I was 17 when I discovered I had ‘abnormal’ nipples. That’s a daunting age to be told that a part of your body, a rather significant part, is less than optimal.
On the verge of adulthood I had decided that I needed to start doing some responsible adult things, such as getting my moles checked. I have a mole just next to my areola so I asked the doctor to check that while she was at it. In the most off-hand, matter-of-fact tone she said to me, “I’m sure you know you have inverted nipples, you won’t be able to breastfeed.” I nodded, smiled and said something really constructive like, “ Oh yeah, no worries,” put my clothes back on and left the room.
As I returned home, walked in and saw my mum, I burst into tears.
I wasn’t really sure why I was crying. Was it because I had weird nipples? Was it because I was told I wouldn’t be able to do something that I had never actually thought about doing? Was it because it just made me feel like a bit of a shit woman? I blubbered to my mum, “I can’t breastfeed.” She was suitably confused by my state as well as my statement. As far as she knew, I wasn’t yet sexually active which meant I couldn’t be pregnant which therefore led to the conclusion that I didn’t need to be concerned about breastfeeding, yet.
The woman behind the new LGBTIQ antenatal classes explains co-breastfeeding to the hosts of This Glorious Mess. Post continues.
It’s surprising how often the opportunity for people to see your nips arises in your early 20s. I dodged O-Week nudie runs, always left my bra on during romantic encounters and avoided ever getting changed with my girlfriends. It seemed society was doing little to dispel any theories I had about my malformed nipples as everywhere I looked I was confronted with perfectly shaped, erect, protruding nipples that looked nothing like my own. As far as I was concerned, I was a freak of nature.
When my husband and I fell pregnant, my mind flashed back to that doctor. I was suddenly confronted with a whole new world of problems. If I wasn’t going to be breastfeeding my baby, I knew I would constantly need to explain or justify to people why that was the case.
As my beautiful little boy tried helplessly to latch on for his first feed it became glaringly obvious that it wasn’t going to work. I had four midwives gathered about me, assessing and discussing the apparent lack of nipple. I felt a stab to the heart as one midwife declared, “It’s no good, her nipples are sub-optimal.” SUB-OPTIMAL? I had already dealt with an ‘unfavourable cervix’ during labour. Hey health professionals, here’s an idea, let’s try for some positive language to help a lady out when she’s trying to vacate a human from her vajayjay.