...By using them
by Cathy Allison
didn't like my breasts very much before I became a mother. They are quite small, so small in fact that I do not even know what cup size I should wear. When I was in the eighth grade I wore a training bra to be like the other girls but I found it uncomfortable and depressing. I stopped wearing it when I read that if you put a coin underneath your breast and it falls to the floor you are allowed to go braless and I haven't worn one since.
My husband smiles when he says more than a handful is a waste and I believe he is being honest, personally preferring bottoms to chests anyway. But the too-often silicone-enhanced image of a desirable woman portrayed on magazine covers and billboards, in movies and myriad other forms of media is top-heavy, and I simply do not measure up.
When I was pregnant the changes in my breasts were thrilling. They did not grow much bigger; quarters still bounced onto the carpet, but I had cleavage. As my belly grew I watched my nipples changing hue from palest pink to a deep plum and was fascinated by the changing colours. It was not unlike watching the leaves turning in autumn.
When my breasts began leaking colostrum a few weeks before the birth, I proudly disclosed the fact to my midwife. I have to say I was a bit amazed that they were working. Despite reassurances that size does not matter in the world of lactation, a part of me didn't quite believe that they could produce milk.
When my daughter arrived I was astonished when the only difficulty I had nursing her was that I made too much milk. I would drown Emma when she began to suckle. My breasts would actually rain milk in the morning when I got out of bed, leaving a trail of drops on the hardwood floor from bedroom to bathroom and back again.
I was awed by the miracle of birth and by the feeling of Emma growing and moving inside of me, but those experiences could not compare to the sense of accomplishment I felt at seeing how fat she was at six months. She had chubby rolls around her thighs, encircling her wrists and behind her knees and I joyfully called her my little Michelin Tire baby. Knowing that she had doubled her birth weight on my breast milk alone made me feel womanly and powerful. I no longer felt inadequately endowed.
It took the act of breastfeeding to teach me the acceptance of my body that I should have been practicing all along.
My nipples are longer from the hours and days spent suckling my daughter and my breasts are a bit fuller now but they are not substantially bigger than before I had Emma. What has changed in a huge way is my attitude towards them. Breastfeeding certainly isn't a cure-all for every woman's feelings of inadequacy about her chest, but it sure helped me to put the issue of size into perspective.
Cathy Allison is a freelance writer and fulltime mother who lives in Vancouver, BC.