As a small-chested gal, I always figured pregnancy would finally offer me the chance to enjoy a voluptuous bosom.
So when I became pregnant and was wracked with constant nausea, headaches, and insomnia, I tried to hold on by focusing on the positive things that would be coming: a baby. And boobs.
I kept waiting. My uterus stretched. My belly bloomed. An eerily dark line vined up the center of my belly. Eventually, my deep innie of a belly button finally shot out, a stubborn plug.
My breasts, however, stayed the same. Unless you count my nipples blackening.
Perhaps, I thought, they’d come when the baby arrived. The new words from birthing and breastfeeding class swirled around in my mind, foreign and slightly metallic: Colostrum. Engorgement. Letdown. Surely the boobs would come along, arriving with all the new lingo. Right?
And sure enough, after a few days with our newborn, who nursed constantly as if to say: where the hell are the milk jugs? My milk came in. One rare night when my son pieced together a few hours of consecutive sleep, I awoke to a tight feeling in my chest. I raced to the mirror, pulled down my milk-stained nursing tank, and felt myself up like a 15-year-old boy. No, they weren’t DD’s, but they were something. I poked at the rock hard, lopsided orbs, pulsing with teal veins and those bizarre black nipples.
They were glorious.
A handful of mornings followed similarly, but my milk supply quickly adjusted. The boob fairy had visited briefly, then vanished as abruptly as she’d come.
Meanwhile, my son nursed greedily every half hour or so for the first many months of his life. I attended breastfeeding support groups, where other dazed new moms sat around tables trading stories about sleep and poop, while their tiny babies dozed or clung to their nipples. The facilitator Kelly, a warm, funny middle-aged nurse, fielded questions from us about sleep and latches and pumping.
“My son wants to nurse all the time,” I complained to her. She came over to me, narrowed her eyes at my unimpressive chest and checked my son’s latch.
“He has a good latch,” she said, then paused. “It might be because you’re a little on the small side,” she suggested.
Though it was true, and plainly evident among the room full of mostly Playboy endowed moms, her words stung. The truth was, I’d spent a decent amount of energy throughout my life wishing my boobs were bigger. From the moment a cute, stupid boy in high school declared I was small-chested, I’d felt insufficient. To add insult to injury, my grandmothers had both been busty, as was my mom. It seemed unjust; it was clearly my birthright to have large—or at least medium—sized breasts, and I’d been robbed.
With time and age I’d come to an unsteady truce with my pear-shaped body and small breasts. But Kelly’s matter-of-fact statement seemed to hint at a new angle—my body didn’t do what it was supposed to do as a mother. My son was healthy growing at an exponential rate—but I still felt like a failure. The small boobs that had once made me feel like less of a woman now left me feeling like less of a mom. When I pumped, it took several sessions to fill a bottle, and I watched the little pale droplets as the pump whirred not enough not enough not enough, or strangely, sometimes, broccoli broccoli broccoli.
Over time, my feelings of insufficiency faded. I often watched my son nurse—since he did it all the time—and be awestruck that I was feeding him. With my body! My body, which had carried him and birthed him, was nourishing him. Was growing him.
I nursed him for 26 months, and the moment I stopped, I discovered I was pregnant with our daughter. She was less voracious but nursed well and often, and continued to do so until I weaned her at 17 months.
Five years of consecutive pregnancy and nursing further strengthened my relationship with my body. And when I finally hung up my breasts, they weren’t droopy as other nursing moms had complained. They are perhaps a smidge smaller, but still much the same as before.
My small breasts fed my babies. They won’t sag to my knees as I age. They pose no discomfort when I run or practice yoga. I’ve come to see them as charming. To borrow—and distort—a Shakespeare quote, they may be small, but they are fierce.