The mother can lay her child tenderly to her breast, but our tender Mother Jesus can lead us easily into his blessed breast through his sweet open side, and show us there a part of the godhead and of the joys of heaven, with the inner certainty of endless bliss (Ibid. 239).
When my husband and I signed up for our labor and delivery classes at Meriter Hospital, I looked forward to these sessions with both excitement and trepidation. It was unfortunate that we missed the last class, which was on breastfeeding. I never really thought it would be a big deal. After all, my mother never had any problems, and I knew women had been doing this for ages. The thought of taking a class on a "natural" biological event seemed a bit strange.
When my infant son was born with a full head of hair and a round little face, the nurses plopped him on my breast as I was lying prone recovering from surgery. I didn’t know anything about latching him on, nor did he. He lay on top of me like a little papoose snuggling into me for warmth. As we waited and waited for my milk to come in Elias, my little baby, started to lose weight. In the meantime, I felt so helpless and was helpless to the helpless. I was amazed that this tiny creature had to be taught how to eat, how to breastfeed. I thought of our Lord as an infant getting his own clenched fists in the way of his mouth and of his source of life. Who could imagine that the King of the Universe would have struggled like Elias did to learn his source of sustenance and succor? While Elias had his own struggles, his mother wondered about her ability to mother, especially without the powerful gift of strong feminine milk. The milk finally came in, but soon we were to learn that the mother/son pair just couldn’t find a great symbiotic rhythm.
After a couple of weeks of lots of trial and error, it was discovered that I did not produce enough milk to keep my son going. It was no wonder we started to pray the hours more than even a monastic community. You see, every time Elias needed to eat we would set ourselves up in the breastfeeding chair. During those moments of desolation, that place became a place of prayer. A simple, "Please, Lord, help him get enough" was enough to keep the prayers going to God. Once I was put on medication to produce more breastmilk, my prayers changed in nature. I began to gather my Daily Office book by my chair and read the offices when it became time to nurse. We started with Morning Prayer, a midmorning individual devotion, noonday prayer, midafternoon individual devotion, Evening Prayer, and then, of course, Compline. If it was a good night then we had no more daily offices until Morning Prayer again as the little one woke-up ready to eat. It would be a bit of an exaggeration to claim that I was praying the offices in the strict understanding of that concept. I wasn’t singing canticles or reciting the Apostles’ Creed. I was, however, gathering my day around the rhythm of life and sustenance of the monastic offices. I was being fed by Scripture, and my son was being fed by the holy food of life.
My chronological time became "cairos" time, God’s time, as we moved to the chair endlessly and sometimes, resentfully, throughout the day. There were times when I thought I could cook dinner, and instead had to leave the recipe half open on the counter for my husband to finish. Elias was living in God’s time, and he was trying to suck me in. Back to the couch to sit and feed, to stare out the window, to reflect on life. Time had taken on a whole new meaning. Although there were times where I felt like I did nothing all day but breastfeed, I can tell you that there is nothing quite like seeing your child gaze up at you as he eats, as he is nourished, and then slowly reach a sense of peace when his eyes fight sleep. Elias and I began a new spiritual practice together. Now as he has reached six months our daily offices have decreased. We now only gather three or four times a day on that chair, but we both have been fed by the spiritual food of Christ as we have shared in this holy gift of life-giving tenderness.