The Rhythm of Our Lives
Rolla MO USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25, No. 1, January-February 2008, pp. 22-23
When I became a mother, many things in my life changed. I was startled and dismayed by the magnitude in which my free time diminished and, one by one, many of my leisure pursuits and hobbies were discarded. The time for one of my favorite hobbies increased exponentially, however, and this was a very pleasant surprise. That hobby is reading. As a child, I was a voracious reader -- my mother had to set a limit for me of "only two books a day." In college and graduate school, reading for fun fell away and I spent six years reading primarily textbooks and journal articles. In the years following, I began to read for pleasure again and when my first baby was born in 2003, I once again became a truly avid reader. Why? Because of breastfeeding. As I nursed my little son, I read. I devoured mostly nonfiction with occasional fiction as "dessert."
At first I scoured THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and the Sears' The Baby Book to try to make sense of my new life, and then I began to gobble up books about motherhood and women's experiences of mothering. Reading helped me to adjust to motherhood. An article published in the fall 2003 issue of Mothering magazine ("Breathing In, I Am Nursing My Baby: Breastfeeding as a Spiritual Practice" by Leslie Davis) was immensely meaningful to me. My baby was about two weeks old when I read it. Breastfeeding can be a meditative and spiritual act -- it is actually a "practice," a "discipline" of sorts. Author, Leslie Davis, explains it better:
I realized I'd never before devoted myself to something so entirely. Of course I've devoted myself to my husband, to my family, to friends, to my writing, to mothering, and even to God and other spiritual endeavors at various points in my life...I'd completely given myself to this act of nursing in a way that I never had before. Nothing was more important than nursing my son. Nothing was put before it. There was no procrastination as with exercise, no excuses as with trying to stop eating sugar, no laziness as with housecleaning and other chores. Nursing had to be done, and I did it, over and over again, multiple times a day, for more than 800 days in a row. It was the closest thing to a spiritual practice that I'd ever experienced.
Viewing the act of breastfeeding through a spiritual lens like this was a lifeline to me as a vulnerable, sensitive, and bruised postpartum woman trying desperately to adjust my pace as an overachieving, "successful," independent person to one spending hours in my nursing chair attached to a tiny mouth. I marvel at the uncountable number of times I spent nursing Lann and that I now spend nursing my second son, Zander. I calculate that I've probably nursed Zander about 3,000 times just lying down to go to sleep (nap or bedtime, plus waking up times, too). That is just the lying down times, not the sitting in the chair or standing in the baby carrier times. This is the key to my reading success -- I've had over 3,000 opportunities during the last year to pick up a book or other reading materials!
In 2007, I read approximately 150 books. I lie in my "nest" with my baby nursing and my older son resting near my back. The baby is nourished by me and, in this pause in the busyness of life, I am in turn nourished by the access he allows me to the printed word. As he grows bigger with my milk, I also "grow" intellectually and in the opportunity for spiritual and emotional renewal. As my baby drifts off I read to myself, and when he is asleep I read stories to my four-year-old. This is the rhythm of our lives -- suck, swallow, read, and consider.