You don’t know how important breasts are. Or breasts that can produce milk for that matter. Forget all that you have ever imagined or convinced yourself that breasts were made for. You only know the importance of breasts when you become a lactating mother. Or when you live with a lactating mother.
Growing up on a farm, I learnt how to milk cows at the tender age of 11. It was pretty easy. Perhaps because my favorite pet was this Friesian cow we named queen. I don’t know if a cow qualifies to be a pet, but that was mine. She was a beauty to behold and we had this chemistry going on. So when I first decided to learn how to milk, Queen was my guinea pig. I got the hang of it so fast and loved it, so much so one nasty Ayrshire cow that was everybody’s nightmare when it came to milking had nothing on me. Her kicks didn’t cow me (hehe see what I did there). Because I had learnt from the best. From Queen. So when I got my first baby and was advised to start expressing and storing milk from week one, I thought it was going to be a walk in the park. But I thought wrong! For starters, never compare women to cows (ouch that sounds nasty!). But my point is, it took lots of concentration, happy thoughts, a good mood and so much more to get that milk out. How do you get to be in a good mood when the longest sleep you have had in a while lasted only 3 hours? I hated it. Needless to sadly, when it was time to go back to work I did not have enough stock. I had to substitute breast milk with formula.
Fast forward to the second baby, I have mastered the art of expressing milk and I have quite an impressive stock to my name. Perhaps because it has been an easy ride filled with lots of sleep, good thoughts, happy moods, you name it. I am going back to work in two days’ time and I am hell bent on seeing that she breastfeeds exclusively for six months. However, let me introduce you to Doctor Zip, as my elder daughter calls her. She is cold as ice, but the best pediatrician I have come across yet. When I told her about my achievement, how my stock of milk was enough to feed all the neighborhood kids, she laughed in my face. She told me that at the rate my baby was breastfeeding, my stock would only last three days maximum. I told her that I plan on continuing to express milk even when I am at work but she said that no miracle would change the situation. That the demand was way bigger than my supply. And that formula milk is there for a reason otherwise babies would die (her words). That I should embrace formula. I am determined to prove her wrong. On the positive side, I am happy to have had a chance to stay at home with my daughter for almost four months. My mom told me of a hairdresser who had to resume work when the baby was two weeks old. She was paid on commission and was the sole breadwinner. It broke my heart.
You have to admire the strength of a woman. We go through so much. Carrying a pregnancy for nine months causing massive changes to our bodies (insert enlarged nose and lips and darkening of the skin-I don’t get what these organs have got to do with the life growing inside the belly!) is really the toughest job on the planet. Not forgetting the whole laboring (cue in screams akin to Luhya women at a funeral) and giving birth! I still get traumatized every time I think about the labor and all the injuries I had to deal with after the baby came out. All the while, nothing changes for the hubs. No matter how supportive our men may be, they will never truly understand what we go through to bring forth a life. As if that’s not enough, raising kids is also a task and a half. That is why sometimes I like to throw him in the deep end just so that he can appreciate what I go through. So last night, I decided to hang out with the girls and left him in charge. Shower-check, dinner-check. Both kids were good to sleep, his job was just to watch over them. And of course feed the infant on demand with my precious stock of breast milk. With all the random escapades away from the baby, no wonder Doctor Zip says not even a miracle will help. At midnight, in the middle of juicy gossip, my phone rang. It was the hubs. There is no prize for guessing what he had to say. He wasn’t calling to check up on me, neither was he calling to brag about his parenting skills. He sounded defeated. The babies were crying. He was crying with them. I reassured him, put down the phone, sipped my hot chocolate and went back to catching up on our youth!
Cheers to all the women out there. For their stoicism and tenacity. Cheers to the strength of a woman!