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Perfect Timing

Thursday, 31 January 2008

I have always been one for rituals. Their prescribed actions provide stabilty in an uncertain world. They create boundaries in time and space, taking what was once ordinary and making it sacred. Taking moments of profound sadness or joy and providing context.

The laws concerning a woman and her state of sexual unavailability are known by the tractate in which they may be found; niddah. Without going into detail (a topic for another day), let us simply say that most liberal women ignore the laws and rituals known as taharat hamishpacha either out of ignorance or defiance.

In the classic How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household, Blu Greenberg is quick to point out that

“there are all kinds of rhythms in Jewish life — of nature, time, celebration, and history. Taharat hamishpachah also suggests a rhythm to life and to human sexualty. Not only is there a time for caution and a time for restraint, but there is also a time to bear children, and a time those options will be foreclosed.”

I suppose I should have been prepared. After all, Peach started eating solid foods nearly 3 months ago. November 4th, to be exact. As noted in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, “any time the amount ot baby’s sucking at the breast is reduced, a mother should realize that her hormome level could be affected and her menstrual cycle may resume.” Anecdotally, we all know of babies conceived while their mothers were nursing older siblings. However, those older siblings were probably at least six months of age at that time for almost all mothers who are fully breastfeeding their babies are free of their cycle for the first six months. Known as lactational amenorrhea (the absence of periods due to breastfeeding), the infant’s frequent nursing inhibits the release of hormones that cause the menstrual cycle. We think of the lack of a period as a departure from the cyclical norm. In fact, going for years without a period is exactly what occurred in earlier times when we would nurse each child for several years and enjoy extended periods of time free from a period. When the cycle would start, we would soon conceive, and so forth. As a result, women had far fewer periods during their lifetime and it has been suggested that the smaller numbers of hormonal shifts may in fact be the reason for less cases of some cancers.

Peach is now 9-and-a-half months old and is getting his nutrients from solid foods (can pureed peas be considered solid??), formula, and breast milk. No matter how often I pump or how many cups of Mother’s Milk tea I consume, I can’t seem to keep up with him.

[He took 5 oz of breast and 2 of formula as a “snack” at 9:00pm. That was the result of THREE pumping sessions!!!]

So where is the ritual to mark the return of one’s menstrual period after giving birth? What can I do to soften the sadness that I feel as my body returns to “normal?” It is hard to acknowledge that no matter what I do, my baby is no longer an infant. Pulling himself to a standing position and “cruising” along the perimeter of the room signifies the start of the transition from baby to toddler.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have given life. I am excited for the next phase in Peach’s life. And I am sad too.

And that’s OK.

In my package I received just today, the Ima had included a little blessing that reads: Every Journey Brings Blessings.

Thank you, my friend, for the reminder.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, 1 February 2008 12:37 pm

    what about mikveh? maybe you could put together (check the “lifecycles” book — mine is in storage) something or adapt something from ritualwell.org — there are some nice rituals for weaning… maybe invite some mom friends to share the ritual with you? (i’m too far away;-)

    the transition can be so difficult because we know they have to grow up…but do they have to do it so fast?

    glad you liked the blessing….and isn’t it amazing how the messages that come are so often the messages that we need???

    shabbat shalom:-)

  2. Frume Sarah permalink
    Friday, 1 February 2008 3:41 pm

    Yeah, EK suggested mikvah in an offline email too. And I might try that. It just seems as though something was needed at the exact moment. Something other than chocolate…

    And I’m not certain this counts as weaning. Or, I guess it is the start of the weaning process.

    AARRRRRGGGHHHH!! Where’s the chocolate???

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