My son is already almost six months old, but I haven’t fully absorbed the fact that I’m a mother to someone. I always found it funny when people said mak orang (lit. “someone’s mother”) in Malay, but this time it’s me they’re talking about.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my son and I love mothering. Soon after I last reflected on fasting while breastfeeding, I decided to give it a try. We started Ramadan in the Netherlands, where there was 19.5 hours of daylight. With a cold circulating in our small family, I was not even going to try fasting. I know that I can make use of the rukhsa (dispensation) from fasting, so the decision to try was only because I was curious of my body’s limits and capabilities.
After I got better, I woke up to eat sahur with my husband with the intention of just trying – if I felt too thirsty or light-headed, or if my son seemed to not be getting enough milk, I would break my fast. I also chose to follow the fatwa to fast according to Mecca’s dawn and sunset times so as to get the best of both fasting and nursing.
I managed for two days. Alhamdulilah, I felt okay at the end of both days. We all could eat iftar together, and my son was absolutely fine. (In fact, he got the Ramadan memo and fed only thrice during the fast.) I felt much too drained by the third day and decided I would take a break.
So far, both my son and I are doing fine on the new routine. (He even got the time zone memo.) I feel much more comfortable fasting with the knowledge that I have the dispensation to eat and drink. I feel relieved and grateful that the issue isn’t black-and-white: I don’t have to completely give up fasting, nor do I have to fast every day.
These sentiments are something that I wish I could retain for many other acts of worship. The concept of obligation has been ingrained so deep that I can’t help the feelings of guilt that creep when I forget or can’t find the time to pray, for example. Although I know that part of it is natural and expected postpartum memory loss (the famous mummy brain), I still feel like it’s just me being lazy sometimes so I give myself a hard time about it.
I wonder how it would be if every act of worship I did was truly because I wanted to do it, and not because I felt like it was something I had to do.
This Ramadan so far has been one of searching – more so than usual. I haven’t found all the answers, but with a new person in my life, I hope to be able to impart the tradition of finding worship that works for each of us.
For more on MMW’s Ramadan series, and to read the rest of this year’s Ramadan posts, click here.