he exited my body and immediately knew
what he wanted to do. one nipple cracked and bled.
the other became tender as sunburn.
he took hour-long breaks,
but it felt constant to me. in the hospital,
lactation specialists hovered, offered nipple protectors,
hydrogel pads, recommended formula supplements, rest
for my damaged breast. i slathered on wool wax,
ruined shirts with nipple-range
months later, when skin began to heal, his mouth
became a strange tickle.
once in those early months, i took a plane cross country
and stowed my pump in checked baggage. before the flight was done,
my breasts had become baseballs,
ached like they might explode. i remember pained small talk
with the taxi driver en route to the hotel, squelching tears
during check in.
somewhere around six months, he started to toy with me,
pulling and turning one nipple while he sucked the other.
at eight months, he screamed at the ensconcing
of the nursing cover. i became a reluctant
exhibitionist. men in restaurants stared. a woman
glared unabashedly. now he’s almost three.
i unsnap my bra, push him on, and try not to see myself
from others’ eyes. to some, i’m all body,
exactly what i never wanted to be.
he strokes my unused breast like a lover,
kneads my belly contemplatively.
his fingers search out the left side’s mole,
which he rubs like a rabbit’s foot.
sometimes i try to stop him. others, i wonder
if i’ll ever be loved this much again.
“Beholden” was first published in Bared: An Anthology on Bras and Breasts (Les Femmes Folles Books 2017).