Intersections – Milk
By Nicki Salcedo
During my sophomore year of college, my roommates and I decided to name our breasts. I didn’t have much of a relationship with my breasts back then. They’d barely decided to show up in time for me to go to college. I wasn’t used to having them, but I knew to treat them with respect so I named them Trixie and Dancy. We’d heard rumors that boys named their body parts, and it only seemed fair that we women do the same.
I’ve spent my life viewing breasts like an uncooperative accessory. Some days I wish I had more. It’s not about being sexy. It’s about altering the ratio of hip to waist to chest so I don’t look like a capital H on special occasions.
Other days I wish I had less. I never wear button down shirts. If given the chance, I pop out my front buttons like the Hulk. If only I could do it on command. Any woman who exercises understands the value of the double bra. I know they would never do this on “Baywatch,” but sometimes you’ve got to wear two sports bras to minimize the effects of gravity and defying gravity while running in slow motion.
When I became a mother, I learned a lot more about breasts. Breasts are not private things. They are communal. They are the breakfast table of the female anatomy. They are not like water guns. At all. I thought they were. If you actually get them to work the way nature intended they are like the spray nozzle on your garden hose only pointed at a baby. But no one wants to hear about motherly breasts.
The actress Alyssa Milano supports public breastfeeding. She’s endured confiscated breastmilk. She’s posted makeup free photos while nursing her baby. Milano is the boss in my book. Then there are the military moms who posed for a photo to celebrate a new nursing room at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. Sometimes you have breasts, then have a baby, and then still have to go to work.
Recently I found a forgotten container of breastmilk in my freezer. I looked at my four year old, the last to breastfeed, and lamented the missed milk. I called my milk “liquid gold.” I never made an abundance, but I made enough. There are other uses for breastmilk, like curing certain kinds of eye infections and healing cuts. Breastmilk has powers like no other. I’m sure this is why people are fixated on and afraid of breasts.
We went apple picking this weekend and strangely enough I milked my first cow. The kids were supposed to have done the work, but when they saw the process up close, they bolted out of the pen like the dang-blasted city kids that they are. These are the same kids who proclaimed, “Mommy, a hayride is just like riding MARTA, but more awesome!”
These weren’t kids who were going to milk a cow. I was. Mother to mother. The nice twelve-year-old boy who’d wrangled the cow for us reminded me that milking is hard. Like I didn’t know this already. He didn’t know that milk and I went way back. I spent five years being heavy with milk. I know the reluctance of milk. I only milked the cow a little. It seemed strange that there was no calf around and worse that they planned to throw the milk away.
Breasts and udders have taught me a lot. I am more than the filling for a pushup bra.
Look into the eyes of the women you see, especially if they are nursing a baby at their breasts. Don’t judge the bottles or the dads or the old moms. We are all doing our best. Four babies later, my breasts have left me again. I feel like I was just getting to know them.
Back in the apple orchard, the kid with the cow said it was okay to pet the cow for a while instead of wasting her milk. She was a nice cow. I am good at shooing flies. I’m a good friend to a female who is viewed for her udders above her other body parts.
I’ve got other nice parts, too. Next time you see me take a look at my hands.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.