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Ill-Executed Metaphors

October 13, 2010

Post averse is not what I am. Rather, after the jet lag we got sick with a very special cold.

How can I describe the cold?

The cold was like a new-fangled firework, the sort that you watch with your mouth half open in amazement, awed by the strides of modern technology, and then just when you think it is over, it starts blowing up all over again, in a different color scheme. Except instead of being beautiful lights in the sky that were new colors, it was snot. And your mouth is open because you can’t breathe through your nose.

The smarties who are working so hard to design good fireworks should all be shunted over to a new project, which is to solve colds. Solving colds would be an advance truly worthy of its own holiday. Imagine being independent from colds, in addition to the British!

Not to mix metaphors, but let me also say that the cold was not just like fireworks, it was also like Row Row Row Your Row Row Row Your Row Stream etc. because different people in the house got it at different times and so, like when one is singing in rounds, it was easy to lose your place if you stopped to think about who was supposed to be at what point, and that combined with the double whammy effect was very confusing.

I have been in no position to post.

But now we’re on to the next complaint! Which is teeth! At least, I hope it is teeth. I like to think it is lots of big teeth coming all at once because what else could cause this sleep regression, after sleep finally normalized for 2 days?

Currently I am spending much of every night sleeping — no, sorry, not sleeping — on a futon on the floor that we have in Henry’s room. I would be sleeping, oh, would I be, and I admit that I am some of the time, like whenever my husband peeks in there and sees us in a cozy embrace, like a happy pile of snuggled up puppies — of course that is the part that he sees — but I assure you that whatever deceptively peaceful tableau you might catch us in, it is only momentary. Believe me when I tell you that MOST OF THE REST OF THE TIME I am wishing for some combination of showercap and goggles and shin-guards and noise-canceling headphones, and thinking “I could sleep so well if no one were touching my hair or trying to explore my eye or kicking my leg on the forward stroke and the metal radiator cover on the backward stroke, CRASH, CRASH, CRASH.”

Or, I think about how well I could sleep if I were allowed to lie on my right side, which I will no longer try, because I have learned the consequences by my sweet yet slightly tyrannical boy who strongly prefers me to sleep on my left. I suspect that this is so he has better access to my eyes. (“ICE! ICE! ICE!”)

At this point he is a great an independent sleeper unless something notable is happening, so I think it is probably something like teeth, because I am barely allowed to leave the room for a minute, and that is often what life is like during tooth acquisition when you are me. He will go to bed at night but is inconsolable if, when he wakes up and cries midway through, I try to leave the room again before morning.

Every time we have a sleep regression and I get really tired I think, “This is it. I will never spend a normal night again. None of us will. Somehow, I have ruined everything just when I least expected to do so, and this is how things will be from now on.” But then after some coffee or some ujjayi breath I realize that circumstances — travel, illness, teeth — are disturbing dear Henry’s routine, and that due to his age, and possibly his genetics, he can’t really hang in there during a disturbed night any better than an adult can. He just needs to be able to complain to me, just as I need to be able to complain to you, apparently.

In my rational brain, I know that at some point I will be allowed to spend the night alone again, or, barring that, I will at least be allowed to spend the night in the company of my husband, who is mostly very nice to me and a great advocate of me getting sleep, probably because he has learned that what is good for me is often good for all of us. This husband, this co-parent, will sometimes try to go into Henry’s room in my place to save me from him overnight, but that really infuriates Henry, as it happens. He is happy at all other times to see his father, but not when his father is trying to protect me from him. Why? Sigh. Because I am the lactater.

I feel like there was a vague expectation by someone I can’t really name that I would breastfeed until Henry was exactly 365 days old, at which point I would nurse him once in the morning and once before bed, and that at all other meals and snacks, he would drink cow milk from a cup like a perfect little gentleman. Bib-less and in a bow tie, mayhaps. Then at 18 months, he would be simply not ask, one day: he would be done. Weaning would have been a painless process, at least for him. The only person who would shed tears at that point would be me, for the closeness I had lost.

Yes, Henry is almost 20 months old. He can drink from a cup and he loves cow milk and hates bibs, but he is not stupid, and he realizes that the experience of milk from the fridge no substitute for the real thing. “Breastfeeding is more about recharging the batteries than about filling the tank,” some lactation loony somewhere once said.

So no, he is not weaned, though he does sleep very solidly through the night when something isn’t amiss. It’s not like I always feed him during the night, it’s really not. The kitchen is closed, etc. etc., we have been through all of the torturous sleep training, and it has been very effective. It’s just that when he is awake during the night, absolutely nothing else works.

His pediatrician congratulated me on doing what she called “child-led weaning.” In truth, what the child may be leading us to is a situation like that of our former cleaning lady’s sister in law, who was still nursing her son when he was seven, back in Poland. I couldn’t communicate with the cleaning lady too well, most of our exchanges being limited to “HOT! HOT! HOT!” when it was slightly warm to very warm outside, or “COLD! COLD COLD COLD!,” when it was not.

GAS! GAS! GAS????? was another one, and we needn’t discuss that further.

So I have no idea how she communicated the fact about the seven year old to me, but somehow she effectively did. I could tell that even and / or especially in Poland, you don’t want to be nursing your son when he is seven.

Henry does it a lot less than he used to, but he’s no quitter, not my son. I’m not  upset about it, though. I’d be crazy to be upset about it. The truth is that it is a time for us to snuggle and check in, and it requires no creativity or physical activity or even negotiation on my part. And what the hell would I be doing in the middle of the night if I had to actively comfort someone, rather than passively let them nurse?

“Breast feeding is like duct tape,” is another things the lactation advocates like to say. “It fixes everything.” What my husband thinks is that it is like needing a cigarette and getting cranky and rough around the edges but then you get one and everything is great. Latch onto that one, La Leche!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. natasha shapiro permalink
    October 13, 2010 10:43 am

    wow. must be tough nights. malana actually can’t get to sleep on her own and needs one of us to lie near her before she falls asleep every night! then when she’s asleep the chosen parent sneaks out to enjoy a little time after 10 or 10:30, the time she usually picks to actually fall asleep. ugggh.

  2. Karen permalink
    October 13, 2010 11:22 am

    Ooooh, Meredith. I really feel for you. We still do a 3-4 am wakeup at least 2x/month and it sucks, boyhowdy! Many years ago I knew someone who was purportedly still co-sleeping with & nursing her teenage son. V scary. This will not happen to you. But my godsons, all 3 of them, nursed until well past 2, and they are fine young men who love their mother fiercely. My little Miss Independence, now, she grew like the Incredible Hulk between 4 and 8 months, and at 6 months, she weaned herself. Too much like work, I suppose.

    She recently acquired the last of her 20 teeth, and it was not just sleep regression- she started crawling and eating with her hands again too, when she would eat at all. But she did learn a new word: “hungry!” All the way home from the Tot Lot: hungry! hungry! Oh, the disapproving looks.

  3. October 13, 2010 12:32 pm

    I think 20 months is totally within the realm of normalcy. It may not be for previous generations, but now that it’s recommended that one nurse for about a year, it seems reasonable that this would mean that there is a certain percentage of mothers that nurse for longer and some who nurse for a shorter period of time. Right? I’unno. Seems to make sense. A friend of mine has a son a little bit older than Henry who’s named her boobs Jackie Chan.

  4. October 14, 2010 10:12 am

    The WHO (not the band, the world health org) now recommends two years. i don’t know what the actual who would recommend. i LOVE jackie chan, that made my day!

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