EXCERPT: 'Don't Say I Didn't Warn You'

With my first baby I asked the lactation nurse, "How will I know when my milk has come in?" She just nodded and smiled and said, "Oh, honey, you'll know." I kept thinking, How? How will I know? This is my first?.?.?.?surely there's some better answer than "You'll know." She said that my milk will "come in"—does that mean it is somewhere on back order? Is it on the truck ready for a schedule delivery? If I fall asleep, will I miss the visit from the Lactation Fairy? But she was right. On the second day after I gave birth, I was awakened by the vague knowledge that there were Dolly Parton–worthy boulders sitting where my Mary Lou Retton breasts had been. This was a stunning and painful development: I had enough milk to feed my newborn and (obviously) several others. It was also helpful to have these gargantuan boulders to offset the complete loss of a waistline. It almost balanced things out.

Any woman who has breast-fed can tell you that your body has something called your "let-down reflex." This is why lactating females must have some sort of shield or padding in their bras at all times. For the first week or so I used the shields that they tell you are made for your lactating needs. They're round, they're soft, they cost money, and they have to be washed. Plus they also hold less than an ounce of milk before they start leaking. I was an overachieving lactator. I produced an ounce in the first nanosecond that my milk let down. Fortunately, I discovered Viva paper towels (soft, strong, absorbent, affordable, disposable!). If you fold two of them into quarters, you can absorb half the Ohio River if need be. These squares folded and inserted into your bra look really silly under normal cloth-ing, but at this time of your life you don't have a wardrobe for this no-man's-land. You are not wearing maternity but you're nowhere near anything prepregnancy. I was rocking the husband's shirts (which unbutton nicely for breast-feeding) and hospital scrub pants (drawstrings). This was fine, since my social calendar wasn't really hoppin' at the time. I can remember getting stir-crazy about Day Four and going to the grocery store while baby was napping with The Dad Unit—and hearing someone else's baby cry over on Aisle Seven. It did not matter that this was not my child. This was A Child That I Was Capable of Feeding. My brain told my breasts that this was a DefCon 4 situation, and even before I could try to divert my mind with other thoughts (What are the state capitals? What is my mother's Social Security number? What is the square root of pi?), I began to soak through my trusty Viva square. This was yet another clue that I was no longer in total control of my life. Something beyond my reason was driving this train. In retrospect, I see that this is the message from the moment the EPT stick shows a plus sign: responsibility without control. Welcome to motherhood.

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