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"I ached to stop." Why I hated breastfeeding my twins.

I have not read much Shakespeare, although when I studied drama, I was desperate to have you believe the opposite. 

My earliest exposure was, as a teenager, lying on my sister’s bed repeatedly reading the same page of her copy of Macbeth while she sat at her desk ignoring me. 

Years before I could grasp the language, Act I Scene VII was being burnt into my memory. I assumed it was forgotten, but 20 years later, it resurfaced, just as I was giving suck.

 Watch: Explaining nipples to my baby. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

In 2017 I gave birth to twins. A girl and a boy - babies I had longed for desperately. 

Having given up performing in community theatre years earlier (and along with it, my ruse that I knew anything about Shakespeare), it came as a shock when I heard the words of Lady Macbeth ringing in my ears. 

‘I have given suck and know how tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me. I would, while it was smiling in my face have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out had I so sworn as you have sworn to this.’ 

Lady Macbeth is calling Macbeth a p***y for wanting to back out of killing Duncan after he had given his word (you’re welcome). 

But as I sat on my couch breastfeeding two babies at once, the context meant nothing. All I wanted to do was pluck my nipples from my children’s boneless gums.

Breastfeeding sucks. From the moment I got the hang of it, I began googling ‘when can I stop breastfeeding?’ As my children sucked, I imagined their faces as the suction cups from the machine in The Princess Bride.

Image: Tenor

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I closed my eyes, and saw the life being drained from my body. Silently I begged them, ‘not to fifty.’

When my twins were 12 weeks old, a close friend asked me what motherhood was really like and I wanted to cry. She wanted poetry. She wanted Shakespeare. And all I could tell her was that I had watched half an hour of French news before I realised, I couldn’t understand it. 

Coherent thoughts had been replaced with an insatiable appetite and Lady Macbeth on a loop. 

Pluck my nipple. Pluck my nipple. Pluck my nipple. 

I ached to stop. I thought my feminist values would protect me from the guilt. They didn’t. Instead I removed my clothes and strapped My Breast Friend (a giant D-shaped pillow) around me and wondered how shame could ever be attached to this act. 

It isn’t fun. It hurts. It’s exhausting. It’s restrictive. And if any woman can be bothered getting dressed, leaving the house and doing it in public, they deserve only accolades.

When Larissa Waters passed a motion in parliament while breastfeeding, I was in awe of her. Not only had she showered, dressed and left the house, she was professional, thoughtful and articulate, all while her little machine sucked the life out of her. Larissa Waters, you are my hero. 

Before they were born, I imagined myself as a mother, snacking on seeds and kale and wearing vintage night gowns (that I don’t own) while lovingly looking into the eyes of my children as I fed them. 

Instead, I drank choc ice Up & Go for months trying to satiate my hunger as quickly as possible while I applied lanolin to my cracked boobs. 

At seven months I stopped breastfeeding. I felt guilty, but that’s OK - for all her smack talk, not even Lady Macbeth was above guilt. 

My guilt, however, didn’t last. Not breastfeeding made me happy. And happiness is poetry.

Amanda Johnson is a Melbourne based social worker, cross-cultural trainer, and teacher of community services. She is currently studying Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT University and has had work published in the Overland Literary Journal and Visible Ink. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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