Have you ever sprayed a man with your breast milk by accident?
I have. I was thinking about that yesterday when I saw a woman in the park. She had just finished breastfeeding her baby and was patting him on the back. I smiled at her. A brotherhood of motherhood. I loved those days, I wanted to tell her. Breastfeeding is such a loving act.
Breastfeeding is also super weird. As weird as anything in life. All of childbirth is weird. Growing a person inside of you is weird. You almost don’t believe you are carrying another person inside of you until you see the outline of a fist and teeny heel jutting out on your abdomen.
This is fun, and scary because right after the jutting is when you could turn into Sigourney Weaver and the baby is giving you an unscheduled C-section from the inside out, ripping itself out of its host (you) because it has claws and teeth and dad is a slime-dripping, people-eating alien.
So. Much. Feeling. Way, way, too much feeling.
There’s just so much feeling to a new mom’s feelings. Along with joy and fear, I also felt animal-like rage. Often. I felt like I’d kill someone if they talked about a salami sandwich one more time when I was pregnant because nothing has ever sounded so repulsive. I also felt like I wanted to kill someone if I couldn’t get a burrito at the exact moment I had a craving to have a burrito.
I felt like I’d kill my doula and husband when they wouldn’t give me one fucking ice chip after I’d been in labor for 52 hours and then had an emergency C-section and lay on the gurney while they talked about grout or something. When we got home from the hospital, I felt unbearable grief as I cried for hours because the bulky wooden furniture in my house had become unbearably oppressive.
But let’s get back to the love. Hooking yourself up to a baby and feeding them from your body is beyond exhilarating. Okay, yes, love, but did I mention the pain during those early days of breastfeeding when your nipple has to get worn in as if they are the soles of your feet on the first summer day when you take the first step onto hot asphalt? (Warning: If you don’t want to read about bleeding nipples and painful breasts that are so engorged with milk you think they might explode, then don’t read this paragraph. Oh sorry. Too late.)
One airplane + two engorged boobs. What could go wrong?
For the past few months, I’d done the equivalent of having my nipples walk on hot asphalt so I could finally breastfeed without wincing in pain. It was a win that I could breastfeed on a plane without anybody screaming, me included. There I was, on the plane. My eight-year-old son next to me and my three-month-old baby on my lap.
In case you thought otherwise, let me assure you that traveling with two restless children and two breasts filled to exploding is no joy ride. When you’re traveling, your breasts, and your baby, have to wait for the right time to breastfeed. We snaked through security and the check-in line and waited as people had to get in their seats. Why does it take so long to get in your seat!? Whew, finally! I was going to be able to nurse her! Relief. Plus, a gift for the other passengers. They wouldn’t have a screaming child on board since nursing knocked my babies out for a couple of hours.
My remarkable and horrifying right breast
So, everything was good! We were settled in our seats. Chloe began nursing. The plane began its ascent. But my breasts were under a lot of pressure. The same way a plastic bottle is under pressure at high altitudes and then explodes in your bag.
A couple near us began talking loudly. Chloe pulled away and looked up leaving me sitting there with my boob hanging out. Did I care? Not really. Happened often enough. But Houston, we still had a problem. There was an exposed, engorged breast. And all that air pressure. What happened next went beyond embarrassment and into the realm of horrifying, but gotta say, remarkable.
A stream of breastmilk was spraying out. From me. From my right breast. The milk shot out with such force it landed on the head of the man in front of me. We were in economy, so he wasn’t that far away. Meaning I probably couldn’t have pulled that off in first class. But still. Who on the planet can master such a stealth straight shot? My right breast can.
Within seconds, I reattached my daughter. But the deed was done. Was it my fault I had sprayed a man with breast milk? Was it my fault that he was bald and could feel the warm, unknown liquid running down his bare pate? Fault wasn’t the question at this point. The point was to make sure he didn’t know what had just happened to him.
I watched in suspended alarm as he patted his head. Then he looked up to locate the source. Then he turned around. At that moment, I looked up and patted the top of my head. Then I said to my son, “Strange. Did you feel something drop on your head? It must be air coolant.” As if I know anything about air coolant.
I might have said, “I’m sorry about my breastmilk hitting your head. Could I buy you a drink?” I doubt honesty would have helped in this situation.
But I did make sure that I never sat behind a bald man on a flight again.