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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Things Fall Apart

My three-year-old and I are at war. Worse: she is winning.

I used to be a normal person whom a three-year-old could not reduce to tears. I was in charge, and shit went down in my house the way I said so because I’m the Mommy gangbusters-style and I make the rules, that’s why. Now, after one week with a three-year-old who has turned to the dark side, I am a broken, broken woman.

I really wish I were kidding.

It wasn’t always like this. A mere week ago, Lila was actually lovable and charming. As fun and funny as she was adorable. She was the kind of kid that if someone else had her and told me how great she was, I would hate that parent for having such a “perfect kid” and then slowly stop being his or her friend just because it was so goddamn annoying to hear about it all the time.

And from the day Eliana was born, Lila really had been that annoyingly great child. (Please note the past tense of that statement.) After months of preparing her for the birth of her little sister, we had it boiled down to a science: Lila was prepped and ready to go—she knew the baby would cry, poop, eat, and probably need a lot of attention. We read countless irritating stories (irritating to me; enjoyable to a three-year-old) about what it was like to have a new baby in the family. And in some weird way that I’m sure any psychiatrist would have a field day with, as we prepared for Eliana’s birth, I even felt like Lila and I were team partners in this somehow. Weirdos that we are, we even had a song that we had “written” together about what to do with a crying baby to the tune of “Clementine”: “What’s the matter, what’s the matter, what’s the matter with you today? Are you poopy, are you gassy, what’s the matter with you today? Are you hungry? Are you tired? What’s the matter with you today? Tell me, baby, what’s the matter, what’s the matter with you today?”

(True, it’s not Steven Sondheim, but for the nursery school set, it is at least passable as Andrew Lloyd Weber.)

The point is, we were ready to go. In fact, during my pregnancy, it was Lila, not me, who had the stronger connection to the fetus. I was more like a surrogate mother carrying the baby for Lila…I just didn’t get paid the $20,000 (post-facto checks will still be accepted from any and all donors). Lila was all set to be a fantastic big sister, and I was all set for it all to work out.

And for most of the past month, it really has been that way. Lila has been loving, devoted, and kind. At times, I’ve been astounded by how gentle and affectionate she is with the baby lump that we call Eliana. When she gets home from camp, it’s Eliana Lila is looking for. It’s Eliana Lila wants to take care of, and with her Superman cape on—the one she’s been wearing obsessively for the past month—she cheerfully runs in as “SuperLila!” with the burp cloth I need or the onesie for Eliana to wear. Together, she and I laugh like the old muppets Statler and Waldorf about the dinosaur-like snorts and grunts that are Eliana’s soundtrack.

In fact, Eliana’s first month is so entwined with Lila’s caring for her that at times I’ve felt that while Lila is my baby with my husband, Eliana is my baby with Lila.  (Again, major fodder for psychotherapy right there.) Because it’s the looks on Lila’s face I’ll always remember as I think about Eliana’s first month alive. The look of complete delight on Lila’s face when we saw Eliana’s first (gassy) smile, the horror in Lila’s eyes at Eliana’s first vomit, our shared joy in Eliana’s first time engaged with a toy, the extra care in both our eyes as we watched Eliana’s maiden voyage on her swing. The wild thrill in Lila’s eyes as I allowed her to wash Eliana’s feet and legs in the tub at the sink as she stood on her tiptoes on her big girl stool with her name on it. The warmth that spreads across Lila’s face whenever she holds Eliana in her lap.

That was the past three weeks.

This is now.

My sweet, wonderful, amazing SuperLila has morphed into a horrid, oppressive, dictatorial Evil SuperLila. Eliana, as it turns out, is SuperLila’s kryptonite.

***

            It all began with “Mean Eyes.” That was when I knew things were taking a turn down the shitter.

Like all three-year-olds, Lila has a light in her eye that glimmers. I’d think it was Hallmark bullshit—or maybe glaucoma—if I didn’t see it on a daily basis, but it’s there, and it’s real. Underneath her phenomenal eyelashes (which are entirely wasted on a preschooler) is the glow of childhood that you can see in all children’s eyes—a little flicker of happiness that says, “No one has yet fucked me over or disappointed me in such a debilitating way so as to make me a disillusioned, bitter pessimist who sees the worst in all of mankind.”

