Lo! The dawn broke and upon my chest was placed the small, unblemished fruit of my loins. Nary an hour had passed ‘fore he was suckled at my breast as does the newborn calf to the heifer or the pup to the bitch. And I saw that it was good.
I also saw that it sucked ass.
Breastfeeding is beautiful, and for us lazy moms for whom preparing food for tiny, picky clones of ourselves is one giant, spaghetti-sauce stained frustration after another, it’s a real timesaver, TBH. But that doesn’t mean it is without its own struggles. Prepare for battle, moms: the Four Horsemen of the Boobpocalypse draw nigh!
The first horseman: Death [in the form of postpartum contractions]
It was finished. The babe lay famished from his months-long journey earthside in the arms of his mother. Lips flanged, the lifegiver declared victory and pride swelled, robust and righteous, in her bosom. Suddenly, the skies broke with a great clap of thunder, and she found the woeful braying that filled the room not that of a donkey, but her own as she came upon a new and grotesque pain: her own Burning Bush [gross].
Okay, so you’ve survived childbirth. Huzzah! Goodbye pain and hello Easy Street, right? So wrong. Just when it feels the battle’s been won and you’re smugly laying semi-reclined in your hospital bed, freshly de-cathed and the proud owner of a baby who has not only located but seems capable of operating a nipple, it hits you. The second that tiny vacuum cleaner of a person you made starts sucking away, new depths of hell open all around you and fiery tongues of pain flick at your abdomen: postpartum contractions. An unfortunate side effect of that deified nursing, your mind screams for relief, betrayed by this fresh pain, and the downstairs destruction wrought by your precious baby angel gift becomes secondary to the can opener that you’re quite sure is slowly eviscerating your insides with every cherubic suckle. Dead, you think. I must be dead.
The second horseman: War [with your own body]
And hark! The trumpet sounded as the plagues engulfed the bitch. Flayed, laid bare by the nine-tails of the infant’s own tongue, her nipples lay before her, bloody and ruinous, ensconced in burning pain no salve could repair. Upon hearing the faintest cry from the babe, from her own breast the torrential floods were loosed, and to her fine garments laid waste; her cloaks and robes of the finest terry and chenille, one by one, betrayed by the kiss of her firstborn son.
After the Shock + Awe of the first horsemen, this is the slow burn: the constant battle you now wage against your own body, guerilla warfare that somehow always manages to catch you off guard. Oh, you managed to snag ten minutes alone for a relaxing hot shower? Wait until that hot water hits your raw nipples. Your mom treats you to an afternoon of babysitting so you can wander the aisles of Target solo? Miraculous! Until a baby begins to cry on the other side of the store and you spring a Titanic-sized leak and have to drop those adorable Dollar Spot tumblers and sprint for the exit as your shirt slowly soaks through. These are decidedly not the wet t-shirt contests of your youth.
The third horseman: Conquest [or: how you know you’ve been beat]
For three days and three nights the cluster feeding intensified and sleep sprang, serpent-like, just out of the mother’s reach. She called out to the heavens for relief, and the heavens heard her. The skies parted, and an angel appeared to her. “Do not be afraid,” the angel said. “For tonight, the child you call son will sleep, alone, for nigh on four hours. Rest will come to you then, and you will be saved.” Just as the angel had said, the babe drifted to sleep and did not stir from his slumber. The mother was awoken, though, by a demonic pain- she found that her breasts had filled and, engorged, nearly broke open in their abundance. Her wail pierced the night in such agony that the foundations of her very house shook and [wouldn’t you know it] woke the damn baby.
Just when you think the night feeds and the cluster feeding and the near-constant need for your boobs will kill you, something amazing happens: your baby gives you the gift of a few hours of uninterrupted slumber. But beware! He is luring you into a false sense of security, just before delivering the death blow. Grateful for any reprieve, you take the bait and fool yourself into thinking you’ve turned a corner. But! [There’s always a “but”]….If your baby doesn’t wake you, be completely sure that your boobs, bewildered by a few hours of lying dormant, will rouse you from your restorative, ecstatic sleep with red-hot, aching pain and you will find yourself [and your expensive new sheets] curled up in a puddle of your own breast milk at 4am; a glaring reminder that your body is no longer your own. To the victor go the spoils [and your baby is definitely the victor]. You have officially been vanquished.
The fourth horseman: Famine [welcome to the barren wasteland of your own body]
Alleluia! Let e’ry man, woman and child exult in glorious praise! The race has been won; the prize attained, a laurel laid atop the mother’s crowning glory [read: mom bun]. It has been a year hence, and the child has grown strong and righteous at the breast, and the time has come that he should be taken from that breast and eat the crops of the field and the beasts of land and sea and sky and know that they are good. The mother, that madonna of agape love, that paragon of sacrifice, gathers her abundant bosom to reclaim it as her own. But nay! She sees bearing down upon her the fourth horseman, and he is famine and disease and want; he shrivels her breasts, wilts them like so many drought-stricken flowers, casts them to hang down to her knees like pendulous cast irons, cursing her to a lifetime of sleep interrupted not by her child imploring her for a suckle, but of her droopy boobs slipping into her armpit.
Game over. Even if you survive it, you’ll never be quite the same once the Four Horsemen of the Boobpocalypse ravage your body [and not in the sexy way]. Welcome to the end of days.
[Boob illustration via]