When my daughter was born I was determined to breastfeed. The day she exploded out of my vagina, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. As they cleaned her up, I watched as she sucked on her hand, indicating her hunger.
My breasts, aka. “the girls,” and I have been through quite a journey together. It wasn’t until I had my daughter that I realized the poor quality of life I had been inflicting upon them throughout the years. Through all the pressures to be perfect, smaller, less hairy, less nipple-y, perkier, and more restrained, I struggled with negative feelings towards them throughout the years and put unrealistic expectations on them. Then I had my daughter, and everything changed.
From their first training bra, to the dreaded underwire that would sometimes stab me in the ribs, to the push-up bras that could not contain them, to when I bought my first nursing bra that did not fit, I stuffed, shoved, and squeezed them in bras of all kinds of fancy colors, prints, or fabrics and plumped, plucked, and polished them for those who would admire them in or out of the bedroom.
Then came the surprising realization that I had been wearing the wrong bra size my whole life. This happened when I was forced to take my bra off at a bus stop because I just couldn’t take it anymore. The girls had had it with being stuffed and suffocated in uncomfortable cheap bras, and on that particular day they were screaming at me via immense back and shoulder pain.
When my daughter was born, I was determined to breastfeed. The day she exploded out of my vagina, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. As they cleaned her up, I watched as she sucked on her hand, indicating her hunger. They brought her to me and she nursed like a champ.
I have to admit, it was an awkward and empowering transition from thinking of my breasts as push-up bra fillers to milk-making power machines I dare not restrict with a bra and whip out wherever and whenever I needed to feed my hungry baby.
As the role of my breasts changed, I changed too. I got better and better at whipping them out on a whim and cared less and less about what other people thought, as I became used to other people either looking, staring, or even commenting on my breasts.
In the years I have been with my breasts, they have never glowed and beamed so proudly as when they are plump full of milk (they call it liquid gold). I started to notice their impeccable beauty. My daughter named them Milk and Milky. Milk and Milky! I had always heard of babies naming their milk something. Parents are supposed to encourage something appropriate. My daughter took it one step further and gave each breast her own name. Milk (the right) and Milky (the left).
For my daughter, I never had to worry about my breasts being lifted and separated into a push-up bra or polished and plucked. For her, they just hang, and the easier the access, the better.
Since my daughter came along, Milk and Milky’s quality of life seemed to improve. They get more hugs — the nurturing kind. They get a little arm wrapped around them and asked how they are doing — my daughter cares about their well-being. Sometimes, when I’m reading my daughter a story, Milk and Milky get invited to read the story, too. Then, one day, my daughter pointed to a stray hair on Milky and asked, “What happened to Milky?” I took a deep breath. She does have my genetics, I thought to myself: a stray hair here, a stray hair there, a stray hair is coming her way eventually, but she only gave Milky a pat, then wrapped her little arm around her and snuggled in. She wasn’t repulsed, she was concerned! Concerned out of her unconditional love for Milky.
My hope is I can teach my beautiful daughter how to love herself inside and out unconditionally, the way she loves Milky and the way I love her, before she succumbs to the same pressures I inflicted on myself and the weird things I did to my body in the name of “beauty.”
I spent years stressing over my body, but when I look back at pictures of myself, I think I look pretty fantastic in all of them, though I didn’t believe I did at the time.
My daughter has taught me a lot about loving myself unconditionally. Through discovering the miraculous capacities of my body to grow, deliver, and nourish another human being, I’ve come to respect my body in a whole new way, from my newfound Beyoncé booty to the stretch marks that resemble the logo for the United Nations on my belly...to “the girls” who will now be forever known as Milk and Milky.