I am heading to a conference across the country in about 10 days. I am looking forward to it – I’m not extroverted, but I enjoy the chance to pretend I am sometimes, to talk up my workplace, to learn from others’ ideas and passion and persistence. I get to see some of my best friends from college and hang out and sip grown-up drinks. I am doing committee work I really like, and will be able to meet other librarians I know and smile, and tell them that I’m tenured as of July 1. Which is so much better than having to hustle for job opportunities!
I have new clothes. I will be getting my hair cut and possibly colored, and I’m hoping to sneak in a pedicure (I always say I’ll do this and I never do). I am putting together my conference schedule and my folder of receipts and documents to take with me.
And I am weaning Dot.
It occurs to me that my conference prep is not like other people’s conference prep.
She is three years old now, my Dot, and I know that one of the reasons I’ve nursed her so long is that I never got to nurse her brother at all. When she was tiny, I needed her with me, all the time, especially when she was sleeping. I was terrified that she’d die in her sleep, and I would wake up in the night, put my hand on her belly and send thank yous out into the darkness, over and over. She breathed.
I’ve calmed down a bit – I let her run across the grass at the parks, let her climb the highest and scariest slides and zip down like the daredevil she is. I take a certain pride in the fact that my efforts to keep my fear from making her afraid seem to have been effective. My girl runs and climbs and plays in the mud, and has a fine collection of three-year-old’s scrapes and bruises (mostly on her shins). We don’t care about getting her clothes dirty, or her hair messed up. She plays with a whole heart and I watch her with my own heart throbbing in my mouth, trying to make peace with letting her run free.
But, at night and in the early mornings, for the past three years, she has been all mine to snuggle and guard and hold and keep. At night, her tired, warm little body nestles, her mouth seeks, and after some restless wiggling she relaxes. In the morning, nursing is what eases the way between sleep and waking, the way we welcome each other into the day.
That’s the poetic aspect, anyway, the part I love. There’s a lot of twiddling and pulling and shuffling, sometimes some teeth and some grabbing. I have to wear padded bras or I will embarrass everyone in my workplace with not just headlights, but high beams. And I inevitably fall asleep just minutes after Dot does, meaning that I’m stumbling to the bathroom to remove contact lenses and wash my face at 2:30. I’ve been ready to stop nursing for a while now.
This week, we stopped nursing in the morning. She knows that her milky is going away, that for right now it’s going away in the mornings but that soon it will be going away all together. So far, it has gone something like this:
- The first day she woke up very early, cried and cried, went back to sleep, slept in late (and we let her), cried a little more. Then we indulged in breakfast sandwiches at Starbucks before school. Her teachers, who know what’s going on, reported that she had a really good day at school.
- The second day, she woke up at the usual time, cried and cried and cried, got up for a while and snuggled with my on the futon. Then she told me she was sleepy and wanted to go back to bed. I completely fell for this, and took her back to bed, where she tried very hard to convince me it was nighttime instead of morning. And then she cried and cried. Apparently she had kind of a rough day at school.
- Yesterday, She woke up at the usual time, cried and cried, and then reluctantly got ready for school, but we did head (again) to Starbucks for breakfast at her request. I hope she hasn’t figured out that there’s not much she can’t ask for just now. She had another rough day at school.
- And then, this morning – she woke up, asked for milky, and then when I told her we weren’t having milky in the mornings, she got very quiet. She asked me some questions about growing up and we talked about some of the things she can do when she is older and bigger. I told her a story. I sang her a song. I said, “You are my darling baby.””Well,” she said, “sort of.”
I hope the trajectory holds true, that it really is getting easier for her, that when I scoop her up this afternoon, I’ll hear that she had a great day. I hope that when I leave for this work trip, it will put N in a better, easier place. I think it’s very likely that these things will happen, thank goodness. But it’s harder for me than I thought it would be, to let go of this part of her babyhood and this part of my mothering. Maybe in a month or so it will start to feel like the relief I was expecting it would be, but for now I have to resist the urge to hug her tight and damn the sore nipples and slow the growing up as long as I can.