baby · motherhood · nursing

A Bittersweet Ode to a Nursing Bra

One week from my due date – now over a year ago – on one of my first days of my maternity leave, I slowly, slowly walked my larger self to the Danforth to go shopping. The walk should have taken me no more than 25, maybe 30 minutes, but since I was dealing with some pretty painful sciatica and sore hips, it took me at least an hour. But, this trip was important, something I needed to do before this baby came.

(Or, so I thought, anyway.)
I needed to buy some nursing bras.
I had read somewhere that it’s a good idea to go get fitted and try bras on in the last month of pregnancy. I didn’t want to leave it up to chance, so I headed to Evymama, a boutique store here on the east side of Toronto, assuming they would accurately fit me and give me a myriad of high quality options to choose from. But affordable, too, of course. The best of both worlds. I walked in, sweaty, gross, allowed the salesperson to take her measurements and slipped inside the change room with six bras, each one carrying a price tag that was heftier than I wanted to pay. I tried them all on, each one more disappointing than the last. 
But, I needed a nursing bra, right? How would I feed my daughter in the coming months if I walked out of that store empty handed? I picked two, doing my best to balance price with quality and comfort.

I lived in those nursing bras for months. They aren’t supportive. They aren’t pretty. One of them is the most uncomfortable thing I have ever worn. Now, over a year later, they’re misshapen, faded and floppy. They don’t fit anymore, despite the reassurances from the sales people that they would be able to handle the overflowing fistfuls of flesh and mammory glands that I was to expect right after birth as well as what came after, once milk production had settled down a little bit. They forgot to tell me that my breasts would become shapeless with the months of nursing, but these nursing bras wouldn’t help with the problem at all. I hate my nursing bras; I hate them so much. 
In fact, they no longer fit the breasts I have now at all. The bands don’t feel secure enough and the cups are saggy; I have not enough flesh to fill them. Isabel has sucked me dry. Maybe the ‘last month of pregnancy’ recommendation works for those first few weeks, maybe a couple months after she was born, but since they started to disappear already at 4 months, I wonder if someone is feeding us a line. Half the time, I reach for a sports bra these days instead, if my outfit choice allows for it. I’ve sacrificed a couple of my old bras to the cause, a touch to small, especially if Isabel has gone a few extra hours without nursing, stretching them slightly, but enjoying the comfort of them. I sometimes wonder if I should go buy new ones. I sometimes wonder if I should tell all my pregnant friends to forget about getting fitted until four months in, to make cheap box-store nursing bras and sports bras work until then. I sometimes wonder if no one really knows anything about how boobs change through pregnancy and breastfeeding or maybe I’m the only one with nursing bras that don’t fit anymore.

I have been lucky to breastfeed, and to breastfeed for as long as I have. As imperfect that they may be, those bras represent more than support and easy access. They represent quiet moments between Isabel and I, tucked in her nursery during the wee small hours, or taking a breather during a busy day of play. They represent some of my favourite moments of motherhood. It’s a beautiful thing watching her nurse. Despite longing for the comfort of a brand new bra, a bra that doesn’t unclasp just below my shoulders, I am in no hurry to pack my nursing bras away. They will become uglier. They will become more misshapen. I will continue to hate them. But I will continue to put them on most mornings until the day Isabel decides she doesn’t need me for nourishment anymore. 
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