Ditching the Paci: Why I'm Not in a Rush
It’s two am and like clockwork she appears at my bedside. By now I’m accustomed to this routine: the creak of the door, the sound of her footy pajamas shuffling down the hall, and then, arms raised, she whispers Mama.
Mama, I want you.
Without a thought I hoist her body over mine, and soon she’s a tiny bird between us, settled, roosting. The only sounds in the world: the whir of the fan. The tug of the sheets. The rhythmic in and out of the pacifier that pacifies me.
My middle child was born screaming. He didn’t stop for 77 days. (I counted.) I marked time on an invisible metronome, patting and shusshing and hushing and soothing. It didn’t soothe.
His screams became the undercurrent of my life.
I offered him ointments and remedies and massage oils infused with lavender. I drank special teas, learned to live life one-handed. If he’d only take a pacifier, I thought, like a normal child.
Two years later my daughter was born. Quiet. Happy. Her cries were practical, helpful. She needed to be fed. Changed. She was cold or hot or the swinging had stopped. Someone offered her a pacifier and it worked its magic, calming her in her car seat, lulling her to sleep, holding her over until I could find a quiet spot to nurse.
As she grew, there were times I considered taking it away, and sometimes I did. When she wasn’t talking at two I wondered if there was a connection between the pacifier and her speech delay. Older relatives warned me about damage to her teeth, or kindly inquired when I’d force her to give it up.
In conversations with friends I downplayed it all: She only uses it at night, I’d say.Sometimes on long car trips. When the speech pathologist came to our house for therapy, sometimes my daughter would find a binky amongst her toys. Where’d THAT come from?I feigned alarm.
The pacifier became our secret addiction, my daughter’s and mine, always looking for our next fix. The sound it makes as she lies next to me, drifting away, tells me that I’m still needed. A Mama. Not the Mom I am to my older children, the revoker of privileges and the inspector of worksheets.
A Mama. A comforter. A drier of tears and a singer of lullabies. A cheek-kisser. A ring-around-the-rosie Mama who can make it all ok in the end.
I justify this, naturally, by saying that she’s my last baby. I want to baby her. I know the time will come when her pacifier days are long gone, when she won’t want to be held or rocked to sleep. I want to hold on to these fading Mama, I want you days as long as I’m able.
The tiny bird between us now will one day stand at the edge of the nest, spread her feathery wings, and fly.