A Mind of Their Own: Our Breasts from Objectivity to Functionality, Part III

Written by Natashia Fuksman, MA

Trigger Warning: Derogatory language regarding women’s breasts quoted.

Note: All names and client details have been altered to protect each woman’s confidentiality and privileged information.

Part Three of a Four Part Series

Breast Scenes: Womanhood, Continued

My very first experience of thinking about the complexity of navigating objectivity to functionality as a means of relating to one’s breasts, was when I was a 22 year old single professional in NYC. I did not have children of my own yet. My older sister had recently given birth to our family’s first grandchild. As the younger sister, I was  thoroughly versed in studying my sister’s life, as a prelude of what was ahead for me. I was now studying entrance into motherhood through her experience. What did “motherhood” mean? What did it look like? One thing was for sure–Her breasts certainly had changed. She had always had what I considered to be beautiful (larger than mine) breasts. Now, I was getting used to understanding through observing her that these breasts had a function. It was amazing to witness! For goodness sake, they produced milk! That said, I awoke to a sudden realization that navigating this spectrum of functionality and objectification was no easy feat. I remember us walking through a Park Slope, Brooklyn street fair. My four month old niece was hungry and we were not close to home. We sat on brownstone steps, where I proudly watched my sister nurse my niece. I studied my sister’s motherly moves. It was totally amazing to me that one moment her baby was crying, communicating what I surmised was her own discomfort and the next, my sister had the goods to assist in giving her child what she needed at the drop of a hat! I was experiencing my sister’s breasts (which I had previously objectified and judged) in a functional sense—one that was pretty darn remarkable. After a while, I left my sister’s side to check out a nearby vendor’s items. She continued nursing her daughter. At the vendor’s table, I overheard one man say to another, “Check her out…breast alert…feeding her baby over there…Those titties out in public. hmmm mmm.” These two men were objectifying my sister! Meanwhile she was nurturing her baby and working with the functionality of her breasts. It was paradoxical. This was the beginning of my learning the spectrum women journey as they navigate external sexual attention towards the breast area and the functionality and nurturing properties of their breasts.

As mothers, we travel back and forth on this spectrum. It takes time and effort for many of us to hold and possibly feel comfortable navigating the tension between the two. And oh, as if this wasn’t enough…how confusing it can be when we come to points where both may be true! For example, when we are nursing and suddenly feel sexually stimulated! Woe. That’s a big, seemingly contradictory duality—especially when we imagine objectivity to functionality as a spectrum. How can both ends exist at the same time? This “spectrum” is not as linear as one may think.

Breast Scenes: Womanhood, when it looks different

Lisa, a 33 year old woman came to see me when she was pregnant with her second child. She had recently been diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer. During the early postpartum time period she had a single mastectomy and was going through medical treatment, thus, unable to nurse her newborn son, Sunny. During the process of our work together she needed space to grieve, adjust and heal into her new breast shape and size. She needed to consider what coming into motherhood and womanhood meant for her at this stage, given these circumstances in her life.

What was involved with Lisa’s authentic connection with her breasts now?

Lisa strongly connected with the loss of not being able to breastfeed this time. She couldn’t call upon what she had once considered a supreme feminine power, that which calls upon the functionality of her breasts–something she had so strongly identified motherhood with. The new reality of her breast area and it’s impact on mothering and feeding Sunny was destabilizing for her as a mother and woman. Her emotions included processing anger, nostalgia, confusion, grief and loss. They also included falling in love with her newborn, loving her first born and an incredibly intrinsic, perhaps, primal need for the support of her husband and community. At certain points, the grief didn’t overshadow the love.

Lisa discovered a new place within her awareness of being and it’s relationships with her now scarred bosom. This awareness was less attached to what was or had been. She began to ground herself in the present reality of her experience. During this time of leaving the past and focusing on the present, she began to focus on her identity as a mother. During our sessions, Sunny was often present. I watched her cuddle and bottle feed him at her bosom. Her breast was gone on one side, yet the essence of her bosom entirely present. By circumstance, her experience of motherhood with this child wasn’t centered around her breastfeeding sessions. It was centered through the same route (that of her chest area and heart) but with entirely different circumstances. Mothering was about bonding with Sunny through providing him with the best care she could given their available options. This time around, her experience with motherhood wasn’t so much about being the only source of sustenance, as it was in providing sustenance through the sources she and her family felt matched their values and needs.

She was actually beginning to heal into living, as a result of her processing this traumatic disease’s implications on her body and her concepts of motherhood. 

Parallel to her shifting connection to herself as a mother, her bond with her husband also experienced a dramatic shift. Lisa and her husband were growing an awareness about their love and their abilities to love that moved far beyond the physical body. Her breasts which used to be objectified as sexy (by both of them) held a fuller meaning now. While, Kathy, during puberty, went through the developmental transition to learning to ride the tension in understanding her own and other’s sexual attachment to her breasts, Lisa, was paradoxically learning to detach from the concept of her ability to provide or share in dual breast sexual arousal. She was challenged to redefine her connection to herself, including her sexuality. Her entire awareness of her body was developing anew as was her sexual relationship with her spouse.

“The Real Body is the body of awareness. It is the deathless, the boundaries spaciousness of being. Edgeless awareness.”

Lisa now had one breast and a flat textured scar signifying the location of her former breast. Her goal in therapy was to connect and care for her changed body and mind. During our work together she sometimes shared feeling isolated, questioning her feminine appeal, now that she didn’t have two breasts, “like ‘normal’ women”. She also learned about her own awareness in truly bonding. Her sexual relationship with her husband expanded in it’s intimacy in profound ways at this time. Lisa’s vulnerability and loss became a place where she was able to form roots dealing with her being and how she shares herself with others. Her vitality and death and that of her son, felt overwhelmingly close at times. This increased her anxiety at times. It also gave her a keen sense about living in each moment. She and her partner grieved over her changed body. She detached from her previous identity that was informed by the objectification of her plump breast size and shape. The reality of death eventually led her to discover intimacy through a new lens. Intimate exploration became deeply emotional and evolved on many more levels than she and her husband had ever previously conceived of. Sexual arousal and play with one another broadened as they explored one another’s body’s in new ways. Now sex, incorporated spirit and bodily sensation almost as if they were new lovers, and perhaps even newly alive.

This is Part III of a four part series. Part IV will be posted 03/23.
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This Article was originally published in Milk Mag, 2015, Distributed by Boobie-Palooza 

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