Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oh, my aching nipples - on grating teeth and gratitude

The term eruption is a good one to describe teeth coming in. Especially the molars of a toddler - he's erupting all over the place. When we were at the dentist last week, she commented that he had one just peeking through the gum and another one working on it, so we might be in for a bad week. I smugly thought, 'ha! my kids don't complain - the first I noticed Isabelle's tooth was when it bit into my finger!" I should know better than to be smug about anything by now, but I'm not.

Tom has been nursing and asking to nurse constantly since yesterday - it's like having a newborn all over again. Oh, except that newborns don't have front teeth... And they don't want to watch "Max & Ruby" while they nurse - well, maybe they do, but they get CBC Newsworld instead. And they certainly don't try to walk around while nursing...Oy, my nipples! the amber teething necklace is out again - and seemed to help a bit - but all he wants is na-nas really.

On the positive side, newborns can't tell you where it hurts... Tom can and does "My mowf hoits hee-ah"(translation: My mouth hurts here) as he points very precisely to the red bulging gum. None of the worry about mystery suffering that plagues the early weeks of mothering. There's also none of the switching sides doubt that also plagued my early weeks - the books suggest "when they are done", but what on earth does that mean??? Are they done? What if they fall asleep? What if the breast still doesn't feel "empty"? What if they are in marathon nurse and both feel empty? Oh, no, none of that with the nursing toddler - he'll tell me he wants the 'big one' and switch sides himself when it's 'that na-na is all done'.

A newborn does have the advantage of looking remarkably appealing in the "drunk with milk" coma - we used to sit up and revel in Isabelle lying between us, with a pool of milk around her mouth, as sedated as if we'd shot her up with valium (ok, maybe not quite). A toddler generally doesn't allow for any such waste of his precious milk... and Tom's particularly irritating habit of guarding/prepping the opposite side is one that I haven't yet been able to break. But, there's possibly nothing more heart-melting to a mother than the gentle pat of his little hand as he nurses his pain away - or the sweetness in his wide eyes as he nods a yes when asked "Good milk?".

There are times when nursing a toddler seems nuts - inconvenient, time-consuming and hardly worth the rolling eyes and ever-higher rising eyebrows (yes, I do see them though I'm now a master ignoring them). You'd think that at the end of a day like today, weaning would seem an appealing option.

But that I can still give him this familiar comfort on this ouchy, grumpy, all out of sorts day is a gift to him and to myself. It's a gift that mothers who wean 'when they get teeth', 'when they can ask for it' or 'when they're 3months/6 months/a year' don't ever get the chance to receive. It's a gift that he can tell me know with words that my milk is good, sweet and "wah-umm" (warm) in his belly. It's a gift that he has learned patience to wait and compassion not to hurt even though it feels good to him - and that I have learned patience to give when I could withhold and compassion to give though it does hurt. I am grateful today above other days for my curly-headed, foot stamping, loud talking acrobatic nursling... and I know he is grateful for me.

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