Before you get married, you imagine all sorts of bizarre scenarios with in-laws. What if you discover that they’re indoctrinating your children into a cult? What if you get stuck together on vacation in Mexico with a a mad case of Montezuma’s Revenge? What if, heaven forbid, they happen to walk in on you and their prodigal son procreating on the kitchen counter?
My story tops that.
It was the day after giving birth to my first son, and I was feeling confident. I’d read all the books and I thought I had this thing in the bag. I had some difficulty breastfeeding, but the nurses assured me that was normal. A lactation consultant was brought in, and she arrived just as my mother-in-law got settled with the baby. “She can stay in the room,” I said, not wanting to disturb the proud new grandma.
The stout lady gave me a “suit yourself” look and peered intently in the direction of my boobs over tiny spectacles. I started gently undoing my hospital sheet-blouse and found her rapidly by my side, fumbling with buttons and yanking the excess fabric away to provide a good, clear view to the entire room.
“Hmmm…” she contemplated, reaching out to cup my tender skin. “I see what the problem is.”
Confidence, at this point, was beginning to wear off and I saw my mother-in-law struggling to look elsewhere as the lactation consultant took the squirmy baby and attempted to fasten him onto my chest at various angles. He mucked around my milk-makers like a confused vacuum.
“Your nipples are too short!” she declared loudly, off-loading the infant to an assistant who had emerged out of thin air. Suddenly, both were prodding and pulling and squeezing, the one pointing out mammary inconsistencies to the other like a professor-pupil team mulling over a Venn diagram. I’d certainly never thought of my nipples as short, but then I’d never tried to provide sustenance with them either.
“See, the ligament here doesn’t extend far enough. We can try a breast pump but she’s going to have to suction the heck out of these and maybe use a breast shield…”
The assistant nodded and added a few more insights of her own about my apparently insufficient nipples before the two agreed to powow about it in the pump rental station. My mother-in-law and I were left alone with WAY more knowledge about my upper anatomy than we ever intended to have. I felt like I should say something, make some sort of commentary about the spectacle that had been inconveniently aimed right at her chair. Perhaps I should apologize that her son had to shack up with someone with stunted breasts. What DOES one say in these situations? Sorry I suck at boob-feeding your grandbaby, I’m sure he’ll still have a perfectly acceptable IQ…
Of all times, the baby decided this was an opportune moment to shut up and leave us adults to our awkward devices. For once, I longed for the infant screaming as I resisted the urge to yank back the collar of my hospital gown and start reassessing my anatomy.
After a long beat she shrugged and looked up at me.
“Don’t worry, hun. My nipples never worked right either.”