Do you remember, in The English Patient, when Almásy claimed the hollow of Katharine Clifton’s neck as his? I have never forgotten that. I think of it each time one of my children visits their own claimed topography. They each have a preference for a certain section of my body, whether breastfeeding, sleeping, or looking for a snuggle and comfort. They have each claimed their own parcel of Mommy Real Estate.
Bonding with my children has not been just about the breasts. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they were handy and low maintenance, and always on the menu and just the right temperature. By the way, I ask you: when has that EVER happened since you weaned your child? WHEN in the name of God and all His backup singers? Never! Am I right?
Now, each child had a favorite spot, but there was one part of me that all three loved equally: the soft underside of my upper arm. It was a must for any baby of mine to fall asleep with the top of the head firmly pressed into my outstretched arm and body curled into my chest. I think it reminded them of the closeness of my womb, and the security of that pressure.
They have since adopted different parts of my body as personal totems and touchstones. If one of my children is upset, I know that all I have to do is sit quietly and help them to find their secret spot, and all will be well again.
My eldest always nursed as a baby while holding onto my nose. He liked the feel of the tip on the palm of his hand, and no matter how much I discouraged him or tried to distract him, he was never happy unless he could rest his hand there. It was either that or the inside of my mouth, fingers curled over my lower teeth. The nose, I decided, was not so bad. Later, as he weaned and began to walk and talk, he began to rest his hand on the swell of my breast, just under my collarbone. Again, I think it was the sensation of having warm, soft flesh against his palm. It soothed him. I don’t have a single picture of the two of us together during his toddlerhood where he doesn’t have one hand down the front of my shirt and the other around my shoulder.
He never did have a traditional lovey—not a blanket, or a bottle, or a teddy bear. He did, however, carry around a tennis ball. There is just something about a convex surface in the palm of that kid’s hand that makes him feel safe. I sometimes still catch him sidling up to me and slipping his hand under the back of my shirt to rest his palm along my waist for a moment before moving away.
My middle child was always very big on eye contact. Whenever I sang to him or told him a story, he would sit on my lap, hands folded, absolutely silent, with his wide eyes on mine. He would listen until the song or story ended, pull his binky slightly out of his mouth, and say simply, “More.”
And, if we fell asleep together, it was likely as not forehead-to-forehead, smiling at one another. We might turn over and snuggle up back-to-back, our spines pressed together.
My daughter had her own preferences. She was incredibly partial to my left shoulder. She placed her blanket over my shoulder, arranged it just right, and then nestled her head into the soft nest she made, thumb in mouth. She also liked to get right in front of my face, press our foreheads together, look into my eyes and tell me that she likes me, and that I am home. It got me every time. She shared my bed for the first several years (that’s a story for another time), and when we fell asleep together, we’d curl in, facing one another, her snuggled tightly into my chest. And always, just as with her brothers before her, I stretched my right arm out and she pressed the crown of her head into the underside so that she is encompassed within the 90 degree angle of my arm and my body. It was her haven and mine as well.
What was your child’s haven? Do you miss it? Is there some way you have preserved it as they grew?