Ah, to be a child again!

The other day, I looked at Lila, and she looked at me. For no discernible reason, her eyebrows furrowed, and she squinted angrily at me. I looked for the little glimmer, but it wasn’t there—instead, there was something that was more akin to the wild greed in the eyes of an angry rioter in London. Holding Eliana, I casually commented, “Why are you giving me mean eyes, Lila?”

“Because you are not listening to me!”

“But you didn’t say anything?”

Lila furrowed her brow further and jutted out her lower lip.

“Lila, please stop giving me Mean Eyes. It hurts my feelings.”

At which point Lila rolled her eyes and then multiplied “mean eyes” times thirty. There was something so perfect—and perfectly upsetting—about the way she rolled her eyes. It was cutting, cruel, and purposeful. Just thinking about it makes my heart hurt in a deep and visceral way. As Lila walked away from me and Eliana, I swear I heard in my mind the faint sound of Lila’s carefree childhood being destroyed. It sounded like a peach pit in a garbage disposal.

Suffice it to say, Mean Eyes have not stopped in our household.

But if it were just the Mean Eyes, I’d be fine with it. (And by “fine with it,” I mean I would only cry once or twice a week about this as opposed to daily, which has become somewhat of a norm in these parts.) But things have descended into far darker places.

There are tears. In the past couple of days, Lila has cried tears that can fill up the whole house—tears that are unprompted by anything. Then there are Lila’s random coughing fits at night that last for hours, so that my husband and I seem to ricochet like pinballs back and forth from Eliana’s room, to bed, to Lila’s room, to Eliana’s room, to bed to discuss what to do about her cough, to the nebulizer we are only supposed to use for asthmatic occasions, to the Benadryl, to Eliana’s room, to Lila’s room, to bed. In the afternoon, there are occasionally Lila’s angry shouts of “GO AWAY!” as she slams her bedroom door—sounds I thought I wouldn’t have to endure at least until Lila was thirteen-years-old. Of course, there are also the terrorist demands: “I don’t want Mommy to dress me. I want Daddy to dress me!” Or, if Daddy is doing the dressing, “I don’t want Daddy! I want Mommy! Mommy Mommy Mommy!” There are the daily tub protests: naked, she staunchly refuses to get in the tub as I wait outside her room, a wailing Eliana cradled in my arms. I stand near Lila’s door, listening; she knows I’m there. I’m the U.S., she’s Cuba, and there are thirteen days between us at every second. Using her “pretend” voice, I can hear her making one of her Calico Critter bears say to its comrade, “You’re not my friend anymore!”

I’d like to say that I am a strong enough to endure the role-playing shenanigans of a Calico Critter. Or really, that a three-year-old cannot break me. That I’m the Mommy, she’s the kid, and that I completely understand that she’s just having a hard time dealing with being the big sister. That as a person with three siblings who continue to vie for our parents’ attention even in our thirties, I know that sibling rivalry is a fact of life, and that I should be happy that the anger is geared towards me and not Eliana. On an intellectual level, I understand all of this. I took Psychology 101 in college. Hell, I even took Abnormal Psychology, in an attempt to understand myself. I get it. Really, I do.

On an emotional level, though, I understand nothing. More than once, Husband has come home to conversations with me that end with my crying on the couch, simultaneously cursing Lila for being a hateful, rude monster and cursing myself for not being able to deal with it better. More than once, I have found myself contemplating whether or not I have postpartum depression…or just a newborn and a toddler, which basically creates a maelstrom of symptoms that just-so-happen mirror those of postpartum depression. (Incidentally, I want to meet the woman who has a baby and does NOT feel “exhausted and occasionally tearful”. When I meet her, I think I will hurt her so she can feel both of those things.) More than once, I have not been able to go back to sleep at night after feeding Eliana because I feel I’ve ruined Lila forever and that our relationship will never be what it once was ever again. More than once, I have wondered: How am I ever going to give either of them the attention they need on a daily basis without shortchanging the other?

