When I was a child, my mother warned me never to go out with pins in my underwear.
“What if you were hit by a car? You don’t want the doctor to see your panties are held up by a safety pin.“
If I was in an accident, severe enough to be hospitalized, my underwear would be the least of my concerns. But I didn’t say that. That’s why I found breast-feeding a little disconcerting. Well, not the feeding, the accoutrements.
I was a devoted nursing mother and faced all the typical challenges with determination. But, I must confess, I hated the underwear. Nursing bras, even though composed of ribbons and strategically placed flaps, are not pretty. Add to this the alternating smells of vitamin A&E ointment and damp tea bags (for soreness) not to mention swelling and shrinking breast sizes (not the same) and you understand why I felt like a frump.
I was determined to find the perfect nursing pad – material placed inside the bra to absorb embarrassing leakage. I tried cheap circular ones which didn’t absorb. The outlines of expensive circular ones showed through my clothing like headlights. Folded cotton fabric gave me a square shape. None of these stayed in place unless they were pinned and, my mother‘s voice echoing in my head, I drew the line at pinning.
Finally, I found the perfect pads. Round, soft, absorbent, slightly cone shaped to stay in place, comfortable nursing pads. The crowning glory was a subtle nipple shape in the centre to avoid that padded appearance. I never left home without them.
I gave working as a part time teacher-librarian a shot for a while. I was still nursing and thought my schedule and my trusty new nursing pads would get me through a few hours. One day, about an hour after I fed my baby her lunch, I felt a draft on my right breast. As I was engaged in conversation with three of my coworkers, I couldn’t openly check the source of this sensation. With subtlety befitting a secret agent, I located the cause. My perfect nursing pad was missing.
Trying not to panic, I quickly glanced around. Three steps behind, on the rust-coloured carpet, sat my white pad as bright as a full moon. The femininely-shaped tip left no doubt as to the purpose of this object.
Immediately, taking command, I delegated jobs to my coworkers, quickly stepped back and placed my foot over the pad. As soon as no one was looking in my direction, I scooped it up and threw it into the trash. No good. The can was completely empty. The pad shone brightly up at me. I grabbed the largest paper I could find, wrapped the pad and dropped it back into the can. I tried not to jump when a student walked up and asked me for help finding a particular book.
The next day, I used pins.
Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News
Sunday, October 21, 1990
PLEASE NOTE: Both A and D ointment and the tea bag treatment are no longer recommended for a breast-feeding mother.