Jennifer Lopez sat across from me inside the parked Rolls-Royce. The cinematographer of The Backup Plan inspected her face for shadows and told me to turn away from camera. I was her co-star Michaela Watkins's body double and only supposed to be seen from the back. Jennifer Lopez adjusted her fake belly bump in preparation for a close-up for her role as a pregnant, unwed mother. Background actors took their places, a production assistant yelled last looks, and a make-up artist reached through the car window and applied gloss to Jennifer Lopez's lips.
"When are you due?" the make-up artist asked, looking at my belly.
"In a few months," I responded.
"Good luck. It took me forever to get the weight off," she said.
"I'm going to breastfeed. It burns 500 calories a day."
Jennifer Lopez looked back at me blankly and didn't say a word. I figured she was concentrating on her lines for the next scene.
After the 12 hour filming, I called a friend and told her about my encounter.
"You told the diva that you were going to nurse?!" my friend said.
"No. The crew lady."
"But J-Lo was sitting right there. Didn't you see the picture of her in the magazines with baby formula? She bottle fed her twins!"
At the time, I thought: Doesn't Jennifer Lopez know the benefits of breastfeeding? How could she deny her babies such nutrients and bonding time?
Fast forward and a month later into feeding my newborn every two to three hours, 24 hours a day, and taking my lactation consultant's advice to increase my milk supply by using a hospital grade breast pump, I was sick of well-meaning advice and realized breastfeeding was a five letter word that began with B.
When I was pregnant no one told me about the lactation headaches, night sweats, racing hormones, and mood swings. They just said I'd experience breast soreness and to sleep when the baby sleeps. I could handle that. After all, I had been a body double, stand-in, and extra on film sets for over twenty years and knew all about working long hours, waking up at odd hours, and enduring the elements. Little did I know that motherhood would be more challenging than being an underpaid, often ignored, struggling actor.
In fact, the act of giving birth was easier than breastfeeding. That felt manageable because there was in end in sight and a reward of an adorable baby in my arms. Now I had to set the alarm at all hours to wake and feed my baby. It felt like manual labor just to get her mouth open wide enough to suckle. Then it took another five minutes before she latched on, and I cried out in pain. After ten minutes she fell asleep on my boob and I sank into the couch feeling defeated.
After weeks of this lifestyle, I couldn't help but think: am I a bad mother for wanting my breasts back? Isn't nine months of sacrificing my body for another enough?
I called long distance to my twin sister Heidi in tears and asked. On the other end of the phone, I could hear her three month-old son sucking away on her breast.
"I have so much milk it spills down my son's cheek," she said softly.
I envied her earth motherness and remembered our childhood and how generous she was with me. She often completed my home-school workbooks when I couldn't comprehend the directions. I sighed again into the phone receiver and held my baby tight in my arms. If only I could just be my child's mother, not the milking cow, then I could count her eyelashes instead of the minutes passing on the clock until the next feeding.
A moment later, Heidi offered to send her extra supply of breast milk packed in ice. Shipping was expensive so she came up with an alternative: a trucker friend from church could pick up the package from her home and transport it to me. But there was one hitch -- the trucker couldn't go out of his way while on the job, but could meet me under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
Sounds like the best breastfeeding back-up plan ever.