I don’t smoke. I never have more than one glass of wine. I drink two cups of half-caff coffee a day, equaling one cup of regular brew. I don’t get chemical peels or botox. I don’t have any tattoos and I haven’t gotten a piercing since high school.
Sure, I seem like the life of the party, but nursing makes me a dud. During pregnancy I am understandably boring and safe, but people forget that pushing that pot roast out does not mean you’re free to hit the bars. If you decide to breastfeed, you’re still everyone’s favorite designated driver.
It’s true, you could binge drink and then pump and dump your milk to clear out the booze, but my daughter is nearly ten months old and we are nearing the end of our nursing relationship, and I can tell you that pumping at this point is an exercise in futility. I’ve never been a good pumper, and while my babies tip the scales at every checkup, I’m only able to pump a few drops at a time. I’ve tried all the let-down tricks; leaning over to let the gals hang, flapping my arms, looking at my baby, smelling her clothes, and so on forever and ever. Nothing works except actually nursing, so if I spent all night doing keg stands I couldn’t pump out the beer before the morning meal.
I’ve never done a keg stand, I haven’t smoked in years, too much caffeine gives me heart palpitations, and recreational drugs are pretty expensive. All I want is the option. After each kid I spend at least a year feeling as though my body is on loan to someone else and I can’t just do whatever I please. I didn’t get any tattoos before I had kids, but I can’t get one while pregnant or nursing because if I got an infection it would interfere with gestation/milk supply. I’ll never forget how I felt when my doctor jokingly suggested I refrain from getting inked because I was seven months pregnant with my first baby. Having never considered body art before that moment, I was stunned by the sense of unfairness I felt. I’m a grown woman, I can get a tattoo if I want!
All the rules and life changes sort of prepare you to be a parent, having to make all your decisions with your kids at the forefront of your mind. Even after you finish nursing, cultivating a heroin addiction would still negatively impact your children, so it’s probably best to skip that, but wouldn’t it be nice to just decide to get your face pierced and be able to do it on the spot? Do I want an eyebrow ring? Not unless it will take the focus off my un-groomed brows. But I’d still like to have the option. Have I had a hankering for some nose candy? I mean, I could use the energy boost, but it’s probably expensive and nosebleeds are so gross. But wouldn’t it be nice to make that decision for myself rather than having to automatically SAY NO TO DRUGS because my bodily fluids are necessary for someone else’s survival?
As it turns out, nursing makes the mind wander a tad, and this is what I think about. I have spent a combined thirty-three months nursing babies so far, twenty-seven months pregnant, and about three months trying to get pregnant (I know, I’m lucky to be so freakishly fertile!) so as I hang up my ovaries after this last baby my feelings are bittersweet. I will finally, finally have my body to myself. I can use the anti-wrinkle face creams that have crazy chemicals in them to keep me looking merely forty-seven (I’m thirty-two wtf happened to my face). I can sit near a smoker and just be annoyed because my clothes will stink, not worried about secondhand carcinogens. And I can finally get that giant eagle with the American flag backdrop tattooed across my back, because if I get a horrible infection, it’s my own problem and its not contaminating the main source of nutrients for an infant. I won’t have to refuse medical care that would poison my milk because my child, who refuses to take a bottle, would starve to death if I couldn’t feed him/her (this has happened THREE TIMES, for corn’s sake).
No one will turn to me for instant comfort on vaccine day. No one will feel warm and safe in my belly. No one will need me every two hours to survive in their first days of life. What will I do with this body once it’s most important chapter has closed?