Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Spirituality of Nursing or "Amber Done Turned Hippie"

This week, Alexandra is officially weaned. It has not left us unmarked - Allie has been crying because of constipation, poor dear, and I've been crying because I suddenly can no longer eat like a rabid wolverine. (This has apparently not yet set in, as I am eating cookie dough out of the tub while I type.) I didn't want to leave this milestone unmarked, because as it turns out, nursing was a very moving experience for me.

Disclaimer: I do not write this so anyone will compare their experience with mine. I simply write it to remember something that was very special to me. 

If you recall, I'm more of a head person than a heart person much of the time, and so before Allie was born, Mike said he really couldn't picture me nursing. I myself couldn't really picture it and wasn't sure how I'd fare.

At first, nursing was hard work. I could tell you of several Three Stooges-esque episodes in which four people worked at once to get that 5-pound  babe to actually eat. But I won't. In fact, it wasn't until Allie was about 3 months old that nursing was finally easy and even serene.

That time spent nursing my sweet little baby turned this crusty, critical woman into a smooshy, sentimental sap. I simply loved it. Holding a baby who is completely trusting in your arms and offering them a primal comfort is something utterly different from anything I'd experienced before. Since I'm a writer, I'm going to get all analytical about it.

Because I'm a theist, I believe all things were created by God - each bodily function was not an afterthought, but carefully crafted. And because we were carefully crafted by God, these functions must reveal something about the Creator of it all. I couldn't help when nursing my baby but feel that it was somehow an expression of one part of who God is.

And in case I'm sounding too earthy-birthy, the writers of the Bible agree! Isaiah uses nursing as an analogy for the great good God has promised to Israel:

"Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her,
    all you who love her;
rejoice greatly with her,
    all you who mourn over her.
For you will nurse and be satisfied
    at her comforting breasts;
you will drink deeply
    and delight in her overflowing abundance."

We are supposed to rejoice for we will be figuratively nursed and therefore satisfied, comforted and delighted. The experience of a baby nursing from her mother is a shadow of the joy we will have in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The love of a nursing mother is even compared to God's love for His people:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!

When trying to come up with how strong and unconditional God's love is, the prophet's best comparison was a nursing mother.

Now that I'm pretty much done with nursing, I feel a sense of mourning. I've been looking forward to having my body back to myself for awhile and getting to sleep through the occasional morning feeding. But at the same time, it's sad that such a beautiful time has come to an end. But that is the way with so much of life. God created so many seasons, beautiful in their own way, that each reflect Him uniquely. And what an honor that we get to take part in that. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,I will not forget you."
You are right, Amber, this bonding time is one of God's greatest gifts. This scripture reminds me of kids becoming teenagers and trying hard to struggle away from their seemingly controlling parents who don't understand them at all. They have no idea of the depth of love their parents have for them. I always thought, you cannot fully understand the bond I have with you until you have kids of your own.
A