Some time in Junior High when everyone started getting periods and breasts, I started to realize that I was one of those unfortunate girls who would never have them. I wasn’t too concerned in the beginning. Countless heroines in my teen novels had survived and thrived despite their, ehem, shortcomings… and I was a confident – bright girl. I would eat some carrots and hope for the best. The self-confidence was quickly shattered by the heinous assault of teenage girl hormones. Not just mine – but my classmates. I remember being the ridicule of my Junior High and later High School classmates. Not all, but those few gems – those “mean girls” who would make it their life goal to make you feel bad about yourself.
The locker room was a battle ground. I was constantly being forced to defend my body or hide from those onlookers bent on making me feel inadequate for being too skinny or for not having breasts. I remember refusing to “dress out” for PE for practically a whole year in Junior High. I used my timely obsession with gothic attire as an excuse. I would only be forced to wear this cursed uniform if it could be made to fit over my fishnet long sleeved shirt, flowing gauze skirt and 14 hole Doc Martens. No? Then I’m not wearing it. Imagine me, a straight A student trying to explain to my mother how I got a C in PE. What a crock. This dilemma of not having breasts was made even worse by the late 90’s versions of “teen bras”. These horrible ill-fitting white cotton atrocities with the protruding pink rose nestled in the center of them that would surely be the only thing to pop out from underneath your shirt if you were as flat chested as I was. I would just as happily have not worn them, but that would be suicide in the aforementioned locker room scenario.
College was a welcome relief. I no longer had to worry about the horrors of High School locker rooms, and I was able to embrace my lack of endowments when I embraced the feminist movement. I didn’t wear bras; because I was cool. Never mind that they didn’t make adult bras that fit me. Nobody had to know. I didn’t wear bras because I didn’t conform to society. Hell Yeah. I admittedly felt a little left out when all my roommates hung their bras in protest, framing the Ani Difranco subway poster in our apartment. “Where’s yours?” they demanded. “I burned it already!” I countered; knowing full well I couldn’t pull that soft cotton teen bra with the stupid pink rose out of the drawer and hang it next to their grown-up lingerie. I was proud of my body now, and that embarrassing reminder would be such a setback.
I got through the rest of college and most of my 20’s without ever needing to think about a bra. To top it all off, most people thought I was sexy or brave for not wearing one. Girls would tell me how “lucky” I was for not having to heft around the extra weight. I found my niche… and I was embracing it full-on. Then one day, I tried to work in an office. With all these demands about “office attire” and decency… I was forced to clean up my act for a moment. It was a short blip on my life journey… but one that nonetheless brought me back to that most painful place – the lingerie section of Target. I would spend an hour looking through the bras piece by piece for a size that might somehow resemble my own, and in the end approach the salesperson in utter defeat. “Do you have 32AA bras here?” I asked, face red as a beet. “Sure we do!” she replied helpfully. “They are over in the teen section!” she said, leading me dejectedly to the Little Girl side of the store. I kinda wanted to shoot myself in the head. I was slightly relieved to see that in the 10 years since High School, being a teenager had gotten much sexier. I saw lace and underwire and a whole medley of different patterns with matching panties that I would likely kill my teenage daughter someday for wearing. Feeling a little conflicted; I snatched up a couple sexy kids bras, and got out of there as fast as I could. I went home and put them on, and proceeded to show them to every friend who walked within ear shot of me. “Look at these crazy bras they make for teenagers now!” I would say, pulling my deep-v t-shirt down fully in the front to proudly display my underwire. This time they were laughing with me, not at me… so I didn’t mind. I really didn’t find the whole “underwire” thing very comfortable, and I had grown so used to seeing my body the way it really was… it felt weird suddenly having cleavage. I stopped wearing the bras again right after I left my office job. I clearly wasn’t cut out for corporate life.
Then one day I got pregnant. My breasts were probably one of the first indications that something strange was happening inside of me. I suddenly had some. That wasn’t usual. From that point on, they had a mind of their own. They grew and grew before my eyes until I suddenly found myself looking at sexy lace Nursing Bras in a letter of the alphabet that they actually carried in the adult section of the store. I planned to breastfeed from the very beginning… but I secretly feared that I might not be able to make enough milk to feed my baby with my tiny little breasts. In the early weeks of breastfeeding, few women can say that they had no difficulties. I was no exception to this. It was a challenge, and despite everything I had read… I couldn’t stop that nagging suspicion in the back of my head that my tiny tits might be to blame once again. Weeks turned into months, which turned into a year. Now I’m happily and successfully nursing a 19 month old toddler – and have done so this whole time without the use of supplementation. One day a friend of mine who doesn’t have children yet was sitting with me on the couch talking while I was nursing the Dragon Baby. We were talking about the lack of information available to a lot of new moms about breastfeeding, and the common struggles that cause many to stop. She was surprised by how low the rates of breastfeeding were in the U.S. and was equally surprised by my success in accomplishing it. “Honestly,” she said to me “I didn’t know your breasts could make enough milk to nurse a baby into toddlerhood. They are so tiny.” I smiled and nodded.
I didn’t want to tell her that I too had thought that very thing. That I had once been unsure of my body’s ability to do something that for most women comes naturally, and I was worried this would turn out to be one more thing that my breasts were inadequate for. I didn’t tell her that at all. I just sat for a moment and enjoyed for the first time the realization that I should have had from the very first time I noticed my breasts. They were no longer a sex symbol (as if they ever were), they were no longer there as a source of embarrassment in a clothing store or a moment of insecurity in a sexual escapade. They were finally doing what they were biologically meant to do – what they had been created for. They were nursing a baby. They turned out to be not just adequate, but astounding. I finally loved my tiny boobs.