After the birth of my first son, I left the hospital a strong, proud woman, emerging victorious from a natural childbirth with her head held high and a sweet little baby swaddled up tight as a burrito in her arms.
Seven days later, I emerged from the bathroom in my husband’s paper-thin, blue plaid, old man robe, heavy bags settled in for a long vacation under my eyes. A twenty-minute nap on freshly washed hair had produced a limp, air-dried nest with a flat, matted spot in the back. In my hands, all the milk I could muster from an underproductive and disappointing attempt at pumping breast milk for my now screaming little barracuda who was struggling to latch on and furious when the milk let-down wasn’t instantaneous. (I tried, little buddy, I really did.)
I shuffled towards the kitchen, mopping the dirty hardwood floors with my standard hospital-issue non-skid slipper socks. My sisters were playing with the baby in the living room, sitting pretty in their fitted hoodies and yoga pants, still springy and snug from being freshly laundered. I wore department store pajama pants, too short in length, too tight in the waist, and entirely too loose in the caboose. Beneath my homeless attire—underwear the size of Texas and a nursing bra hanging loosely over my small chest. This left ample space for my one reprieve from breastfeeding torture–frozen cabbage leaves.
I placed a large leaf on each breast and shuffled into the living room. One of my sisters looked up, pity teeming in their eyes. “You have a piece of cabbage sticking out of your bra.”
Two years later, I shudder as I pull my cardigan closed, hurrying past the dewy cabbage heads in the grocery store. My son giggles from the cart as we press on.
Jennifer Free is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh. She enjoys building “couch tents” with her 2-year-old son and going to music festivals with her husband, who has been said to resemble a hippie version of Stephen King. If you’d like to join her at a festival or just want to drop her a line, she can be reached at www.jenniferefree.com.