Breastfeeding as Ninja Meditation
I expected to have some trouble learning to breastfeed because I’d read all these horrors stories about the dreaded latch and nipples falling off and babies who were born to drink formula and I felt lucky when we overcame any tiny troubles without incident. Breastfeeding for me has mostly been a joy because it is something really important, something I’m good at and that my top-heavy body looks made to do. I can also do it while I sleep, eat, text, talk on the phone and gift-wrap a book of fairy tales.
But breastfeeding has also shown me I have this Ninja-like internal strength that can draw my mind away from my body so that I can endure something excruciating — like the tickle of tiny nails against my nipple for close to an hour as a lazy baby nurses for comfort and uses my body as a playground.
I’m convinced that if you wanted to recruit a torture-proof operative for CSIS you need look no further than breastfeeding moms who learn to travel somewhere else in their heads, waiting for the never-ending moment to stop. I’m not saying that breastfeeding has that much in common with torture. But I have been known to make the comparison when a tiny foot is shoved deep into my spleen, during a relentless back and forth from one breast to the other. I have watched the sun rise too many times while a tiny person lying next to me lazily slurps and sleeps their way through it.
Those moments of mental anguish or physical discomfort (often both, if I’m being honest) have given me a kind of meditative fortitude that I never would have otherwise acquired. Having grown up with a mother who meditated twice a day, I rebelled by meditating never. Having a baby has forced me to sit with my thoughts.
I have actually learned to do that thing I always hear about from those more spiritually advanced, the ‘watching your thoughts go by’ thing where you just observe them and let them move through you. It feels pretty great, and I got there without ever having to stroke the ego of a patriarch. Except for the tiny one in my arms, I guess.
The most incredible thing I’ve discovered since I started breastfeeding is that I can tell the exact moment my son falls asleep. It’s the most wondrous thing. I never would have noticed it had I not spent so much time holding him in my arms and waiting for that moment to come. It feels like being in a room with another person and then having them get up and leave. One minute they’re there and the next you’re alone. Their body is still there but the rest of them feels like they’ve left the building. It is such a quiet and subtle moment and I marvel at it every time it happens.
I can’t even imagine how much I will miss breastfeeding once it finally comes to a close (and that’s any day now, kid). But it has been boring and enlightening and torture and pleasure all at the same time. I will be thinking about ‘those times’ long after my son has forgotten them.