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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Awakening from life as a human pacifier

Lately I've been feeling like Robert De Niro in that movie, Awakenings, where he plays a guy who has been catatonic from encephalitis since he was a boy. I haven't been slack-jawed and drooling for like 30 years, only for the better part of 15 months as I laid in bed with Annika for naps and bedtime -- staring at the ceiling, reading, thinking, daydreaming, planning my escape -- so she could nurse. And nurse. And nurse.

Lately, I have been able to sneak away occasionally when Annika falls asleep, which has been nearly impossible for the past eight months.

I remember the moment my career as a human pacifier began.

The moment is etched in my brain as clear as day because at that moment, I wondered if I was making a huge mistake. I still don't know for sure.

Annika was only a couple of weeks old. I was nursing her to sleep one night and as she fell to sleep, I took my finger, slid it into the side of her mouth and popped her off of my breast. She stayed asleep, but new mommy guilt set in immediately. What had I just done? I was new enough to attachment parenting that I didn't quite understand all of the semantics. I suppose I took the "attachment" part quite literally.

So anyhow, as I sat in my rocking chair, hormones flowing, considering that I had quite literally forced my newborn away from my breast, panicked thoughts raced through my brain: What if she really needs to continue suckling? What if she feels rejected? What if something innate in her HAS JUST DIED because I physically extracted her away from me?

Unanswered questions raced, guilt surged, panic flowed, I did what seemed rational to me -- at the time. I carefully and tenderly attached my sleeping infant back onto my breast.

Now, almost 15 months later, in my head, I laugh dejectedly at this poor misguided woman. How I wish I could go back to that evening and tell her, "Hey, your kid is asleep, you did what you were supposed to do. Now get up as quietly as you can and deposit the child into the bed."

I spent the first three or four months of Annika's life not trying to un-attach her while she slept during the day.

I wonder -- now -- if I created that nursing monster, the child who seems to think my breast is her own personal chew toy.

Back then, I did realize though, that I needed SOME time to myself without a nursing baby attached to my breast, so at night I'd nurse her to sleep then slip away for a blissful two or three hours on some nights. Little did I know that my griping about THAT was foolish, foolish, foolish. How I wish, Oh HOW I WISH, she would sleep that long alone now.

These days I'm lucky if I get 45 minutes. And even that is an improvement over the chunk of six months to a year. I couldn't get up. She'd wake up immediately if I moved to get out of the bed. Some days she would not sleep at all without my breast firmly attached to the inside of her little mouth.

So, yeah, I'm finally able to move about the cabin. It feels nice, and like Robert De Niro, I don't know how long it's going to last and I wonder if I'll ever be normal again.

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