I've heard that toddlers like to stick things up their noses, but I always assumed that was kind of a cliche, or the kind of thing that only happens to toddlers whose parents plant them in front of the television all the time. I found out, however, that objects in the nose happen to all toddlers, even if they're not watching reruns of I Love Lucy all day. Yesterday, on the way home from school, Dora stuck a peanut up her nose while we sat at a red light. It was stuck so far into Dora's tiny nose that I could just barely see the bottom of it when she tipped her head back.
Dora was snacking in the car because I give her a snack in the car on the way home from school every single day. It's basically a necessity - at that time of day, she's hungry and tired and just wants to nurse. Though I know she is well old enough to be weaned, at two years old, she's showing no signs of losing interest in breastfeeding. I want it to end naturally - not because I pick some arbitrary date and say she's cut off from then on. Instead, we are working on limiting the times when she can nurse to a few times per day, and one way I can convince her to just get in the car with me at school rather than insisting on sitting down together in the rocking chair is by offering her a snack.
It's no surprise, really, that Dora is so committed to nursing. Many people have told me that she will lose interest eventually, but I have been skeptical. You see, my girl Isadora never took a bottle. As a working mother, the fact that she consistently refused a bottle became a huge issue. In over two years, I have not traveled out of town for work without taking Dora with me. This has included arranging for daycare in numerous other towns, dragging along with me all the supplies needed for a baby, along with a laptop and a suit and a pair of high heels. I have gotten up in the middle of the night and climbed down 8 flights of stairs with my car seat, diaper bag, and a screaming infant during a fire drill at a hotel. I have taken Dora to conferences and trainings all across the state of North Carolina.
Mind you, we tried a lot of tricks to get her take a bottle. A lot. We tried leaving the milk on the counter at room temperature. We tried a cup. We tried a spoon. Brian put on one of my sweatshirts so he would smell more like me. Brian walked around the house with Dora in the baby front-pack, trying to stick the bottle in her mouth from the front instead of cradling her like an infant. We tried and tried and tried, but she just refused, even if it meant going 4 or 5 hours without eating (which isn't easy for a tiny baby to do).
When Dora did start eating solid food, we were extremely careful about what we fed her. I made nearly all all of her baby food - peeling and steaming and pureeing organic vegetables every Sunday, freezing ice cube trays of sweet potato and pear and pea. I loved making the food, and we video-taped every new food she tried. Our digital video camera failed some months later, losing all of that early footage, which just broke my heart. Her first birthday was one of the first times she had refined sugar. Since then, I have relaxed a lot about what she eats. We do our best, but there are days when she survives on cheerios and milk. I want her to have an adventurous palate - but I'm also human. So, I do things like give her whole nuts in the car - she has teeth and she chews and she seems to do just fine with them. I didn't think about the fact that peanuts are the perfect size and shape for nostril exploration.
When we got home yesterday, I brought Dora inside and sat her on the counter in the bathroom, trying to see up her nose. We tried blowing. I tried pushing on the nut from the outside of her nostril. I got out the tweezers, but one look at their pointy metal ends and both of us got scared. I called my friend Mandy for advice. I read the Dr. Sears baby book, which included explicit instructions not to let the child go to sleep with the "foreign object" in the nose, lest it be aspirated into her lungs.
By this point, Dora was frustrated and upset. She was crying and uncomfortable, and I didn't know what to do. We sat down together and I let her nurse while we waited for the pediatrician to call back. I was reminded of a story told to me when Dora was just a few weeks old, about the mother of a toddler who had found herself very thankful that she was still nursing when the child broke her arm. In the harried moments following the injury, with a scared and crying child and a series of decisions to make, quietly sitting down together to nurse had been just what they needed to get the situation under control, call the doctor, ease the pain. A peanut in the nose isn't a broken arm, but I was glad to have a moment to sit down and figure out what do to next. My pediatrician encouraged us to keep trying the blowing. My dad and Mary Kay called, and with some encouragement from Papa, Dora blew her nose really hard. Out popped a peanut half. A few minutes later, she blew her nose again and another peanut half popped out. I have no idea how she fit two peanuts in that tiny nose of hers.
I've been feeling a lot of pressure lately to wean, in part due to the way that society seems to react to a walking, talking toddler who is still nursing, and in part because the logistics with travel for work have become too challenging. I worry about her being 5 years old and tackling me in the living room, like the big kittens who gang up on their mom and knock her down to nurse. I worry about her teeth. Sometimes, but not always, I worry about what other people think about it. But, then again, I think about the fact that, like almost everything else in parenting, this is probably very short-lived indeed. So, what if she nurses for another 6 months? Is that going to hurt anyone? Is it going to make a huge difference?
Breastfeeding Dora has been one of the most positive, beautiful, meaningful experiences of my life. I am so unbelievably happy that it worked out well for us, and even though there are times when it seems like an inconvenience, I feel so lucky that I still get a few moments of quiet, intimate, loving snuggliness with my active toddler. It won't be too long before I can't get that kind of closeness with her. I might as well enjoy this stage for what it is - I know it's fleeting, and I know that when our little nursing relationship is over, I'm going to miss it so, so much. Everyone says that kids grow up fast, and they do - the stages just seem to fly by. Before I know it, Dora will be asking for my keys instead of a bag of peanuts. So, today, right now, I'm going to stop worrying about what everyone thinks about the fact that my toddler is still nursing. I'm going to stop worrying about her being 5 years old and tackling me in the living room. I'm just gonna go with it - enjoy this sweet time, hold on to my baby girl, and remember to only buy slivered almonds from now on.