Thursday, August 30, 2012

What charm can soothe her melancholy?

This month’s issue of Reader’s Digest Magazine (September 2012) is devoted to motherhood.  It was both entertaining and sobering to read through the different articles therein – I could relate to many of the truths, and laughed out loud at some of the anecdotes.

One aspect in particular caught my eye, as it relates to several blog topics I have tucked away for future writing.  It was a chart entitled “Parenthood’s hot-button topics,” written by Anita Lahey.

The chart is arranged to analyse the pros and cons of alternate theories in parenting – things like co-sleeping vs. crib sleeping, cloth vs. disposable diapers, and thumb-sucking vs. soothers.

This week our household has been gripped by the latter topic: the soother.

To say my daughter Gwyneth is headstrong is an understatement.  She is a streamlined conversion of her mother’s forthright, blunt, take-no-prisoners approach and her father’s quiet, unassailable stubbornness.  Lucky us.

She emerged from the womb against her will at 27 weeks gestation.  She was all of one pound, seven ounces, but had the voice of a full-term baby.  As one of the neonatal nurses said to me on day five, “This one’s got personality, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.”  Yeah.  Can’t wait until she’s thirteen.

Gwyneth’s safe and healthy birth was miraculous, and because of her strength, we gave her the middle name Maude, which means “battle might.”  We might have regretted that a few times.  Just last week I overhead the hubs say, “Now Gwyneth, it’s time to put Maude away.”

Gwyneth has done everything her way.  Her physiotherapist likes to say, “She’s the boss, applesauce!”  And truly she is.  She has met all her one-year adjusted milestones, but on her terms, no one else’s.  She still has never rolled over, because she thinks being on her tummy is pointless.  She gave up breastfeeding the day after her first birthday with a flourish – she stuck her soother in her mouth and kicked me.

So back to the soother – also known as a pacifier or a dummy to my friends in other parts of the world.  There is great debate amongst parents, parenting experts, and medical personnel about whether a baby should use a soother or not.  Many argue that a soother can cause dental issues, but of course, so can sucking one’s thumb.  I’ve read copious accounts of soothers interfering with breastfeeding.  And of course, there’s always that dreaded future task of getting your child to STOP using a soother.

I have relatives who had a burial for the soother and a short service to say good-bye.  Their son went around saying “Bye-bye paci” for a week after that.  Others I know have thrown it in the garbage.  I have one friend whose daughter was constantly losing her pacifier, and Mom or Dad was regularly heading to the local Target to buy another for her. 

In our case, my daughter was given a soother by the neonatal staff at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto the day she was born.  As it was explained to me, babies born as prematurely as Gwyneth do not have the innate ability to suck that full-term babies have, and so a soother is used to teach them to suck, which in turn helps them to be more successful with breastfeeding.  Who knew? 

And so, against my better judgement and the advice of every nursing guide on the planet, my daughter used a soother from the beginning. 

I have both cursed and blessed that soother.

For the first few months after we came home from hospital, our daughter would fall asleep with her soother.  Then it would fall out, she’d wake up crying, and we’d be out of bed putting in her soother.  I mean, twenty times a night!   I can remember Ian saying to me, “Wow, I can’t wait until she can put that soother back in herself.”

Of course, once that happened, then the issue was feeding.  She really didn’t want to take it out to eat.  Our running joke was that our daughter was a “chain soother” – she’d take a bite of food, then a few drags on the soother, then another bite of food. 

As I have already stated, she nursed.  Her soother really didn’t seem to interfere with nursing, until that aforementioned day when she looked at me, pulled off the breast, and stuck her soother in her mouth.  It was an act of defiance.  She was planting her flag of independence.  I don’t NEED to nurse anymore, Mommy.  I have my Sousy!

That soother has been everywhere with her.  She would take it into the swimming pool with her, where other babies might try to take it from her, or she’d drop it to the bottom of the pool for Mommy to fetch.  She once lost it on a walk when she threw it on the ground and we didn’t notice.  Until we’d walked 2.5 km and she started crying.  Turns out she’d set Sousy free back at the 0.5 km mark.  That was a tedious walk home, at least until we found Sousy at the side of the road near our house.  About a month ago, she started trying to give Mommy or Daddy the soother, especially if she wanted us to stop talking.  

Personality, right?

And then, nine days ago, something miraculous happened.  Gwyneth just threw her Sousy away.

I have secretly been dreading the end of Sousy.  I really thought it would be a long, teary, drawn-out end to a somewhat unhealthy co-dependent relationship.

But for some reason, she just decided she was done.  Sousy went flying across the crib several times before I realized Gwyneth really didn’t want her soother.

Of course, I didn’t believe that could be possible.  So for the next five or six days, I kept trying to give her the soother.  No way.  I’m a big girl, Mommy.  No soother.  She found it on her change table today and threw it across the room.

Now before you get all miserly about the easy time I’ve had with the end of Sousy, I must tell you: it has come at a price.  You see, Gwyneth still needs Sousy.  She can’t soothe herself WITHOUT Sousy.  But she won’t take that soother even if I were to duct-tape it to her mouth.  Don't think I haven't thought of it.

Instead, she just stays up all night.  Every night.  We’re on night ten tonight.

She claws at her clothes.  She throws her stuffed animals across the crib with enough force to break something.  She pulls at her skin.  She crawls around until midnight saying “Uh-oh” and blowing raspberries.  But no soother.

And so, once again, I’ve reduced this issue to a crapshoot.  What’s a mom to do?

I combed through Reader's Digest, but they didn't have any tips for helping moms cope with babies who are fifteen months going on fifteen.


  1. So much for the assumption that many new parents have, that these little ones are blank slates to be written on and molded to our image!

  2. No kidding! They come pre-packaged with personality, temperament, tastes..... There is room for influence, but that's about it :)