***

            For the first time all week, Lila has stopped fighting me. In no small part, this is because I have been bribing her to be a nice person with crappy stickers, and that stickers are like cocaine to my preschooler—the more she has, the more she wants, the more she wants, the more she needs.

Tonight when I put Lila to bed, there were no fights about changing (because she got a sticker). There were no fights about getting in the tub (because she got a sticker). There were no absurd requests (because she got a sticker). There were fewer terrorist demands at bedtime than usual (“Mommy? Five more songs? Please please please please please?!”). For the first time in about a week, I found myself smiling in Lila’s presence again. And for the first time in a week, she was smiling too. Because as I read the stories in bed and sang the songs, I felt incredibly cramped. Just as a fact, there wasn’t enough room on Lila’s bed really for me, Lila and Eliana. Eliana was smooshed between us, separating me from Lila, her little baby body a physical representation of the psychological space that stands between me and Lila right now.

But as I wrapped my arms around both of them, and as Lila wrapped her arms around me and Eliana, I had the relieving feeling that maybe, just maybe, this will all be okay. Because every night for the past year or so, as I’ve sung Lila her last song before I leave her room for the night, she always says she wants to be “in my circle,” held in the hug that my arms create around her. Tonight, though, she made one change.

“Mommy?”

“Yes?” I held my breath, expecting some absurd request that I’d have to deflect with another sticker.

“Eliana is in our circle.”

“Yes, she is.”

Lila is quiet for a little. I close my eyes, enjoying the short moment of peace.

“Mommy?”

“Yes?”

“I like that Eliana is in the circle with me.”

The corners of my lips curl into a smile. “Me too, Lila.”

“Can she always be in the circle?”

“She can always be in the circle.”

“More and more and more and more?”

“More and more and more and more.”

It’s not much. But it’s something, and I will cling to it like Lois Lane clung to Superman so that she wouldn’t fall to the ground while soaring through the air beyond what she thought was her ability. And maybe, just maybe, SuperLila will return to Metropolis.

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I Love You But I Hate You

“I’m DONE. You take her. I’ve been burping her forever and I can’t get anything out of her. I’ve been with her since 11 and it’s 2 in the morning. I. AM. DONE!”

And with those belligerent words, my husband shoves our mewling two-week-old into my arms. And there is no love in that shove, trust me. He storms off to our bedroom, desperate for sleep, desperate to be anywhere but the nursery. And I know I should relish this moment and appreciate in my sleepy state—in spite of Husband’s frustration—just how beautiful our daughter looks in the glow of the nightlight, how ethereal her newborn skin is, how beautiful and foreign she smells, how soft her baby-bird-hair feels against my skin, how unbelievably lucky I am to hold her, to have a child, to have two children, to be snuggling with the kind of healthy, rosy-faced newborn that so many women crave. For a second, I think about a Walt Whitman poem I remembered reading in college: “Your very flesh shall be a great poem.” Eliana’s flesh is a great poem, and our children are a triumphant symphony, and I should appreciate this moment, it’s a blessing, I should say a prayer maybe, at least be grateful, and enjoy and savor it because it will be gone before I know it, but I am much more consciously aware of and fixated on my other thought:

I want to fucking kill him.

There’s really nothing like a newborn to bring out the romance and love in a marriage.

As Eliana whines in my arms, twisting, turning, contorting left and right to get out some gas or, from the sound of it, perhaps an elephant that has shoved its way up her intestinal tract, I sit down in the crusty-old, second-newborn-in-the-family glider next to her crib and start to have an imaginary fight with my husband, which is what I like to do in the wee hours of the morning when the rest of the world sleeps, dreaming of lottery winnings, tax refunds, and college scholarships for tuba playing. I would feel guilty about our heated rhetorical wars, but I know that Husband has imaginary fights with me too, and given the expressions I see on his face as he has these one-sided debates that I am far too smart to inquire about, I feel rather fortunate that neither of us has yet taken the fancy can opener in the kitchen and jabbed it into the other’s jugular. Happy 8 year anniversary!

