Perky. Plump. Full. Voluptuous. Those are all adjectives I once used to describe the two lady lumps on my chest. It’s funny that women can be so defined by what resides on our chests. These outward signs of our womanhood attract so much attention for all sorts of reasons, and I’ll admit that I’ve struggled with that for a good portion of my life. I’ve resented them, admired them, worshipped them, rejected them, and been afraid of them. I’ve been angry that they attract attention when I’ve not wanted it. I’ve been awed that they’ve attracted attention when I really did want it. I’ve been tired that they’re always just THERE and need to be dealt with in regards to how clothes fit or don’t based on necklines and buttons. It’s been a thing and it has felt tiring at times to always have to think about it.
Quarantine was freeing in that I didn’t have to wear a bra all the time and could wear what I wanted without considering anything other than my comfort. It let me examine my relationship with my breasts and now we are homies. Friends. Pals. Buds. We get each other now and it’s freeing.
In my youth I had great breasts. I loved them. I wasn’t ashamed to rock a low cut top and I adored bra shopping. My breasts said, “Hey!” They were very Valley Girl in all their perky glory. They were fun to show off occasionally while going to clubs and parties. They said, I am a wo-man and I’m feminine and gather ’round all and sundry. They were annoyingly direct and eager.
I became pregnant and things shifted. My perky ladies went through a transition and became full blooded women with red lips and big hair. They resembled personal flotation devices strapped to my chest. I’d tell myself we could do this, we could rock these changes. We could adapt, which was quickly followed by Lord Jesus on high why do I have to wear a bra when my skin feels stretched to the point of ripping? Why God can these darn nipples not stop saluting every single stranger? Really ladies, I’d say, get control of yourselves. Have some dignity.
I had a precious baby and decided to breastfeed. Now these full blooded women became softer around the edges, more maternal and grandmotherly in their quest to comfort and feed. I’d watch as my daughter latched on and would marvel that I was feeding her. It felt miraculous. It felt weird. These flotation devices didn’t come with a manual and the instructions I found were in Greek. What is this fresh hell of my breasts feeling hard as a rock followed by sudden tingling sensations? Oh my God, Husband please forgive me and we’ll never speak of this again. I’m sorry I thought something was wrong and asked you to check my breasts — something was keeping my milk from flowing and it hurt. You were so kind to check and then it happened. I sneezed so powerfully, my whole body getting into the motion. Whatever was blocking my milk came rocketing out…right in your face. No time to stop and wallow in my embarrassment and shame, I had to grab a milk bag ASAP because the leak rain stops for no woman.
Biting, sucking, pinching took on a completely different direction than I was prepared for. No longer were these flirtatious preludes, now I had a tiny ball of HANGRY clawing at my chest. But, as with all stages of motherhood, things changed. She weaned herself. I had gotten used to our special moments of feeding, some tender and peaceful while others were frantic and hazy. I had learned the rhythms. Suddenly, she decided to stop and that was that. I thought I would have time to prepare my goodbyes. Nope. Now what did I do with my breasts? They were having a mid life crisis. No longer young ladies in the blush of youth, no longer full blooded women ready to party, and now no longer grandmotherly women who fed and nurtured my child. They occasionally leaked and couldn’t decide if they were super sensitive or numb. It was akin to a breast menopause. They weren’t ready for wire support but the thought of wearing a nursing bra any longer was too much to bear. I’d gotten so used to them not being wholly mine that I felt separate from them. I had a whole zip code on my chest that I knew nothing about.
It took time to relearn each other. After breastfeeding two kids and going five rounds of mastitis, they are no longer full and plump. They remind me a little of Benjamin Button at the stage where he was barely an old man with a young person’s eagerness. My breasts are two old ladies who have seen some STUFF. They’re a little deflated and at cross purposes, but man, they still love to have fun. They are the fun ladies who just applied for AARP, but only on a technicality thank you very much. They can still close down a bar though, they’d like you to know. They give no Fs and know that because they have great insurance, they can go all TAWANDA on someone if need be.
There are options nowadays if I felt I needed them: lifts, tucks, reductions, augmentations, silicone, you name it. My breasts could once again be perky and sitting high. They could rock a low cut top without wires and hefty straps to make them behave. They could, but I won’t. My breasts and I are ride or die now. We’ve been places, seen, and done things together that created a bond. My breasts are the key to the map so to speak. That faint slash of a scar is a reminder to always cut a baby’s nails no matter how terrifying it feels. That circular scar is from the last round of mastitis when a doctor had to go in with a huge needle and drain a stubborn impacted cyst. That scar almost landed me in the hospital. That tiny pinch of skin is the result of reading 50 Shades of Grey and having a kid free weekend after my first kid and I was feeling myself. I wish I had also felt like reading some directions, but it’s a good and funny reminder.