When’s the last time I updated this thing? Anybody? Anybody?
I’ve thought about posting. I’ve even started several posts. But here’s the thing: this blog isn’t exactly a reflection of my life. I try to focus on the high points or the things I want to hold on to so I have something to chew over some day when my kids stick me in the old folks’ home. I try to avoid writing the negative stuff. Serves no purpose, and that’s not stuff I want to remember. But lately, it seems, I’ve been a bit blue. Everywhere I turn, it seems there’s something not-good going on.
So I haven’t written anything. I’ve submitted a few articles for publication; waiting to hear. My monthly column at the local magazine was just cut to bi-monthly, due to budget issues (who’d’ve thought my unemployed self would fall victim to the faltering economy?). An editor I work with quite a bit in the States is moving on as her newspaper switches formats, so I’ll have to woo and wow a new editor. Really, all of this means I need to write more, not less. So I’ll try.
Here’s something I’ve been thinking about:
We mark the important moments in our world: births, weddings, deaths, because they matter so much to us. The smaller moments, too. It’s why we note the first day of kindergarten, or the last day of soccer season. Those things remind us, I think, of where we’ve been and where we’re going.
This foreign service life increases one’s propensity to mark time. For example, I knew when it was my last winter in Virginia, so I tried to take it all in. I knew when I was spending my last night in my house in Virginia, and it had a weird sentimentality to it, the whole routine of bath, book and bed seen in a new light. When I boarded a plane and left Armenia, I cried, because I knew I would never again return. Now in Beijing, I’m getting ready to roll into my second Chinese spring, likely my second-to-last as well.
So I’m a marking sort of person. I like to look around, to hang on to what’s leaving me.
Monday started with the usual routine. I nursed Ainsley, played with Kyra, got myself ready for the day. When it came time to nurse Ainsley again, she suddenly bit me and refused to latch on. Weird – and painful. But no matter. I figured she wasn’t hungry. After her nap, I tried again. Same thing: she bit and fought me off. Perhaps she’s getting sick, I thought? I fed her some solid food instead and tried not to focus on the fact that I was getting a bit sore (nursing moms will understand). By nightfall, when she still refused to nurse, I started to worry a bit. After all, my only previous experience with a child refusing to nurse ended with Aidan’s hospitalization and our medevac out of Kazakhstan.
I woke up the next morning and took Ainsley to the doctor. She checked out fine, which left just one thing: me. The doc speculated that I’d eaten something that upset her. He advised me to pump and dump. So I hauled my swollen self around Beijing, looking for a breast pump. At this point, I could barely raise my arms over my head.
I pumped, I dumped. Tried to nurse again. Again got bitten for my efforts. So I pumped some more. Just for kicks, I offered her some milk with a spoon, and she gobbled it down. Gave her the bottle, which she’s always rejected, and she happily gulped it down.
So it isn’t the milk. It’s me. I guess she’s just weaning herself. But I can’t give her Chinese formula (remember the melamine?). I’m a terribly inefficient pumper. And at just ten months, she’s too little to drink cow’s milk.
Whatever. We’ll figure it out, she and I. But here’s the thing. If I’d known, if I’d known that Monday morning was going to be my last morning ever to hold a nursing baby in my arms, to know that feeling of nurturing a small creature with my own self, surely I would have marked the moment in some way. I would have looked at her just a bit closer instead of checking email simultaneously. I would have sung her a song, or stroked her tiny head. I would’ve told myself: This is important. Hang on to it.
You can’t always know when you’re in the middle of a Last Time. Nor would you always want to know, I suppose. But still, when it matters, you need to hang on by that last nub of fingernail. It might be the Last Time. Or maybe there are hundreds more times in your future.
Either way. This is important. And so I’m hanging on.