I prop my feet up on the ottoman and feel my face transform into a monstrous, deformed version of itself, not entirely unlike Skeletor. Venom blackens my brain as my thoughts churn out hateful, resentful things that are better left unsaid.

Oh, are you tired? Are you pumping your tits after you have someone feeding on them constantly like a parasite? Is our three-year-old shoving herself onto your lap while you try to nurse the newborn on engorged, painful, Jessica Rabbit boobs that flow like Niagara Falls? You know what? I’m tired too! I’m exhausted! JUST SUCK IT UP! I’m not a superhero—I can’t do this all by myself!

Like all of my one-sided battles, it’s the best of whines, and it’s the worst of whines. It is the best because I am right—eternally right. I am the Mommy, and that is my God-given privilege—to be right about everything for the rest of time. I am right about when to pick up the baby and when not to. I am right about when to give into big sister Lila’s three-year-old demands and when to stop babying her. I am right about when to shush the baby and when to give her attention. Right, right, right. Impossibly right about everything. Husband stands no chance in the face of my right-ness, and he knows it.

It is the worst of whines because though I do not want to admit it, I can sometimes be wrong.  In fact, there are many times when I am really horrifically wrong. And these happen to be the times when my husband astounds me with his ability to make up the difference. I’m supposed to be right, but it’s his patience not mine in the face of a tantrum that allows the storm to blow over. He’s the one who can make me smile in an hour so dark I don’t even want to face myself. His words, not mine, can bolster me like scaffolding, propping up sagging parts of my ego that are ready to collapse. It’s Daddy who is in the right often, showing love and kindness to Lila in place of my own frustration and short temper. These are the times when he is so right, and I am so wrong. Even his willingness to generally suck it up and pretend I’m right all the time—even though I know he’s pretending—is right.

It’s sickening.

But this whine—this accusatory, resentful bitch of a whine—it’s the whine I know, and it’s the one that lures me into its lair in the inky-blue pre-dawn hours like some hateful siren smacking her lips at the chance to ruin what had once been a beautiful marriage.

With little oblivious Eliana snuggling in my arms, my anger with Husband grows even more pronounced as I imagine him nestled in our bed, resting peacefully. So what if I have loved him from the moment I met him on a teen tour of Israel? So what if he’s the one person I consider my absolute best friend in the whole world? So what if my heart used to ache once upon a time at the thought of not being able to spend every second with him?

Pass me a barf bag. You know what? Make it a jumbo, Kirkland garbage bag, actually.

Because at night with a newborn around, he and I are enemies. Love, romance, shared history, and mutual respect curdle like rotten breast milk at two AM, and the stench of it ripens in the poorly-ventilated air of Eliana’s room, stifling my ability to breathe like an overstuffed Diaper Genie clogs the nostrils.

Eliana turns to look at me, her bright blue eyes—they are my husband’s eyes, damn it— suddenly wide and hopeful.  She is no longer twisting, which is a good sign. I glance at the clock: 2:18. Jesus, he couldn’t wait eighteen minutes more?! Eliana seems fine now—a turn of events I triumphantly take credit for just because I can. Eat it, Daddy! She is calm and quiet. Peaceful even. Her physical angst—an obvious manifestation of her solidarity with Mommy’s resentment of Daddy—is gone. Eliana is no longer a physical mirror of Mommy’s matrimonial agita, but a happy little baby, looking to play with someone at 2:19 in the morning.

Dear God, I do not want to be that someone. HUSBAND should be that someone, not me.

In spite of myself, I make eye contact with her, though I know that will only engage her more, prolonging our nighttime encounter. I prefer my nighttime feedings to be quick and dirty, clinical and devoid of emotion, with the hope that one day, Eliana will simply decide not to wake up to eat because Mommy is so excruciatingly boring. (Dare to dream.) Eliana’s no idiot, though, and she sees her entryway: time to turn on The Cute. She locks eyes with me and gives me a huge, toothless Muppet-y smile that makes my heart melt. And with that, I am callous soup kitchen worker no more. I smile back at her and gently brush her soft cheek with my pinky finger. How nice it must be to live in a bubble, blissfully unaware of how much Mommy wants to kill Daddy right now.

