Saturday morning, completely unexpectedly, Sasha stopped nursing. We were down to just one feeding per day and before this weekend she seemed to really be enjoying it. But when I brought her to bed and offered her the boob this time, she did the thing she does when I offer her food she doesn’t want: gave me a talk-to-the-hand gesture, shook her head, and flat out said, “No.” Then she grabbed her pacifier and stuck it in her mouth. I tried it probably a dozen more times, with the same reaction. I sort of wish I had known that the day before was going to be the last time while it was happening; I would’ve savored it more. I’m feeling what is probably a typical wistfulness for the deep connection with my baby that breastfeeding eventually, after lots of trial and error and tears, brought me. But I must admit, I’m also sort of relieved to not have someone need my body all the time for sustenance. And that she chose to give it up herself.
But back to the pacifier. Ever since Saturday morning, she has wanted it in her mouth ALL. THE. TIME. If she notices it’s missing, she asks for it with varying degrees of urgency. And when she’s eating she’ll take it out long enough to put a piece of broccoli in her mouth and chew. Or maybe she’ll chew with the pacifier in her mouth. I’m not sure if this great need for a plastic nipple has anything to do with her rejection of the real deal, but I’m pretty sure it’s related to the fact that at least two teeth are about to rupture through her gums, including her first molar.
So. Saturday night—the same day she said no to the boob—we went to dinner with my parents at a restaurant in their town that we love. And this waitress they’ve become buddies with came up to Sasha, made sweet cooing noises at her, then just as sweetly said, “Let me take that from you,” and yanked the pacifier from Sasha’s mouth. Sasha reacted in the only way a baby could possibly react in that situation: she screamed. A lot. With real tears. The waitress gave her back the pacifier, turned bright red, and skulked off to a corner looking like she might actually burst into tears as well.
Sasha eventually calmed down and we got her settled into a high chair. A few minutes later the waitress returned, crouched down to put her face at Sasha’s level—I thought to make amends—and again said, “Let me take that from you.” She had the pacifier halfway out of Sasha’s mouth when I shoved it back in and said, “No, no, she needs it. Please. Don’t.”
The waitress whipped her head around to me and said sharply, “Does she have it in every minute of every day?”
Well, the truth was that yes, today, she pretty much had. But most days she only uses it to go to sleep. “No,” I told her. “But she needs it today. She’s teething.”
Dismayed look from the waitress as she left our table. Then she proceeded to watch us from ten feet away, arms folded.
The entire meal, Sasha kept craning her neck around—I think, keeping an eye out for her adversary. And I couldn’t stop thinking about how this stranger was judging me. How she thought I was doing something wrong as a parent and how she wanted to fix it for me. I just kept wanting to say, “Look. I am doing the right thing right now. There are times when I’m not sure if I’m doing the right thing. But this is one of those times when I am absolutely, beyond a doubt, sure that this kid should have this pacifier in her mouth if she wants it.”
And I know that one day when she is ready to give it up, she will give me a talk-to-the-hand gesture, shake her head, and say, “No.”