Thursday, December 28, 2006
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Your builders outdo your destroyers, and those who laid you waste go away from you.
Lift up your eyes all around and see; they all gather, they come to you. As I live, says the Lord, you shall put all of them on like an ornament, and like a bride you shall bind them on.
~ Isaiah 49:13-18
At this time 14 years ago I was the mother of a beautiful and robust baby girl, Petra having been born in September of that year. Five years before that, I was the mother of a slightly younger but also thriving baby boy, Larry-O being just six weeks old at Christmastide. I have vivid memories of taking each of them to church during this season-- showing them off, proud, young mother that I was. And I have specific memories attached to nursing them at this time as well.
Shorty after Larry was born, we had a visit from Mikhail, the priest who married us. He sat in the living room with us for a long time, while we all essentially adored this baby. I would nurse him on and off, and a feeling of nesting, love and coziness permeated all. On Christmas day we took Larry to church, showed him off, and generally glowed and basked in our new parenthood. To our shock, we and Larry formed part of the content of Mike's sermon that morning-- the image of parents, in love with this new life, filled with gratitude for the amazing gift. As we drove home from church, Mr. Mags said, "I guess I really get Christmas now. I get what all the fuss is about. Even if it's about any new baby who is loved-- that's enough."
When Petra was a nursing infant I remember holding her through a service of Lessons and Carols on the Sunday after Christmas. Petra grew fussy and I took her to the back of the church, to a little secluded alcove that had once functioned as a children's chapel. There, beneath a blanket, I nursed her. One choral piece had a glorious organ accompaniment. As the music rose to a climax Petra took her milky mouth from my breast and rooted in the air, as if trying to drink in that sound. I came away from that experience understanding something about myself, and my longing for an experience of the divine, a feeling that was very much like my beautiful girl, trying to nurse at beauty itself.