Seething that I am still awake when Husband should have just sucked it up and finished the job in here, I take Eliana to her changing table, granting myself the luxury of superiority as I think, Did Daddy even bother to change you? I glance at the near-scientific chart of Eliana’s feedings/poopings/peeing that he and I obsessively keep on the nightstand next to the glider. All it says is “Ate 2 ounces in ten minutes. Burped her for 50 minutes—NO BURP.” The capital letters and underline are accusatory, there’s no doubt about that. The subtext of the sleepy handwriting screams, “Did you eat something that made her this gassy? THIS IS YOUR FAULT.”

I un-swaddle Eliana and lift up her Victorian-looking nightgown to find her diaper. Eliana rests contentedly on the changing table, smiling up at me affably. Eliana is 100% Husband; these are his eyes, his good nature. I roll my eyes for my imaginary audience and then roll my eyes at Eliana. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

I open her diaper to an unremarkable sight. Wet. But as I slip the diaper off her pink body, I hear a horrible, terrible sound: it is the war cry sound of nursery terrorism. It goes a little something like this: SQUISH-SPLASH…SMACK!

Welcome to Shit Storm, U.S.A. Population: ME.

Psychological repression means that I’m not sure what sound it was that I made at that moment—it may have been a “There is a man with a knife in the room sawing off my leg!” scream or it may have been a high-pitched “YAAAAAA!”, like the squeal of terror that rabbits allegedly make before they die, but whatever it was, it was enough to send my husband running down the hall into the nursery.

“Oh my god, are you okay!??!”

I look up at him, and as our eyes lock, I know we’re sharing the same thought: “How did this adorable baby projectile shit all over me, the dresser, my hands, the changing table, and her nightgown so quickly?”

That kid’s flesh may be a great poem, but her shit happens to be an anthology.

But the beauty of the Shit Storm is this: with it, the Spousal Storm breaks, and the cloud clears, and for the first time all night, I’m able to see my husband, to love him again for rushing to rescue me from a sea of poo even though just twenty minutes before I wanted to see him maimed.

Suddenly, we are both laughing—God, it feels good to finally laugh and to stop seething—even if my wrists just so happen to be dripping in mustard-seed poop. Eliana lies unbothered on the changing table, her eyes—even though they’re still cross-eyed—dancing with the kind of mischievous delight I recognize as her sister’s trademark.

With shit on my hands but penitence in my heart, I look at Husband. “It’s a shit storm in here.”

He nods sympathetically and smiles. “So that’s what was bothering her!”

“Yeah.” Shit-covered, I smile too because now we are partners again, not enemies.

“Geeze. I’m sorry.”

“Me too.”

And with that, it’s nearly time to face another morning.

***

            When I wake up at 6:34, I’m shocked to find that I am waking up naturally, not to the bewildered, FEEDMENOWNOWNOW! cry of a baby or Lila yelling through the wall, “Can I come to your room to snuggle now?” I wander downstairs, expecting to see Husband quietly seething as Delinquent, Lazybones Wife sleeps in till past six.

But when I walk down the stairs, it’s enough to make Norman Rockwell himself blush. Daddy, King of the Little People, sits with a burp cloth over one shoulder and Eliana in his arms as she happily gobbles away at her bottle. Lila is already dressed and ready for camp—and she’s even wearing her bathing suit under her clothes already, as is camp mandate. Her socks are on. Her hair is in pigtails, and there is a barrette holding back the wisps of hair that always fall in her eyes. She has even eaten breakfast, and from the looks of it, she has already done several elaborate sticker projects that also involve scissors, glue, and paint pens.

My smile is so big my face hurts, and I nearly start to cry as I realize that just because I am the Mommy, I am actually not eternally right. In fact, I may be wrong…and sometimes, it’s really, really wonderful to be really, really wrong.

 

 

 

 

Breasts: A Love Story

This is a love story. And like all love stories, this one is filled with angst, heartbreak, deception, and manipulation.

