For a total of eight. To avoid awkwardness, stares, and uselessness, they are quick to round up some babies. The babies know how to get a good latch, but the girls who are new at this have trouble getting their elbows out of the way. They worry about explaining their bruised faces at work the next day—group breastfeeding accident? Truth is in a stranger. Girl D’s mother comes along and drapes a soft gauzy blanket over the whole pile of girls and babies, but the motive is not modesty—the heads of the babies cover up enough of the breasts for enough of the time. Rather, the intention of the mother is to shield them all from the impending storm, while still allowing for air circulation. That kind of mother-gauze.
The breastfeeding babies, while nursing, breathe through their nostrils. Without this ability, said baby would be forced to choose—breathe or nurse—the two cannot be done concurrently. Over the decades, the collective, heavy, and steady nose-breathing of the babies slowly wears down the gauzy blanket.
One baby mindlessly fingers a hole in the gauze while continuing to suckle milk from Girl I.
One baby is face-fucking the breast of a highly influential art curator, but has neither the language nor the awareness so as to make it count.
One baby is distracted by the sound of another baby fondling the gauze, and breaks away from the spell of the breast, catches a glimpse of the moon shimmering through a hole in the gauze.
One baby is crushed by the weight of another baby. This in itself is not really the problem, it is just that under the pressure of the weight of the other baby, she can feel her own center of gravity sliding away, threatening to elongate or separate her body away from her head, her mouth, her lips clamped around the tired breast of Girl H. Her body stretches out. The nipple of Girl H stretches out. Something has to give, and it will, but sometimes this takes years, maybe nine or ten or more.