Baby V has a tooth! It’s just a tip of white poking out through her gums on the bottom right, but there’s no mistaking it if you feel it. She’ll be happy to bite your finger if you don’t believe it. She will refuse to let me look at it, the way she refuses to let me do anything that involves her holding still (wipe her mouth, suction her nose, cover her with kisses). She doesn’t yet use this new tooth for eating, but she is starting to figure out that it’s for biting. As her mommy, I am the recipient of all new experimentation. I got the first smile, the first eye contact, the first giggle, and unfortunately the first nipple chomp.
For a week or so, I’ve felt some accidental scrapings, but Thursday night, she started biting down on my nipple during a nursing session. Tentative at first, then with more purpose and intent. What really got me was the way she snickered the whole time. This is wicked good fun to her. My yelping in pain or getting angry or telling her "NO!" only increases her mirth. I never believed this day would come for us. I used to look at my tiny little bundle of impossible sweet chubbiness and believe she could NEVER be one of those babies who bites her mommy and thinks it’s funny. Since Thursday, I’ve been dealing with feelings of sadness, anger and even betrayal. Our beautiful nursing relationship feels ruined. Every time I offer my nipple to her, I feel fear and apprehension. I force myself to keep a neutral expression and not tense up, but inside I am afraid. And if she sees my breasts and starts laughing with that gleam in her eye, I think, "Uh oh."
What it comes down to is that I have to be vigilant now. I can’t force her to nurse when I’m trying to get her to sleep. I have to get her at the exact right moment and if it’s not time, I have to do something else. I’ve been pretty lazy and complacent when it comes to nursing. I can pop her on and watch tv or check my Blackberry (Facebook Status: Mrs. Odie is nursing) or have a snack (and often a glass of wine or a beer). Now I have to check for that tongue position, making sure it’s under my nipple and covering that dagger of a tooth. I have to be ready to insert my finger between her gums and pull my nipple out as fast as possible to save myself from pain and damage. "No! No biting num-nums!" I tell her crossly. So far (and it’s been 2 days), she does not seem to either understand or care what I am saying. I put my breast back in my shirt and say "No num-nums if you are going to bite."
I admit that the first time she did it, I yelled and flicked her cheek. I have an old friend, Rachel, who is a mother of 4 and that is what she told my sister she did for each baby. Each baby bit her once, according to her. As in, "My baby bit me once. ONCE." I trust that Rachel is a good mother. I mean, she’s a Mormon. Aren’t they supposed to be like the NICEST people in the world? Surely if my mother-of-4-and-Mormon-friend Rachel flicks a baby on the cheek, there’s nothing wrong with it.
V startled, paused, and then WAILED like I’d cut off her finger AND broken her heart. She continued to wail for a good five minutes. Her cry was so full of betrayal (at least to my ears) that Odie got up out of bed (it was late on a work night) to see what the matter was. He and I both felt (and feel) incredibly guilty. Him because he suggested it, having heard Rachel’s tale as well. Me, because I DID IT! I know I didn’t hurt her. To assure myself, I flicked myself in the cheek about a hundred times as hard as I could, knowing that I didn’t do it to her hard at all, and it didn’t really hurt me.
And on top of everything it didn’t work. As soon as I soothed her and told her a million times that I loved her and kissed her sweet face, I latched her on and she bit me AGAIN. Immediately.
This is clearly a teething behavior, this biting. And what is the teething experience like for Baby V? I tried to put myself in her place. She must be feeling pain and restlessness. She must have discovered that biting down on things first intensifies and then relieves this pain. So she’s biting down on things. She has no comprehension that it causes ME pain. As far as she knows, she and I are one and biting the nipple certainly doesn’t hurt HER. So I cut through my anger and disappointment and I found my compassion. My poor baby. She’s hurting and maybe confused and she needs me to help. I gave her some Tylenol and forced a smile and played with her for another half hour. When I saw the eye rubbing and the yawning become more frequent, I bravely latched her on, and was rewarded with sleep.
I was hugely disappointed that this same scenario played out Friday night as well (minus the cheek flick, which I will NEVER do again). I even entertained thoughts that I needed to wean this baby. Neither of us is ready to end our nursing, though, and I let those thoughts come and go. Part of me felt tremendous relief at the freedom weaning would give me. Immediately followed grief over the idea that my baby could outgrow nursing so young. It’s harder to see a child who no longer nurses as your little wittle baby. I’m not ready.
She actually fell asleep, not on my breast as usual, but on her tummy in my lap, facing away from me. And then she slept deeply most of the night with one or two brief in-her-sleep nursings. All night long, I dreamed of nursing babies with giant protruding teeth. Indian babies. Probably because I watched Aziz Ansari’s comedy special before bed.
"Who can top that shit? Who can top that shit? Who can top that shit?"