Because once upon a time, I really loved my boobs.

Once upon a time, a mere three years ago, I was a first-time mother who relished all the singularly spectacular moments of pregnancy: each little kungfu kick sacred, each Braxton-Hicks contraction induced a parallel tightening of my heartstrings that reminded me that I was “making a friend” like I had never had before. Bizarrely, I wasn’t even annoyed with the every-single-hour-all-night-long pee-fests. Sure, I sometimes enviously eyed Husband sleeping soundly and wondered why his bladder was the size of a 64 oz. Super Gulp while mine was relegated to sad-shriveled-old-man-bladder status. But inside, I knew that even the peeing was special in its own messed up way—each time I rolled out of bed, a smile crawled across my face as sure as my daughter would one day crawl across our bedroom floor as I thought about how one day soon, her soft, innocent little “eh-eh-eh”ing would beckon me all night long. And yeah, that would be a big improvement over the toilet.

But by far, the most awesome part of both of my pregnancies (you know, after the whole “La-la-la, I’m creating a new life!” thing that everyone kind of raves about) was the boobs. Seriously—it was like watching a reality TV show unfold on my chest (“The Real Gazongas of Essex County”). With each month, they seemed to get bigger and bigger. The plot became more complex, and I watched it all unfold, with the same fascination and self-loathing with which one watches reality TV—like you’re wasting your life away, but you’re simultaneously astounded by the complete absurdity of what you’re seeing. By the fifth month of both of my pregnancies, I had the distinct feeling that the boobs were bigger than the belly. At one point, I considered (and Googled) if it were actually possible for them to explode. (Answer: unclear, but the search will turn up “can breasts explode in an airplane?” which is interesting, because that means a lot of people happen to be thinking about this.)

The point is, during my pregnancies, these glorious Fun Bags were practically pornographic, and I was digging it, Pamela-Anderson-style! Fair enough, the idea of my pregnant body wearing a red lifeguard bathing suit while running provocatively across a sand dune conjures up images of a beaten, bloodied whale writhing on a beachfront somewhere. But still, there was no doubt about it, bathing suit or not: my Ta-Tas had taken over the world. It was, in every sense, a truly breastacular experience.

But six months after Lila was born, I was done with nursing. Way, way done. I lost the baby weight, and I got over the preachy Upper-West-Side world where you giving your child breast milk = your child’s singular chance at happiness, fulfillment, and academic and financial success. I was sick of someone treating me like a vending machine all day, and I was ready to be liberated. So after a couple of days, free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, my boobs were free at last from six months of bondage, torture, and servitude. Tragically, though, the second those lovely coconuts lost their milk, Thelma and Louise departed as well. Like I had dreamed it all, the pixie dust evaporated into thin air, and my triumphant ya-yas shrank into sad, deflated party balloons after the party. You know, the ones that sort of hang on the floor, drifting aimlessly after a 1990s high school reunion.

With my second pregnancy, these miraculous boobakas inflated once more, shouting their spectacular Ta-Ta-ness from the mountain tops that they are themselves. At times, I admit that I myself even felt the strong desire to honk them, though I resisted simply in deference to social norms.

Oh, would that I had embraced those moments! But hindsight is 20-20.

And now, from the moment Eliana joined the world, my bozumbas have responded. It is with great shame that I tell you that I have become The Dairy Queen.

If possible, the bosombas have gotten even larger. Costco-sized.

What exactly do you mean, you ask? All you breeders out there know what I’m talking about: the baby comes, your breasts inflate with nutrient-rich superfood breastmilk, and then you have this loving, nurturing relationship with your baby as you two bond 6-8 times a day, with you providing the sumptuous feast for your little one that will make her 1) smarter than other babies 2) cure cancer 3) solve the debt crisis (all while one month old). With each meal, you feed your baby not only nourishment, but a heaving bosom of love, hope, and inspiration. All while enjoying the self-righteous superiority that comes with knowing that you are infinitely better than anyone who feeds their children (shudder) formula.

Right?

WRONG.

