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All Done

nursing

“Mama. Mama.” Tiny mewls.

“Shhhhh. Mama’s right here.”

Mike nudges me softly.  “She’s in the other room.”

“Huh? Oh.” I wrench myself from sleep. My body weighs a thousand pounds as I drag it from the bed, across the room. Her door so close to ours I’m opening it as I’m closing mine.

“Mama. Mama.”

“Scootch over.” She wiggles and I realize she’s halfway down the bed. I pull her up towards me and I can practically hear her smiling as she smacks her lips. Her feet are like ice.

“Let’s pull up the covers. Are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

I pull the covers over us as she presses her cold feet into the tops of my thighs, squirms into my arms and latches on. It hurts. She nurses like someone drinking who hasn’t tasted water in days. It’s a starving kind of pulling and tugging. Her strong-still-small hands knead at me the way a kitten kneads its mother-cat.

When she was newborn her little feet wriggled against my soft belly, toes digging into my new-mother body. Now her feet reach down to my knees. But here we are still, mother and child, nursing in the early morning hours.

She’ll be two in two weeks. And then we’re done. With this, this part of our relationship. We – I – have to be. She doesn’t understand yet. I’ve told her, again and again, but she has no frame of reference for this.

“Mama is taking her milk to New York City and leaving it there. In Central Park, at Bethesda Fountain. When Mama comes home, the milk will be all gone.” I show her the calendar. “See? This box is today. This one is tomorrow. Here is your birthday. And here is the weekend Mama takes the milk to New York City.”

She stares at me, enormous indigo eyes, her serious face framed by wild, golden hair. “Mama mee-oke? Eva need her mama-mee-oke,”

“I know baby. For a little while longer,”

“Mama take her meee-oke to New Yoke City. Put it da Def-da foun-ten.”

I have so many feelings about this. All the feelings. This has been her main source of comfort her entire life. It’s our go-to for security, safety, nourishment, love.

Think about that. Think about something you’ve known and loved and cherished your entire life being taken away from you. Permanently. Without your consent. You’d grieve, right? Feel angry and heart broken. I am steeling myself for this. For taking this from her. My first betrayal as a mother.

When we nurse, she is, again, a newborn in my arms. My tiny, perfect babe. But she’s not a newborn. She’ll be two in two weeks. I don’t want to breastfeed a preschooler. I just don’t. So I’m being selfish. Taking my body back. No more. All done.

She suckles and squirms. We’re curled on our sides, belly to belly. She pulls her feet from off my thighs and drapes her legs over my hips. Her long, strong legs. I wrap an arm around her waist, stroke her back, breathe deep the sweet smell of her head. The sun is making the night sky pink as we drift back to sleep.

Somewhere in the global community

Many of our teens are in danger of falling through the cracks of a “too busy to care” world. If you’re worried that your child has something dark and troublesome on his mind, he probably does. If you’re too busy to take the time to break through to your child, make the time. If your child pushes you away, remember you don’t need his permission to protect him from anything that could hurt him or his future. In fact it’s your most important job as a parent. If you don’t know how to communicate with your defiant teen, learn to.

That paragraph is about halfway down the article, right at the place where I stopped reading because I knew that everyone I love must read this too.

So here you go…

Guilty As Charged

Valentine and Theo are, without a doubt, the center of the universe as far as Mike and I are concerned.   Our daily lives revolve around whether the dogs have pooped and whether or not they’ve had enough exercise.  We worry that they’re too cold or that they haven’t had enough to eat.  We delight in seeing their little faces whenever we walk in the front door and we love bringing home new treats for them.  Mike teases that the way I mother them is dangerous because there was a point when Theo gained too much weight and it was because, in my worry that he wasn’t eating enough, I overfed him until he gained an extra two pounds.  Two pounds might not sound like much, but two pounds on a Dachshund is like fifty pounds on a person.   I’d been over-feeding Valentine as well, but that bitch* could eat her weight in chocolate and not gain an ounce.   Theo, on the other hand, has a slow metabolism and because his back is so long, extra weight could put stress on his spine that could cause fractures and then he’d be paralyzed and if he survived it would surely cost us a million dollars in vet bills.  It’s a serious thing when Dachshunds get fat and so that is why my mothering is deadly.  And that was a long story for a short point:   The dogs are my practice babies.

Last night, after we’d put the dogs to bed in their crates, brushed our teeth, washed our faces, and curled up with an episode of Law & Order, a long, low howl reverberated from the living room.  It was followed by a sharp succession of ear-piercing ruffs.  This has been Theo’s bedtime routine for the last four nights. He waits until we are in bed with the lights off and then he starts in with a howl followed by barking.

“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”
“Why is he doing that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”
“What should we do?”
“Ignore it.”
“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”
“Is he trying to tell us something?”
“He’s trying to tell us he’d rather be sleeping in our bed, but that’s not how it works, so he’s going to have to get over it.”
“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”

The baby books say to let Baby cry for fifteen minutes and, if after fifteen minutes, Baby has not put himself back to sleep, Mother may go in and comfort him.  So that’s what we did.   We let him “Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!” and after about thirteen and a half minutes he stopped ruffing.  As soon as he was quiet I whispered:

“I seriously don’t know what we’re waiting for.”
“You can’t leave a baby in a crate when you go to work.”

They’re practice babies.  It sounds kind of awful, but it’s true.   I’ve never in my entire life loved something small and furry the way I love those little dogs.   Every day I am amazed that I have enough love in my body to love them but every day it’s there and it’s bigger.  I hear people say that about their kids all the time and I am sure that the way people love their kids is at the very least one hundred times more than the way I love my dogs.  Does that mean that when I have children I won’t have room to love my dogs anymore?  A staggering number of perfectly wonderful dogs and cats are given up every year because their owner has a new baby and just can’t deal with them anymore.  It must be very frustrating to have a new baby at home and have your dog suddenly start humping the coffee table, peeing on the sofa cushions and chewing bald spots into his fur.  At least I imagine that’s what’s going on when someone decides to get rid of the dog now that they have a baby.  Or maybe it’s just that now you have a baby and two other baby-like things that aren’t actually babies and your priorities change.  I have no idea.  But the whole thing makes me nervous.  What will they do when I have a baby?

Let’s take a little tour of my writing chair…

1

Well hello, Valentine!  So you’re the reason why I can’t sit back and get comfortable.  Aren’t you a little chair-hog?


2

And here’s Theo, curled up behind Valentine.  He’s an even bigger chair-hog than his sister.


My hope is that when we have children the dogs will come to see the babies as precious pack members that must be fussed over and adored and protected from danger.  Like the way Chip, my cousin’s five-year-old four-pound Chihuahua, came to see her new baby:

2868585477_5676eefc83_b

If we are that lucky, it is then my hope that our children will come to love the dogs as if they were treasured little old great-grandparents to be treated with gentle hands, quiet voices and adoring hearts.  After all, by the time our children are old enough to know Valentine and Theo, the dogs will most likely be just that:  Little old incontinent doglets with stinky breath, grumping and gurgling and leaving strings of slobber behind when they kiss you good morning.

*bitch [bi*ch] (noun):  female dog, wolf, fox or otter.