Black Eye of Night.

For the past month or so, I’ve been working on weaning Vincent — he’s 2, it’s well past time. When he was born I thought he’d have been weaned many moons ago, but this last year has been full of changes, which he’s been a really good sport about, so it just wasn’t going to work to deny him his one constant comfort. I also hoped he’d wean himself, some babies do, but no, he’s interested in giving it up not at all.

So I hardened my heart and began a new ritual: every night at bedtime, we still go to his room and say good-night to Pooh & Elmo & Tigger & Doggie, and he nurses and goes to sleep. But when he climbs into our bed 4/5/6 hrs later and tugs on my shirt, whispering, “Please?” (think Earl in “Waitress”), I whisper back, “No, go to sleep,” and give him a kiss.

What follows varies, according to his level of fatigue and health. On good nights he only whines for a minute or two, before giving up, turning over, and going to sleep. But bad nights are bad. Like Monday night.

It was around 3am. Vincent’s nose has been running like a spigot, he’s developed another hacking cough, so he’s not feeling very well. Thus, when I said, “No, go to sleep,” he did not react as a tired mother would wish.

He cried loudly, kicked his feet, and when none of it worked, he got up on his hands and knees and used his head as a battering ram, giving me a nice little shiner. Then he put his hands to his own head and moaned, “Boo-boo!” Indeed.

Luckily, between my glasses & the dark circles already ringing my eyes, it’s not been noticeable, though it’s taking on a yellowish cast now. He did go to sleep, almost instantly, after giving my boo-boo a kiss, and he’s kissed it at least once every day since. But this is certainly not how I envisioned the weaning process.

I would absolutely do it all again, yes. Nursing has been not only rewarding, but very convenient: I don’t know how I would’ve been able to bring Vincent to the bookstore those first 8 months if I’d had to deal with bottles etc. in addition to everything else. We’ve been very lucky.

And let me add that on those good nights, right before he gives up and goes to sleep, he whispers, “Kiss!” whispers, “Hug!” and must have both before he turns over.   Very very lucky.

As I slowly slowly detach my little barnacle boy (yes, I’ve used this in a poem), here is a poem I love by Naomi Guttman from her collection, Wet Apples, White Blood (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007), for which nursing and motherhood are driving forces:

Milk Muse

Morning’s palest hour wakes me —
the baby takes my dripping lumen
then sleeps again.

I open the door to hear the tide.
Nothing moves, not even the rabbit
paused by the clothesline,
not the beach grass, cool in the dew.
The sky is close.

Copernicus displaced us
sending Earth adrift —
no more circles, but ellipses,
no crystal spheres,
but planets tethered to the sun.

I want to hear sky music, a concerto
made of partial light and shadow,
available to all who wake
between two stillnesses, to climb
into Orion’s outstretched arms,
lean my head against his giant shoulder,
and be lit within —
a brand new constellation
nursing the stars.

3 responses to “Black Eye of Night.”

  1. Ohhh, Marie, I sympathize. I remember those weaning days. Somebody told me to put vinegar on my breasts and that it would change the taste of the milk and that the baby (well, not a baby–my 2 year old) wouldn’t want it anymore. So one day I told him all day long that I thought something had happened to the milk, it wasn’t going to taste good anymore, etc. And then right before his bedtime, I went downstairs and swabbed my nipples with wine vinegar. “You can try, but it’s not going to be good,” I warned him. He looked hesitant, and then he started to nurse and pulled away and said, “It’s okay. It tastes like salad.”

    But nothing is as hard as that “Please?” in the middle of the night. I was worried I’d have to nurse him until he left for college.

  2. “It tastes like salad.” I love that. My own weaning efforts were so fits & starts-ish – my twins nursed until they were a little over two and their younger brother was about the same. It wasn’t so hard during the day because they were so easily distracted, but at night they were like heat seeking missiles. And I was so tired then that I couldn’t effectively get their minds off the heroin that was my breasts. And then, almost without realizing it, it ended. I loved nursing them, but was totally, totally okay when they stopped.

    Anyway, all this is to say that this really IS hard – and then you’ll be on the other side. But all childhood, really, is about weaning your children in some way or another — or, maybe more positively, about children claiming their independence from you. The good thing is that they still love you deeply and passionately, no matter how independent they become.

  3. I could be overtired, but between “It tastes like salad” and “the heroin that was my breasts” I can’t stop laughing!

    Sandi, I’ve never heard that! — but I also don’t know anyone who’s had to wean a toddler. I was lucky to be able to bring my son to work for a while, so weaning wasn’t necessary early on, unlike my friends, whose kids went into daycare sooner. And Vincent never took to a bottle at all, so I couldn’t try that early even if I’d wanted to.

    Ah Lily, it is always one thing or another, isn’t it? — after the weaning, we’ll have to tack the co-sleeping some time — because Vincent is a total bed-hog! But I’ll dearly miss those middle-of-the-night kiss-fests when we do. My husband thinks the answer to all our problems is…a puppy. Right.

    Thank you, Sandi & Lily — I know it’ll work out, but you know, there’s knowing and knowing….xo

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