Thanks for the Mammaries

By Liz Pardue-Schultz

Thanks for the Mammories

I’ve always had amazing boobs. One weekend in the 5th grade, I sprouted these C-cup masterpieces, much to the chagrin of my female classmates and the befuddled amusement of the boys. Years later, a childhood friend told me I’d been known as “the second girl in our town to need a bra,” which I wasn’t aware of at the time but found to be a remarkable accomplishment on my part. (Unfortunately, this information doesn’t seem as impressive on a résumé as I originally assumed.)

My breasts were the only part of myself that remained stagnant during my adolescence and early adulthood, always holding their perfect proportions despite my ever-straying eating habits, and never giving in to gravity. Even on my worst days, looking more haggard and derelict than I could ever have imagined, I could count on my immaculate chest to reassure that I was still somewhat attractive. And I loved to flaunt those things. I was quick to sacrifice my shame for nights out on the town with flagrantly inappropriate belly button-grazing necklines and, much to the horror of my parents, I thrived on the attention my natural décolleté drew in its subtle grandeur.

This open pride in my body was often met by envy and cattiness from girls who felt…um…less endowed, but I was quick to publicly encourage the flaunting of other women’s physical attributes in response. I realize now that I might’ve been a bit of an enabler, but I thoroughly enjoyed the notion of liberating both friends and strangers from their fears of public scrutiny and other blows to their body image. While I don’t necessarily believe in showing all the goods, all the time, I did enjoy watching my conservative friends dare to leave the house in something slightly more revealing than a stifling turtleneck or baggy trousers. To me, tastefully exposing one’s physical strengths is refusing to punish ourselves for not looking the way we’re told we should, and finding comfort in our own bodies is a means of actively redefining those impossible standards of beauty.

When I learned I was pregnant, I realized the risks having a baby posed to my perfect curves, but I embraced these new changes, intrigued with such an unbelievable undertaking. My breasts swelled to overwhelming E-cups in the first trimester, and I was shocked. I didn’t realize such a cup size existed on this planet without medical aid, but still, I remained confident as they gracefully held their shape and perfect contours. Gradually, stretch marks slinked around every curve of my body while the weight and heat of carrying a tiny person wreaked havoc on my back and overall demeanor. Yet, I maintained excitement with the changes of my body and the anticipation of the joy that was to come. Puffy, achy and out of breath, I redirected my thoughts by busying myself with nursery preparations and journaling all my humorous new experiences and intense emotions.

There was never any doubt that I’d attempt to breastfeed and, despite the initial setback of my new baby girl struggling to cooperate, I was eager to share with her the natural sustenance my body could provide. I loved holding her little body close to me and feeling the connection between us as we enjoyed the intimate routine of feeding. Breastfeeding gave us both the chance to slow down and communicate in the midst of all the hectic change around us, and I found refuge in these quiet, beautiful moments.

I was ecstatic when, at four weeks old, she started sleeping twelve hours each night, but this phenomenal blessing thwarted any hope of creating a natural nursing rhythm. Without hesitation, I flung dignity by the wayside and strapped myself in to a pump, determined to feed her by my own resources as long as I could. At this point, my breasts were aching and swelling at random intervals throughout day. With the ebb and flow of supply, I was feverish and hormonal, often prone to bouts of the chills that had me shivering under mounds of blankets for hours. Still, I pressed on in my determination and only when six hours of pumping was yielding barely enough for a single feeding did I make the call to surrender the cause for the sake of sanity. Besides, a woman can only be milked for so long before the bovine jokes become mandatory, and I wasn’t about to cross that threshold in my early twenties.

Seven months later, Chloe is an excitable ball of glee, eagerly reaching out to explore the world around her and infusing joy in everyone she encounters. These days, I find myself rushing to get basic responsibilities (like hygiene) out of the way so I can spend all my time playing and cuddling, giving her my rapt attention. Between sending piles of photos or videos of her to relatives or babbling about her to total strangers, I’ve become one of those parents who has nothing to talk about but her baby. Still, I’m completely unable to stop gushing over her every new development, cooing over her achievements and publicly bragging about milestones like she’s taken part in the first lunar landing. Recently, she’s begun feeding herself Cheerios by the fistful, and the two sharp buds on her lower gum indicate she’ll be moving away from pureed veggies in the near future.

Spent and abandoned, my breasts are hardly reminiscent of the perfect half-spheres that once perched on my chest. Deflated, they dangle loosely, resembling two fried eggs that have been haphazardly nailed to a wall. The veins and stretch marks have dissipated, but my boobs are far from the exuberant beacons of feminine idealism they once were. Like pudding hanging in a sack of chicken skin, they slide lazily down my chest and reassure me that my days as a single, childless woman are far behind me. I’ll never again get away with forgoing a brassiere or expecting a “YOWZA!” when wearing something shamelessly low-cut. Even though my husband’s attraction to me has never budged throughout my body’s staggering changes, I will still worry every time my once-flawless breasts loll out of my top to meet his eye. Despite his ubiquitous claims that I am truly beautiful, I’m sure yesterday will not be the last time I consider breast augmentation in the aftermath of my first pregnancy.

Sometimes I feel bogged down with the tremendous realization that I have to start over with accepting and loving my new droopier body. I wince at the body-image activist inside me that still encourages me to show a little leg or maybe stop with the maternity garb already. I’m a few pounds lighter than I was when I became pregnant, but I still stand at the mirror wondering, “What happened?!” on a daily basis. Everything that used to fit together so nicely seems to have become disoriented on its way back to its original location.

My breasts are ruined. My body image is shattered into itty-bitty pieces. And yet, when I hold my soft, giggling baby girl close to my sagging chest, kissing her cheeks and inhaling her sweet natural aroma, there is no question it was all absolutely worth it.

About this writer

  • Liz Pardue-Schultz Liz Pardue-Schultz is a writer, model, custom framer and oddity curator in beautiful Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina.

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3 Responses to “Thanks for the Mammaries”

  1. Mr. Nova says:

    I heard one time that love is caring someone more than you care yourself. You have given up your breasts of confidence for the love of a baby girl. While your breasts were your proud point before just imagine how proud you will be of that little girl.

    Mr. Nova

  2. MomOf3 says:

    That was really funny! I am in the same boat as you. Mine were never that great (being so big and all) and I never breastfed my three, but pregnancy and milk engorgement made them 100 times worse. I dream about a reduction or a “lift” all the time. I will probably never be able to afford it, and soon it won’t matter, because everything else on my body will be sagging to match. I’m glad someone else knows my pain!

  3. Liz, that was an awesome essay! “perched on my chest. Deflated, they dangle loosely, resembling two fried eggs that have been haphazardly nailed to a wall.” Simply beautiful. I love your writing, girl!!! xx

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