I don’t have any breastmilk in the freezer. I did, until this afternoon, when my wife took out the last pouch to give to our daughter tonight. It’s an unexpectedly emotional feeling, even though we’ve just been hanging onto that last portion, waiting for the clock to run down until it was time to either feed it to her or throw it away. I used to have a whole shelf; portioned, labelled, boxed up by date. First in, first out obviously – I remember my food handling course. But now, none at all.
It doesn’t mean anything, our toddler getting her milk from a cup instead of a boob this evening – tomorrow, like yesterday, she’ll go back to getting it from the source. But it used to mean so much – we knew what was in there, how long it would last, what I needed to pump to keep us ticking over. We needed that milk – to supplement when we worried over her slow weight gain, to comfort and feed her while I returned to work or for those rare nights out. But now, she’s a deliciously chonky toddler, happy out getting her bainne from me or the carton in the fridge. I’ll still keep breastfeeding, but milk isn’t everything she’s getting anymore – no need to stress when she’s not getting enough.
A bittersweet milestone then. That’s not quite the whole story though. See, I was saving some for another milestone, for when I (finally) spent the night away from our daughter. The plan was to do that in May, for a friend’s 40th but well… you know what happened. So here we are. I never quite intended to spent the first 18 months of my daughter’s life never leaving her overnight. But with one thing and another – pumping, night weaning, babysitters, a global pandemic – it just never quite happened. And so here I am, without any breastmilk in the freezer, and not even a hangover to show for it.
It feels like so many milestones have become untethered, their placement and proximity floating almost meaningless through the haze of what has become everyday life. I used to be able to tell you all the words my daughter could speak or sign – now she’s onto three and four word sentences jumbling up her Bearla agus Gaeilge as she asks for “again piano ceol hol (le do thoil)” for what feels like the umpteenth time. She sets up little tea parties for her bears (and ‘seep’ and ‘puppy’ and ‘dino’ and ‘raff’), feeding them air with precision spoon movements that she must have only mastered days ago, not weeks. Almost all the leaves have fallen in our garden, but that can’t be right because it’s only just autumn, surely. It’s time to get out winter coats, but didn’t I just put them away? Wasn’t this snow suit laughably huge for her when we were given it? Is it bedtime already?
So I sit here, not tidying away toys or sorting dinner, just thinking, grasping for solid milestones, the mental equivalent of a stone post telling me how far I’ve come. It is eight months since my daughter first stood up on her own. It is eight weeks since I handed in my masters. It is exactly one year since I last saw my grandmother. It is roughly one hour since I kissed my daughter goodnight. It is just over three weeks since we returned to lockdown. It is well over three years since we moved into this house. It is nearly two years since I was last in my hometown. It is only two weeks since Hallowe’en.
But looking forward? I’m not so sure where my temporal touchstones are. I can tell you how long it is until my mum’s birthday, until Christmas, until the next episode of the Mandalorian comes out. But more than that? I can’t figure out when things will change, when we’ll move out of this shifting, tumbling time. But we will. As an old friend always tells me, this too shall pass. Someday I will let my daughter push the button for the traffic lights, rather than awkwardly using my elbow. Someday I will hug my friends when they tell me good news, or sad news, or just to say hello. Someday my daughter will spend the whole day at her grandparents’ house without us worrying about how well ventilated the room is. Someday I will get my masters results. Someday we’ll take our daughter on a plane again, and show her where I grew up. Someday I will not mentally gauge how many people are in a playground before deciding to walk past. And someday, I will wake up in a different place to my child, and hopefully not miss her scrumptiously wonderful little face too much. I hope someday will come soon.