The Power of One: Weaned
By HF Contributing Writer, Dana Pilson
I remember it well, Daisy as a chubby pink baby. She looks up at me with a toothless grin, and then makes a fist with one hand. She opens and closes it, one, two three times.
“Hungry, again?” Okay, I pull up my shirt and let her nurse. As usual, she falls asleep in my lap, her face smushed against my body, growing damp from my own sweat.
We taught her sign language from the get-go, and by the time she was a year old, Daisy had a repertoire of over one hundred signs. But by far, her favorite was the sign for “milk.” She’d wave her little hand in front of my face, squeezing that fist, making the sign whenever she was hungry, tired, cranky, or just wanted some together time. As a Dr. Sears nurse-on-demand convert, I rarely, if ever, said “no.”
When Daisy transformed into a precocious and extremely verbal toddler, she moved on from the sign to a spoken request: “milky!” It transformed, as she got older, to “milkettes,” and later, “I want your boobies!” (where she picked that up, I don’t know), but then settled back in to the original “milky.” I continued to nurse her. She didn’t eat any substantial real food until she was almost two years old. Until then, she subsisted almost entirely on her mother’s milk. We perfected the “I’ll sit in your lap and nurse and no one will have any idea what I’m doing” hold, which as far as I know is not found in any of the breast-feeding books I read. People would walk by and say “aww, how cute, she’s sleeping on her mom,” and I would just smile, knowing that her lips were busily sucking away.
I once asked Daisy why she loved her milky so much, and she said, “because it’s fresh, sweet and delicious, and always available!” We wondered how many children breast-feed long enough to give it such a five-star rating.
Daisy eventually gave up nursing during the day, but as a pre-schooler she would have a nip at bedtime and a refresher to start her day in the morning. She would also wake up in the middle of the night and want to nurse to fall back asleep. I never figured out if she was waking up because we co-slept, or we co-slept because that made it easier to deal with her nighttime awakenings. In any case, she didn’t sleep through the night until she was four years old. And that may be one of our biggest reasons for having an only child, right there. I don’t know if I could go through that again with another. “Of course,” my mother insists, “you wouldn’t! A second child would sleep in a crib.” She’d take a bottle. She’d cry herself to sleep instead of being nursed and rocked and babied. She wouldn’t sleep nuzzled up against your arm, your face, your body all night. She’d sleep through the night at six months. Really? Would I want that? I think I’d rather mother one child, nurse her, sleep with her, ward off night terrors, give her my all, than have a whole nursery of kids crying themselves to sleep.
Eventually, however, something had to give. Daisy was entering Kindergarten. What if her friends found out she was still nursing. Would they tease her? I decided that the day would come when she lost her first baby tooth, her first “milk tooth.” I explained to her that babies and little kids have milk teeth, but when they start to fall out and the grown-up teeth come in, then it’s time to give up mommy’s milk. She went through all the stages: denial “no way! I am never giving up milky, never!” to sadness, “oh, my milky, my milky,” to disbelief, “really, I have to give up milky? I don’t believe you!” to anger “I hate you I love my milky!!” to acceptance, which didn’t actually come until the day her first tooth fell out.
In all the excitement and commotion of the afternoon, calling her daddy at work and sending emails and announcing to the world that the tooth fairy would be visiting us that night… in all that excitement, I forgot to mention that the event heralded the end of an era. As bedtime drew near, her daddy reminded me, “you did explain to Daisy that there won’t be any milky tonight, right?”
oops. i forgot.
Getting ready for bed that night, Daisy drew near me, and went to pull up my pajama top. “I’m sorry, sweetie, but you lost your tooth today. No more milky. You’re going to be getting grown-up teeth now.” Oh, the tears, the sobs, the “I want my milky” moans and groans. But it ended. And I rubbed her back and held her till she breathed those deep soft snuffles that meant she’d fallen asleep. She survived the night. Same routine the next night, but fewer tears, not as many moans and groans. And by the third night, she was fine. “Backrub please” became her new mantra.
And just like that, after five and a half years, she was weaned.
These days, if I get dressed in front of her she shouts “MILKY!” when I take off my shirt, or tries to snuffle into my chest if we’re sitting close and reading. She even likes to reach under sometimes, just to check if they still exist, now that they’re not needed any longer.
Perhaps I nursed her this long because she was an only, perhaps she’s an only because I nursed her this long. I’m not sure. I wonder if she realizes, in the scheme of all things, how lucky she was. I have friends with two, three, four kids who have nursed each child for perhaps 6 months, maybe a year. My one child breast-fed longer than all those kids put together, and then some. Got milk? Well, not anymore, but it sure was good while it lasted.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dana “Dee” Pilson
Dee lives with her professor husband and young daughter in rural Pownal, Vermont, just over the state line from Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is an art historian and has worked in museums in New York City, Boston, and Williamstown. She has been an avid writer since the tender age of eight, filling journals with personal essays and short stories, as well as mounds of poetry, both serious and whimsical. New Yorker by birth, New Hampshire-ite by schooling, and now Vermonter by choice, Dee writes about art and architecture, the environment, books, food, exercise, travel, and green living. Her new blog, “The Power of One,” focuses on issues related to parenting an only child in today’s child-centric world. firstname.lastname@example.org
Art Credit: (cc) Angelus Works/Angelus