In all likelihood, your experience actually goes something like this:

SHIT this hurts. Is this latch supposed to hurt? Why does it feel like my kid has teeth? Wait, is that even possible that she could have teeth? Didn’t I read somewhere about this freak newborn who was born with teeth? Was that in Newsweek or on the supermarket line? Ohmygod, what if MY kid is that kid?? Maybe early teeth is a sign of giftedness. OW. (looks at watch) Okay, how long is this going to take? Is ten minutes too long? Wait, is that not enough time? Is the baby getting enough food? What if she only eats on one side and not the other? Am I going to have freak boobs—will one boob look huge and the other tiny? Will that upset my balance when I walk? I would look like an ogre if I had that. Does each breast have a different flavor? Is my left side better than the right? She seems to feels that way. Jesus, she’s totally trying to make these breasts lopsided. Why does my baby already hate me? Is she trying to spite me? Shit, my neck hurts. Fuck it—I’ll just give her the formula in the fridge when she’s done pretending ot eat. Is my neck supposed to hurt? Great, now I’m going to have lopsided breasts and look like a hunchback. Awesome. That’ll look great with my muffin-top belly. Fabulous. Okay, I think she’s getting enough. Okay, this is working. Damn it, why didn’t I bring the phone over here? I wish I had a book. (Kid pulls off nipple. Pause to burp your child. Child vomits/spits up all over you.)

There is no doubt about it: breastfeeding sucks. Yes, pun intended.

And NO ONE ever tells you how much it sucks. Labor gets the big whinefest, but really, breastfeeding is SO much worse.

Here’s the thing: breastfeeding is the snake oil of motherhood. At the hospital, they make you feel ashamed if you harbor even the fleeting thought of not wanting to breastfeed your kid, like the decision to NOT have someone feed on you like a parasite eight times a day is equal to a decision to, say, do lines of coke with your husband off your newborn’s belly button cord. Then, those nurses PRETEND that it’s okay if you want to do formula, but you know what I know: that look of condescension and disappointment in that nurse’s eye that screams, “It’s okay. Your kid will just be in the ‘brown’ reading group that meets in the basement for the rest of her life. Oh, and save up money for your child’s parole after she shoots up a special-needs old folks’ home while simultaneously spewing out racist slurs.”

Still, if you’re like me (who was formula-fed and grew up perfectly happy, normal, and healthy, by the way), you feel the social pressure to breastfeed, and you give in. But when you give in to breastfeeding, you’re not just giving in to extra snuggle time with your little child/milk-vacuum. You’re giving into a cult. Because when your baby starts drinking the milk, you start drinking the Kool-Aid.

Welcome to life as a nursing mother, where it’s not just about your glorious honkers anymore. (Remember your Pamela Anderson days? Ah, memories…) You are a machine now—you are a one woman dairy, and as such, you’ve got to get your gear. For those of you who have ever loved accessorizing, as a nursing mother, your howitzers are in for a treat! Nursing is “so natural,” so naturally, you should be spending at least $500 to outfit yourself for the occasion.

You will need the following for this “natural” experience:

1) A breast pump. I know, I know, you thought your CHILD was the pump! You silly, silly girl! Don’t you know already that your child may be a pain in the ass who doesn’t exactly feel like she’s simpatico with your boobakas when they feel like they’re ready to explode from milk engorgement? So what is the breast pump? The breast pump is a torture device invented by some perverted, misogynist bastard who wanted to see women suffer while simultaneously fucking with their emotional sense of obligation to their children. The breast pump is supposed to make your life easier by liberating you from constantly having to be with your child. With a pump, you can literally milk yourself, give your bodily fluid to someone else to feed to your child, and then go out on the town! And yes, it’s just as romantic as it sounds.

Anyone who has ever used a breast pump knows that this is a horrid, horrid device that simultaneously makes you 1) feel like a cow. Literally. 2) feel even uglier than you did during actual child labor 3) lose faith in humanity. When you hook up the funnels to the bottles, and then the funnels to the air-sucky tubes, and then the tubes to the machine, and then you turn it on, you’re not just vacuuming milk out of your boobs. Oh, you’re doing so much more than that! With each pumping experience you have, I guarantee you are sucking out part of your soul. As you grow more comfortable with the pump (because let’s face it—that’s the most action your breasts are going to see for quite some time), you lose whatever pride you once had. This is a good thing because your loss of pride will make you really excited to buy…the KKK bra.

