or so. Then out they came. The mailman, the cable man, the door-to-door salesmen, the Jehovah's Witnesses-- they've all seen them. Doctors, real estate agents, receptionists, store employees-- pretty much anyone I've interacted with over the last several years has seen them.
It's not that I'm an immodest person. I was raised with strict guidelines on clothes. Knee-length skirts, no cleavage, keep it all covered-- and to be honest, by the time I developed my breasts at a rather late age (16) they came so suddenly that I was more embarrassed by them than eager to show them. But somewhere down the line, well, keeping them covered became more work than it was worth it to keep them hidden. And that line reduced a little more with each child I had.
When Kayton was born, breastfeeding was amazing, but somewhat embarrassing. I felt like the whole world was looking each time I put her to nurse, and I was bashful about it. If I was out to eat, I'd keep a blanket covering me, and do my best to make sure no one would hear her contented slurps and sighs as she filled her belly. With Mason, I attempted to be equally discrete, although I often found the blanket slipping as I attempted to nurse him while trying to keep an active one year old Kayton from escaping or making a mess. And as time went on and the infant would much prefer to look at his mother while nursing then be hidden under a blanket, I stopped worrying so much about the blanket, and just worried about keeping both children quiet and well-behaved. So if a little bit of breast showed, so be it. I was just feeding my child- better that than listening to him scream, right?
With Kayton and Mason, however, I was working full-time, so much of my breast-feeding was done in private, and I also tried to be discreet about the pumping during the day at work. However, in the small office I worked in, well, even that became an issue. My coworkers knew that a few times a day, I'd be retiring to my assigned pumping location- an empty office- to fill up the bottles for the next day. They were pretty good about giving me my privacy during that time, but I did manage to flash a coworker one time when, forgetting that I was in there, he barged in to set up a private conference call, only to discover me, both breasts holding forth hooked up to my awesome double breast pump (thank you, Lana), as I relaxed in the chair reading a book. I'm not sure who was more embarrassed- me or him- but I've never felt more like a cow than at that moment. And maybe that moment is what started my transition to just not caring. Or maybe it was more subtle.
By the time Kolbie was born I was wrangling two other children while attempting to keep her latched on to my nipple. At home, it wasn't a big deal. My children are so used to my nursing that they don't even blink an eye. Oh, with each new child there's always a little bit of "let me see where the milk comes from again", but it quickly becomes nothing. Well, nothing to me or to them. To the "others" who come into range... well...
One time, when Kolbie was a few months old, we went out to Applebees. It was dinner time for all of us, and of course, Kolbie was hungry. So I put her on my breast and proceeded to scan the menu. The waiter, a young boy, probably 18 or 19, came to the table and started to take our order. I make it a point to always be very nice and polite to servers, since that's how I paid for college, and I was chatting nicely with him about his recommendations when I noticed he'd started to stumble over his words a bit and his face was turning different shades of red very rapidly. I felt sort of badly for him, assuming that he was, perhaps, new and wasn't used to being asked so many questions (seriously, how hard is it to order from an Applebees menu?), so I went into extra nice mode. After what was, to him apparently, a painfully long time, he left to fill our orders, and I returned my attention to Kolbie-- only to then realize that she was sound asleep-- mouth turned to the side--and my prominent, recently nursed nipple pointing out and up for all the world-- specifically, my young waiter- to see. I would say that he got a big tip, but, well, that pun is already pretty obvious.
My level of modesty just went down hill from there. Micah came into the world and I just gave up. Besides, there's something about writhing naked on a table in a brightly lit room surrounded by 10 to 15 people moments after giving birth to a child that strips your last semblances of modesty. With my first three births I'd managed to stay somewhat covered up and modest. With Micah, there was so much blood and so much pain (and so much fear of death, to be honest) that I just went all out naked. And with people running in and out of the room desperately, heck, I didn't care. So from the first time I put her on my breast, moments after delivery, surrounded by doctors and nurses and a panicked looking husband, I didn't care who saw my breasts anymore. (or my hoo-ha, at that point, either)
And leaving the hospital didn't cure that problem. Micah likes to nurse on a whim. She nurses like she's smoking a joint. Puff, puff.... pass for a few minutes... then back to puff, puff again. This means that in order to maintain a level of modesty, I'd be hooking and unhooking my bra and arranging my shirt every three and a half minutes. And, let's be honest, I'm too lazy for that. So often, one or both breasts are just hanging out there waiting for her to crawl back over for another drag. Which explains why so many people have been witness to my ample blessings from God. (A fact that my mother never hesitates to remind me of since I spent years between the ages of 12 and 15 begging God to please give me breasts so the boys would stop calling me "Flatryn". Well, He did. He has a sense of humor, too. Now I pray that He would please take some of this away, since JMahl's not too keen on paying for a breast reduction.)
But while my sense of modesty may be (almost) non-existent, my sense of propriety is not. Nor is my husband's. And while he's used to me whipping them out on a moment's notice, regardless of who may be around, he still attempts to keep them a little under control. For example, when we visited Alabama a few months ago- my first time meeting much of his family- he asked me to please nurse in the backroom. And I happily did so-- for the first few minutes. The first time his Aunt told me to just "stay right there, we're all women- we've all done it", I took her up on that offer. And now much of my husband's extended family have seen my breasts- including the men, since the "we're all women" lasted only as long as it took for the men to come back inside, and by then I had a half-sleeping child and was loathe to relocate and risk waking her.
I've also got various members of my family who, while used to my nursing, are not quite comfortable with it and tend to drop hints such as "she's almost a year now, so I guess you'll be weaning her soon", to which I normally reply "yup, she'll be four in no time!" My husband says I will absolutely NOT be nursing a four year old Micah, but I tell him "my breasts, my baby, and you've never tried to wean a child who didn't want to be weaned." Kayton and Mason weaned pretty easily, but they also were used to the bottle. Kolbie, not quite as easy, but not hard. But again, I worked part time throughout her infancy, so she, too, was used to taking a sippy cup in lieu of the breast. Micah, on the other hand? She's got no desire, at 11 months, to even try to take a bottle or a sippy cup or any thing other than my breast-- and can you blame her? I've got a friend who still occasionally nurses her two year old child. I say more power to you! She managed to keep that baby nursing through a full-time job. That takes commitment. And, let's be honest, it's easier to keep going than to stop sometimes.
And really, why should I tackle the whole weaning thing when there doesn't seem to be a real reason to? I don't have a job yet (I am looking!), and breast milk is so much cheaper and easier than filling a bottle/ cup with juice or cow milk or formula. And there's something so comforting and relaxing for her and me both to just sit together and be together. And besides, many studies say that the longer you nurse a child the healthier, happier, SMARTER**, and better socially-adjusted the baby will be. And I'm all about healthy, happy, smarter, well-adjusted kids. Especially when it involves little or no extra work on my part.
And while this may not be the exact fantasy my husband had in mind when he envisioned a bare-breasted woman meeting him at the door each day after work, well, it hasn't been so hard on him. They just came out with a study that said men who stare at breasts 10 minutes a day significantly decrease their risk of heart disease***. I'm just doing my part to keep him (and you, if you're male) healthy-- and sure, we learned the very uncomfortable way that trying to make out while a baby is nursing is just very very "weird" for me, and somewhat incestuous (never doing that again), but, heck, he wanted big breasts and he got them!
And one day these breasts will be his again-- and on display for only him. And if he's lucky, I'll never quite regain my sense of modesty and he'll still come home to me flaunting myself shamelessly around the kitchen-- but maybe by then all four kids will be in school and there won't be a baby hanging from my nipple, and he can actually enjoy the experience.