Nipples: Let’s discuss.

I was taking a bath when I was like 8 and my dear sweet mother came in to check on me and saw me squeezing my poor little nipple buds so hard they were purpling. She said such a confusing thing, “Oh honey, milk won’t come from those until you have a baby.”

My girl brain answered in my head, “Um, I wasn’t trying to extract milk, I was doing a commercial in the tub (like everyone does for the bubble bath) and making my nipples really dark by squeezing them super hard and then submerging under the water, letting go of my death nipple grip to show home viewers how this particular bubble bath actually reduces nipple stress and helps your nipples return to their natural non-purpled state.”

Aloud I said, “Moooom!”

The next time I paid real close attention to my nipples (much like you are now) was during that strange winter of preteening when I seemed to only have exceptionally pointy nipples and extremely tardy breasts.

The breasts were very late.

Those truant breasts had me asking this daily question as a mortified teenager: “How can I wear a shirt in such a way that will not bring attention to what appear to be Mike’n Ike candies taped horizontally to my chest?” If you, too, have wondered the same thing the answer is: bandaids and big sweaters. That tip is for winter in Minnesota. There’s enough winter here to give you ample time to pray to the Gods of Bigger Breasts before summer arrives and completely demoralizes your nip tips.

I bloomed, late though it was. And then I did that terrible thing—I basically paid zero attention to my nipples for a decade until there was one person who showed up in my life with a completely deranged kind of fixation on this very part of me that I had completely forgotten about.

So anyways: I’m 23, I just birthed my daughter and she is like very very in to nursing (obv, because: food source). But you don’t understand…nipple fixation lasted FOR YEARS with this kid.

Here’s how it played out: I used to dream of six inch nipples that would allow me to sleep with my back away from my child so she could like nurse on her own back there on the other side of the bed. Like if my nipples were silly straws that would have been so totally awesome—for me and her, I imagine. You guys, I know, I know…nursing…eye contact with baby, attachment, all the good feels, look at their beautiful face, etc. There was a time, though, when my breasts and nipples were so stretched and received so very much attention from my baby that I could be standing and just like lift out my breast from my shirt and just hold it down to my baby so she could nurse while l finished writing my check at the counter of the YMCA where I needed a monthly membership to maintain sanity through The Years of The Great Nipple.

But I digress.

Ever nurse in a car where you’d just lean over your baby who is safely buckeled in their 5-point race car buckling system? Yeah, I was a singlemom when I started out but I could do just that from the front seat. From the backseat I’d hear, “Me me?” (which was my baby’s way of chatting about nursing). And I’d be all: [taking out my breast and swinging it behind me while low-ridin’ with my other arm.]

You think texting while driving is bad? Anything out there about nursing and driving? No, because if you’re nursing while driving you get all those good endorphins coursing through your body and your baby is for once in her life not gurgle screaming (which BTW is like 100 times more distracting than your phone) and your focus is like crazy precision.

Speaking of breaking the law…

…my nipples have aided and abetted in my breaking of the law. As I said, I was a singlemother with a nipple-obsessed baby so when I was in graduate school my dear sweet parents would hang with my baby while I took classes in…I don’t even know because grad school with a baby? I mean, honestly.

Anyway, I was paying someone to teach me something every week and during this weekly 3-hour class my breasts would expand with milk to porn star proportions. They were incredible. (Terrible time to be single. But moving on.) I always wore sneakers because I would sprint from that night class, holding down my breasts and like I don’t know…trying to keep my nipples from spraying down my cohorts. They were just so full. (Mom…you were totally right back in the tub 30 years ago!).

I would then buckle them in and drive as fast as possible back to my baby at the church (did I mention I lived in the basement of a church? I know, it’s so bizarre. We need to talk about it but let’s discuss another time!). So I was speeding home one day when I was pulled over by the police. I seriously could not believe it. My breast skin was splitting, my nipples were crying. I was speeding and high on lactose which was seeping out of my poor giant nipples (they had grown since their Mike’n Ike days and at that point were more like the king-sized York peppermint paddies [to stick with the candy theme]).

“Ma’am…you’ve been speeding, where’s the fire?”

I looked at that sweet boyish face of that officer, so clearly younger than me and watched his heart beat through his crisp blue shirt—perhaps a bit nervous and I looked into his eyes from my seat and said really slowly, “I breast…feed my baby and I am racing home so my baby can breast….feed because she has been screaming and won’t drink from a rubber nipple.”

He was speechless and tried to look at anything but me.

I never made it home so fast before. He quickly escorted me back to the church and I made it there in record time….and boy was Gloria ever happy to have her nipples back. And for all the jokes out there about having a third nipple…truth-be-told, I carried that fantasy with me for a decade. A third nipple would have been like a gift of manna from heaven. Except I would have wanted mine on the palm of my hand so I could just reach down and plug that in saying, “STOP! STOP! HERE! NURSE!”

But here’s the thing: After I met Gloria and watched her fixate on my/her nipples for three years, I have a new appreciation for these now Hershey Kiss-sized nipples. They fed my daughter, they were her comfort in the middle of nearly 1,000 nights of slumber in my bed. They bled. They cracked. They were scratched, squashed, elbowed, thrown up on, used as a sneeze catcher and bitten. They’ve been exposed to 20 below zero nursing sessions and been sweat on during the summer. They were talked to and loved and played with and even named by my children.

Ten years after Gloria had them, Harold hung out with them for several more years. I’m done trying to figure out why men have nipples at all—I’m seriously like why are those still even happening right now? Still with male nipples? We still doin’ this? But I totally get why I have mine and it isn’t just because they helped me get out of a speeding ticket (or two…sorry mom!). I have these nipples so I could feed my little wonders. And now when I take baths I tenderly wash them as a gesture of thanksgiving for all they’ve done and endured.

Dear Nipples, Thanks for the laughs. Thanks for getting me out of trouble. Thanks for taking the bites like a trouper. Thanks for being ready when my children were hungry or scared or lonely or hurt. Thanks for hanging in there after being ignored. Thanks for enduring the cold and the heat and the slobber. I’m sorry I didn’t pay more attention to you but I’m repairing that wrong with gestures of kindness from now on. I owe you, big time. Love, Yours Truly.


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