Worse confession: I was actually in training for it, if you consider being in a few “Toddlers & Tiaras” and high school/college pageants being “in training” for Miss America.
My titles were few and far between. I believe I was officially “Little Miss Sweetheart,” which actually means little miss absolutely nothing. When I was 14, I was one of two “freshman representatives” chosen as part of the court in our high school pageant. Not much of a pageant career, sadly.
But the truth of the matter is, every time I entered a pageant, I wanted that damn crown. Yes, I wanted to be “Fairest of the Fair” (as in ferris wheel, cotton candy, carnies) and I wanted to be Queen of the Shrimp Festival too. I wanted to be “Little Miss Heart of Dixie” just as I wanted to be the Kielbasa Queen of some podunk suburban town with one red light.
I just wanted to spend one year reigning over the sausages, the watermelons, the cotton, the peanuts…SOMETHING.
I wanted to rock that damn tiara. I really did.
But the years went by and I finally gave up, accepting instead the eternal title of “mommy.” And it was a fine trade.
Then, just when I thought I was far too old to be eligible for any title, I found one bestowed upon me in the most unlikely of places — the NICU of the wonderful Children’s Hospital of Atlanta.
My loyal subjects: bow before the Milk Goddess.
When my second child was born extremely prematurely, the hospital became my second home. Everyday after getting my older kid off to preschool, I’d show up in the NICU with my mountainous 32Js crammed into a weeping nursing bra and carrying several bottles of freshly pumped breast milk to put in storage for the baby. Who, by the way, was unable to take liquids by mouth until he was about a year old.
But we were all hopeful, so they asked me to bring it and I brought it. I mean, girlfriend BROUGHT it.
For the first couple of weeks, the nurses would gently tell me that one of their lactation consultants would be dropping by during my visit to support me and give me pointers on pumping and breast feeding. One of them would pop their sweet faces and calm natures into my room and sort of nervously ask me how it was going. I’d tell her about the 12 ounces I brought in from my morning pump and you’d see a look of incredulity cross her face. She’d disappear and come back later, (I assume having confirmed that my section of the freezer was indeed stocked), and then tell me how very lucky my baby (and me) were.
It didn’t take me long to earn a reputation. They began to call me the Milk Goddess.
Because the baby wasn’t taking the milk, however, it really started to accumulate, overflowing my section of the freezer at the hospital and both of our freezers at home. I was incredibly close to starting to ask neighbors for some space in their freezers, and I even inquired at the hospital about donating milk. One of the doctors filled me in on the process and how very needed donated breast milk is all over the world. In the end, I was advised to keep mine because my baby would eventually need it, and after he came home from the hospital, he did (even though via feeding tube instead of by mouth).
In my case, they were right. We began to go through our vast quantity of breast milk pretty fast. But had our situation been different, I would’ve loved the opportunity to help someone else whose dreams of being a Milk Goddess had not come true.
I was a Milk Goddess for about 9 months, wearing a crown with a rhinestone-encrusted cow on it and carrying a septor in the shape of one of those suction tubes that makes your nipples look like tiny penises as they milk you. And then my reign was over.
I was concerned that I’d cling to my crown as they tried to take it away from me. That I’d throw a box of breast pads at the new title-winner and run. But the truth was, it was time to move on. I pageant-waved to my adoring milk-addled fans, handed over my breast pump and walked away to find a smaller-sized bra.
This post made possible by The International Breast Milk Project.