2) Yes, you’ll need a KKK bra. Because now that you’re pumping—and storing bags of your own bodily fluid in the freezer and pretending it’s perfectly normal to shove those bags of HUMAN MILK next to the food your family once considered eating—you’re going to want to be efficient about it.

Enter the KKK bra, stage left.

What is the KKK bra, you ask? Okay, so it’s not actually called that, but trust me, your boobs will feel like klan members in this breastacular ensemble. The bra has the right idea in mind: it can make you hands-free when pumping, which is awesome, because in all likelihood, you will need your hands to write five hundred thank-you notes, which is exactly what you’ve been looking forward to doing in your free time from your newborn. Pop on the Klan bra, which is white, with two “eye holes” for your nipples to pop out of. Hook the funnels up to the eye holes of your bra, and voila! You’ve got KKK boobs! Literally, your breasts may look as frightening to you now as a Southern lawn littered with racist murderers.

3) But what about when you want to take your girls—both the ones on your chest, and the one in the stroller—out on the town? Sure, everyone in your family sees your boobs at home. Husband certainly doesn’t care anymore; my breasts are out with such frequency in our home that there may in fact be more sexual allure and intrigue to my armpits at this point. My own three-year-old is not even impressed by them anymore. (“Mommy, are you pumping again?” or “Can I hook up the tubes this time, Mommy?” are fun little refrains in our psychologically-damaging home. Insurance allegedly covers the cost of a breast pump, but I wonder if I can use that money to pay for my daughter’s psychiatric bills in ten years.)

But when you’re out on the town, you’ll need to remember that normal people do not like to see you breastfeed. Because as “natural” as it is, the fact is, it’s still a little too natural for most people, and not in a good way. (Good natural = Tahitian women sunning topless in a Gaugin painting. Bad natural = you and your vein-y boobs bare and in the air at Starbucks.) People will think you’re waving your freak-flag if you plan on popping out Mr. and Mrs. Smith at California Pizza Kitchen to feed your little one. Trust me. And don’t you dare even think about doing it at Nordstrom’s Café, you monster! Some people are trying to enjoy their salmon salades nicoises, you lactivist slut!

This means you’re going to need another accessory: a little something I call “Count Breastula.” What is it? A cape you will throw on yourself in public a la Quasimodo so that you can hide your baby under it and then force her to nurse in the dark, shameful corners of your Breast Invisibility Cloak. If your baby is actually reaping any intellectual benefit whatsoever from your breast milk, your baby may even resent the cutesy names of these Count Breastula capes and refuse to nurse under them simply as an act of protest; “Bebe Au Lait” and “Hooter Hiders” degrade your wee one, and, thanks to your hearty, nutrient-rich, genius-creating breast milk, your baby refuses to stoop so low as to use such condescendingly-named products. Next thing you know, she’ll be rejecting non-organic food and wanting you to throw out your TV. (Maybe formula wasn’t such a bad idea after all.)

With your gear ready to go, you, your baby, and your breasts are ready for a wonderful journey. Someone once told me that the decision to have a child is the decision to wear your heart outside your body. Somehow, the simultaneous decision to wear your boobs at your ankles for the rest of your life is not mentioned. In any case, get excited and enjoy the torture…because once you’re done nursing, those funbags will wilt like sad, ruined flowers scorched by the summer sun in a heat wave, and you will have no way to ever prove that your kid is smarter than she would have been without your brainiac mommy juice. As a lactation consultant that I know and love recently texted me after I asked her a question, “Your boobs will sag and be extremely awful, but equally so when this is all done. No one boob will be uglier than the other ;-).”

And when that happens, your love story will be over, and your breasts—or the memory of the women they once were—will haunt your dreams. But hey, at least you’ll always have California Pizza Kitchen.