This past May, I was blessed to give birth to a beautiful baby boy. It took a bit of adjusting, but as we already have two girls, I do view myself as a slightly experienced parent and as such, I was prepared. I knew what to expect, kind of. Compared to my previous experiences, this time has been a breeze, thank God. Baby eats well, my body has been healing well, and I have been able to sleep quite a bit. Not enough, but quite a bit. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, is the spiritual wasteland I have entered after his birth.
Most post-partum Muslim women, me included, follow the opinion that women in our position are given a 40-day respite of most religious and certain conjugal duties. It is considered a time to recover and a time to bond with the newborn, but by no means a vacation, as newborns are, in general, a lot of work. And to recover from childbirth, which has such an impact on our physical and mental state, is no small feat too. Think hormones. Think post-baby bellies. Think exhaustion.
My “40 days” ended just a few weeks before Ramadan started. In theory, I can fast now, but as I am exclusively breastfeeding our son, I have decided that is better for me not to fast this Ramadan. As I never fasted the first year of nursing nor during pregnancies, I have already missed four Ramadans in the last six years. That makes approximately 150 days of fasting, which I will have to make up one day, according to the vast majority of religious scholars.
Still, people will tell me that it is so easy for me that I do not have to fast right now. Days are long, it’s summer, and the kids are home all day, every day. But fasting is fasting, whenever. Though fasting in the winter might be easier, fasting outside Ramadan, by myself and without a celebration to end my period of fasting, isn’t something I look forward to. I hope that one day I feel some sort of Divine inspiration and motivation and that these fasts will come easy for me, but for now they are on my back burner, something I hope to focus on after I am done having and raising children. Of course, there are always those who remind me that if I die now (God forbid) I will go straight to Hell, because I have all these fasts outstanding. I am reluctant to believe that my Beloved God would actually judge that way, so it is a risk I am willing to take right now.
So I planned that this Ramadan would be MY time to get back into the prayer mode. I had planned this already early in pregnancy, because, I have to admit, I have never been very consistent with my prayers. This Ramadan would be my opportunity to get back into the praying groove, and truly, how hard can it be? Five times a day? Just the basic prayers? A breeze compared to a newborn and two demanding but lovely young girls, right? Right?
Or so I thought. More than half of Ramadan has passed, and I am not praying. Or, better said, barely praying. Nor reading Quran, which was my second goal. While I seem to able to read and finish books on wolves in outer Mongolia, for example, I haven’t opened my Quran more than a couple of times.
I can’t say I am very proud, and I can’t say either it doesn’t hurt, but my dedication has just gone out of the window. My eldest daughter, who is just five, spends more time on the prayer mat than I do. And she actually prays, in her own way, but she prays. That realization made me cry. Oh, the mommy guilt! The shame!
So here I am, a visible Muslim woman in a spiritual void in the most spiritual month of the Islamic year. As I am unable to fast, or to attend the many community celebrations, I feel even more disconnected to my identity as a Muslim woman. I cannot say why I am feeling this way or if there is any cause for it. But the lack of spirituality and connection to my Beloved God is encompassing me and fills me with a certain numbness that makes me feel empty and unfulfilled.
But I am not defeated. Not yet. I will continue to keep calling on the Most Merciful, and I will overcome. I am determined, because I have to do this. So I can be a better mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, believer and woman. So I can find, and fulfill, my God-given potential. Insha Allah.
For more on MMW’s Ramadan series, and to read the rest of this year’s Ramadan posts, click here.