18 Months

On the week Robert turned one year and a half I received the first folder of his artwork from school. I cannot see him becoming a Picasso anytime soon. So far I haven’t been able to develop his artistic talents, because he still needs to learn that crayons are something to draw with, not eat or throw around. It seems that his teachers at school are having a little more success in this respect.

Last Sunday, Robert’s father was looking after him, and he told me something that I did not know (seriously this time): Robert can sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I was amazed and tried to make him repeat this feat, but whenever I started the rhyme he would wrinkle his forehead and say in a little sad voice: papa.  I hope he does not mean that he will only sing it for papa, that would be too cruel a punishment for his poor mom, even for having to leave him with “papa” for a full weekend.

Yesterday Robert gave ME one of these firsts when he recited: one, two, three and later before bedtime : eight, nine, ten. So it looks like he is learning new things at school, which is very nice.

School is going fine for Robert. He still fusses a little bit when I leave him there in the morning, but he is also not too enthused to leave when I come to get him in the afternoon. He still gets himself stuck in the little chairs and “helps” the teachers stack them and carry them around. It is actually a problem to separate him from his beloved chairs (tayss as he calls them).

I am glad to say that at 18 months my son is fully weaned. If it wasn’t for pressure of propriety I would have gladly continued breastfeeding him, and I think my body knows that because I still produce milk. Evenings are still our bonding time and we both enjoy our good night cuddle, so I haven’t completely lost out.

Meanwhile our life at home is terribly busy and disorganized. I am chipping away at a translation project, and the household chores are getting last priority. To add to the chaos, I have a plumbing problem in my flat, which makes my lounge area flood regularly with bath or laundry water mostly from the next door flat, but sometimes from our drain system as well. I have spoken to the landlord several times and he always promises to send a plumber to look at it, but I am still waiting. In the past his universal solution for this problem was to pour a bottle of drain cleaner down the drain in the flat next door. Last Saturday he brought me a bottle of the stuff which I poured in my kitchen and bathroom sinks, it was horrible.  The stuff is DEADLY and I never ever want to handle it again, not with Robert in the same space.  The poison fizzed and did its thing down the drain and there was a terrible ammonia stink for a whole day, but did not do a wit of good for my flooded apartment, so it seems the problem is far more serious this time. Meanwhile, I just mop the floor and wait for the plumber, but in my mind I am already planning to leave this place, I cannot imagine tolerating this in winter.  But for now, and until my translation project finishes, I am stuck here and have to put up with this.

Weaning… Who is suffering most

The night of the 7th February was the first night I let Robert sleep without the nightly comfort of breast milk. I know that I have been procrastinating on weaning for very long, but I maintain that I had my reasons.

During November Robert was frequently ill and was not interested in any other food or drink, and in December I was trying to build up his strength. During January he formed a very close attachment to me after the long school holidays, and up until last week the act of nursing was a great way to ease my guilty conscience over working long hours and abandoning him for two full days at the creche while I interpreted on a movie set.

But recently I became convinced that his need for this comfort has diminished. Twice last week he went to sleep with the bottle and instead of nursing him we cuddled and I tickled his belly until he fell asleep. But when he woke up during the night things were not as amicable. He insisted loudly on “mama” and cried inconsolably for a long time. I had a difficult time balancing between my loving instinct and my rationality. I managed to calm him down with loving talk and he resigned himself to drinking from the bottle. As Robert suffered his withdrawal symptoms, I had a terrible attack of guilt and sadness, while the neighbors suffered with insomnia I think, having been awakened in the small hours by a crying toddler.

As early as the next day Robert was open to gentle talk and convincing. He seemed to listen when I told him that “mama” was only for little babies who cannot eat or drink anything else. But as he went to sleep I was stricken with melancholy. I realize that my boy is growing independent of me and I will never recover this special closeness again. Two years ago he was still part of me, and yesterday I was still nursing him, but today this is one more thing he does not need from me anymore, and one day he will not need me anymore. I know it is stupid to think that way, but I cannot be rational all the time.

Today I am more concerned with the physical suffering from weaning. I had to express some of my milk to relieve the pain. A friend once told me that African women who are trying to stop lactating throw the milk they express against the wall. The popular belief is that if a woman disrespects and rejects the milk in this manner, her body will stop producing it. Maybe I will try this method if things do not improve, but I am a firm believer that my body will adjust naturally,  and there is no need for African superstition or western medication.

Robert has taken the transition in his stride, and does not ask for “mama” anymore. At sleep time he cuddles up to me and drinks from his bottle. He has even taken to calling the bottle “mama”, ungrateful little rascal.  So it seems that I am permitted to call these part of my anatomy my own again.  Their curiosity value to him is now only a little more than a pair of  “iya” (ears).  I am relieved of course, but still slightly wistful. I doubt whether I will have the pleasure of nursing again.

A bonus of the weaning: Robert does not wake up as often during the night. In fact he sleeps right through. I should have known that my watery milk is a poor substitute for rich full cream cow milk. Another reason to breathe a sigh of relief.