It’s official. After 13+ months of nursing my twin daughters, the little ladies are pretty much weaned. And in many regards, I think that’s a good thing. For one, it makes my schedule much more manageable. No longer do I have to worry about cutting a nursing session short to accommodate a second screaming baby, or being forced to nurse in public when we’re out and about. Now I can bottle-feed my daughters at the same time, or take their bottles on the go and whip them out as needed without exposing myself in the process. It also means that I’m no longer quite as tethered to the house, or to the girls, as I once was, and while that does make me sad in some regards, I recognize that it’s a healthy point to have reached.
Still, there’s one thing I’ve already started to miss about breastfeeding: prayer time.
I used to use my nursing sessions as an opportunity to get in some real, meaningful prayers. Sometimes I’d pray from a siddur; other times I’d invent my own prayers, stringing together words and sentiments as they came to mind. I’d often spend the majority of my morning nursing sessions—the longest ones—deep in prayer.
During the day, nursing served a different purpose; it was an opportunity to catch up on emails, read the occasional article online, and so forth. And while I’m still able to squeeze those things in here and there during the day, praying on the fly is something I’m just not used to doing. To me, prayer is a deep, intimate process that demands time, and while I can skim an article if I’ve only got 45 seconds at my disposal, I have a much harder time rushing through prayer.
Of course, those nursing session prayers weren’t always as focused and uninterrupted as I would’ve liked. Some mornings, I’d be nursing and praying while my toddler’s toys clanged loudly in the background. Other times, I’d be in the middle of a prayer and have one of my daughters suddenly pop off the breast in a violent jerk. (There’s nothing like being mid-Shema and uttering an accidental “Oh, shit” when your infant decides to sink her teeth into your nipple.) But despite the inevitable distractions that came with praying while nursing, for the most part, I was able to use that time in a meaningful way.
And that’s why I suddenly find myself missing those nursing sessions—because they forced me to slow down, and sit down, and take some time to connect before jumping back into the mad dash of everyday life.
One of the first blessings in the traditional morning prayer service praises God for giving our hearts the understanding to distinguish day from night. I’ve always appreciated that prayer in particular, and regarded it as sort of a spiritual cup of morning coffee. I still say that prayer, and several others, when I first arise in the morning. But if I’m being honest, given the little amount of sleep I get, I have a hard time motivating myself to set my alarm clock even earlier to allow for the amount of prayer I used to get in while nursing. Now, my former 40+ minutes of morning prayer have been whittled down to a meager 15 minutes.
Then again, though I don’t have as much time as I once did, when I do sit down to pray, I’m able to really focus on what I’m saying and how I’m feeling without distraction. For those 15 minutes, I’m engrossed, and I’m alone. While I’d eventually like to work more time into my schedule to dedicate to prayer, for now, as is the case with so many things in life, I’d like to believe that quality counts just as much, if not more so, than quantity.