We’ve been trying to get you to take a bottle. Sadly, I don’t qualify for Employment Insurance and since stopping work, my income has dropped to zero, which is putting a lot of strain on our family. So I need to work (note I did not say I want to work).
You were taking a bottle before you were taking the breast, since your first week was spend in the NICU. I always assumed you would keep taking it. I assumed wrong.
Our first issue was on the night of a strata meeting. Papa tried to get you to take some pumped milk and you screamed and screamed and screamed. I was gone for 2 1/2 hours and you cried the whole time. When I got home you were beside yourself, crying and coughing and almost vomiting. You had a very hard time settling even while I was nursing and cuddling you. I began to worry.
I’m starting some merchandising work in exactly 8 days. Your grandma will be taking care of you (she is really looking forward to that) so you’ll need to take a bottle from her. So far we’ve tried 4 different nipples, fresh and frozen milk, and you reject it all. You don’t cry, you just hold the nipple in your mouth, seeming confused while gum it, push it around with your tongue, and eventually push it out of your mouth. Last week Grandma suggested something I have suspected all along – you don’t seem to be able to suck the bottle. She suggested we try a sippy cup.
(As an aside – you did have a tongue tie which the doctor fixed when you were about 4 weeks old. Your lip is also tied which I’ve read can affect your suck, but I can’t seem to convince any local doctors of this so nobody will fix it. Now I’m even more certain I was right about this, but still nobody will fix it so here we are.)
As we’ve been trying to get you to take a bottle, we’ve also been trying to get you to let Papa take more care of you. You’ve made it abundantly clear that your preference is for me. You won’t let Papa comfort you if you wake in the night (even if it’s only been 15 minutes since you nursed and there’s no way you are hungry). Last night I tried so hard to let you and Papa work it out – he cuddling you and singing gently, you screaming inconsolably. Wait, I told myself, he will settle. But you did not and I could not bear it. I went in and you would only settle with me nursing you, and then you woke often over the next hour for more nursing, seeming traumatized.
But the fact remains that I have to work. I’ve been feeling desperate and panicked about the situation, especially when all 4 car tires needed to be replaced on the same day that the dryer broke.
So today we determined to try something new. I moved the rocking chair into your room, made it cozy with a throw pillow and blankets. We had a bath together, and Papa wrapped you in towels and carried you to the bedroom. We warmed some milk and put it in the new sippy cup, and I tucked you up in my arms while I rocked on the chair and sang to you. You were happy and calm and so tired (the bath does that) and I popped the sippy cup into your mouth.
I had the lights low so at first I wasn’t sure what was happening. But then I heard you swallowing, and I knew. We had figured it out! I sat there rocking you and singing and you drank your milk down, sip by sip. I was flooded with relief and gratitude. With happy tears I told myself, ‘this is it, we’ve done it, in a week I’ll be working and all will be well.‘
You finished your milk and you still wanted to suck. You usually nurse to sleep but since this whole experiment has been to help you sleep without me, I tucked your soother into your mouth, and I rocked you and sang. You’ve never accepted the soother before, so I was quite surprised when you took it and sucking happily, fell asleep in my arms.
I wanted to be sure you were in a deep sleep so I rocked you quietly some more before moving you. I sat there staring at your small face, and the tears fell again. This time, they were tears of goodbye. Because I know that this night, when you went to sleep without my breast, is the beginning of a new path and we’ll never go back to nursing to sleep. We’ll repeat this tomorrow and in a few days we’ll have Papa in the room and soon he will be putting you to sleep, and soon after that, I’ll be out working in the evenings.
And I know this healthy for you, and for me, and that it’s what our family needs. Yet I can’t deny there’s part of me that isn’t ready for this change. You’re so small yet, and your need for me, though sometimes intense, is also something I needed from you. I needed you, your small arms twirled in my hair, your smile special just for me, and now that I have you, I’m not ready to say goodbye to that now.
Years ago I read that from the moment we give birth we are letting our children go, small bit by small bit. Tonight, I am feeling the gravity of that truth.