"Cold blue steel and sweet fire, shadow of lady release" - Joni Mitchell
Chasps and chaspettes, as our friend Gareth taught us to say, I never expected to be breastfeeding an almost-two-and-a-half-year-old.
Many things about parenting have been surprises. I never wanted to sleep train a child, we did it anyway. We never thought our sleeping arrangements would involve splitting into two parent-child couples when we go to sleep, each of us co-sleeping with a kid, but we do, and it works for us. And I promise you I never thought I’d be breastfeeding a great big strapping boy – not a baby – but here I am.
But my genetically furrowed brow is craving the cold blue steel and sweet fire of a vial of Botox. The muscles between my eyebrows are begging for the lady release of paralysis. And my dealer won’t hit me up while I’m breastfeeding.
Why haven’t I been able to stop yet?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about trying to be a parent, it’s how futile it is to try to follow the "you should"s and julle-moet’s and "why-haven’t-you"s of others. Unless your heart is in whatever parenting method or strategy you attempt, you’ll fail. It’s become easier over the years to listen to my persistent inner voice and to follow its advice even if I don’t quite understand it.
It hasn’t been right to wean Richie yet. I’ve felt ready often, but he was so darn insistent, and the time wasn’t right. For a while now though, I’ve been refusing him any boob during the day, and after the usual three to four days of protest, he accepted the new regime. But he still wakes at night regularly and erratically between 2 and 4 times. Obviously this is making me tired. His chosen way of getting back to sleep: boob. I know much, much better sleep is within four days’ reach if I can/want to break that habit. It’s tempting, now, because it suddenly seems so possible.
It came to me like an epiphany that I haven’t weaned this child yet because it’s taken me this long to process the longest and one of the worst weeks of my life. Barring the time my brother died and the day criminals tied me up and threatened to rape me, the day of Richie’s operation and the week of his hospital stay thereafter are up there in the defining kakkest moments of my life.
I’m still processing, like a very slow computer. I’m still angry at some people who I somehow, probably not entirely rationally, feel let me down at that time; I’m still weepy; I still feel sorry for myself; I still feel the need to discuss that time periodically with Sean and do a mutual shudder at how hard it was.
All this shows me is that I’m still BUSY, dammit, leave me alone and come back later. I’m not finished dealing.
I wasn’t allowed to pick my six-month-old seriously injured baby up for a week after his operation and hold him in my arms. That broke me. I spent so many hours and nights sitting against his cot, one side folded down, patting his back gently with my fingers to reassure him I was still there. Or I crawled into the cot and squeezed my mercifully floppy boob into his face as he lay on his tummy. I’m still recovering from the fact that I couldn’t be there for my baby. I’m still making it up to him. I haven’t wanted to let him go yet.
We are on day two of No Boob For Night Wakings, and sofa so good. Two nights ago I told Richie, as he went to sleep, that “boob is for sleepytime”, my refrain that worked for daytime weaning. "When you wake up in the night," I said, "you must go back to sleep by yourself." He’s terribly bright, you know. I wonder if he understands.
When Richie woke, half-remembering my resolve, I kept The (fully clothed) Area carefully away from Richie, whispered reassurances, and in a remembered, instinctive way, I tapped and patted his back the way I did day after gruelling night in hospital. Within seconds Richie calmed and was back asleep. No boob.
Same thing night two.
If I were writing fiction I’d find a device to illustrate the psychological full circle that is hopefully busy drawing its final arc here, right now. But as I’m not I’ll have to spell it out. Hopefully, both Richie and I are close to forgiving ourselves and each other, and nearer to letting go after a period of post-traumatic holding-on-tighter-than-usual.
Maybe this lady is finally being released. And releasing herself.
And I can go get my Botox fix.