June 09, 2002

Ta Ta to Ta Ta

Let's talk turkey. Cold turkey. Our lovely Baby Blogger has given me a gift for my 40th birthday -- for her, the most serious and significant gift she could muster. And although she will want to kill me one day for telling you what that gift is, I'm doing it anyway: she has finally gone cold turkey and quit the pacifier she has, until now, relished sucking at night (and any other time she could find it laying around the house). She'll be 5 in September.

Two weeks ago we went to the doctor with this bronchitis plague we've had in our house. The doctor mentioned her overbite--to me it's slight; to the doctor it isn't. The doctor told me that the pacifier had better be gone in a week because we were heading for big orthadontist bills...and pain for her. I scoffed. I have been scoffing for years.

And I have stood mostly alone in my support for her "ta ta"--that's what she has always called it. "Nonesense," I've said. "I sucked my thumb til I was 6 and I never needed braces." My husband has tried to hide the things, has always dared to take her on outings without it. Me on the other hand, I make sure I have two in my purse. Just in case. Not so much recently, but up until pretty darn recently.

When my friends arrived for my birthday weekend on Thursday, they asked her, sweetie, why do you still want that thing? She explained it so well:

"Well, I really like to use it when I twirl my hair and sleep,
and I really do love it, because it tastes so sweet."

And yet, somehow they convinced her (and me?) that it was indeed time to toss the ta-ta (or ta-tee for short). And for the last three mornings she's awoken with a jolt--bolting upright from a sound sleep: "I DID IT!!! I SLEPT WITHOUT TA-TEE AGAIN!" And I've hooped and hollered HURRAY! And have bought her treats and told her how big she is and all of that. And still...

Tonight when she went to sleep, I understood the significance, for her and for me, of this surrogate nipple that has been so important to us all of these years--since I stopped breast feeding her at three months of age (after the hospital adventure that nearly killed me).

Because tonight when she went to sleep, she could not get close enough to my breasts. "OOO mama, your potatoes got bigger," she tells me, sleep catching up with her, making her giddy and giggly, until she curls up against my tie-dye t-shirt, her little face burried as close as she can get to where she feels most at home, each hand holding a fold of cloth, her hot breath warming my skin through the cotton.

As she starts that raspy snore, my chin is resting on her head, and I'm holding her tight, wishing I could turn back the clock, just long enough for her to drink from me one more time. I summon that heady feeling that I've never heard described just right--that place without consciousness or conscience, without mores or shame, that single-minded place where you demonstrate your power to nurish the world, or at least your piece of it. Let down. I remember it so well, the letting down. No words to describe the sensation, but I'm there now, feeling the tingling and the filling up, closing my eyes, massaging, Helene Cixous where are you? We need to talk.

Put your baby to your breast and you must accept that someone needs you just *this* badly, and you accept that you are the only one who can give what's required. It is a mighty thing. It is a miracle. Changing baby changing you. A loss and a gain, I grieve and I celebrate.

"Because it tastes so sweet."