The past six Ramadans, I rise before the sun does. It’s not to eat suhoor, nor do I prepare it for my husband. I trudge by him as he groggily slurps down a bowl of O’s, we exchange a look of mutual exhaustion.
It’s a call that summons me awake, reminding me that there’s something greater than sleep.
I kick my way out of the covers, sit up, and quickly begin reorienting myself. Peeling away from a dreamy subconscious realm, I stand up and enter my reality. Motherhood.
As you may have guessed, it’s not a melodious adhan app easing me awake. It is, but one of many calls–cries–alerting me to feed fragile new life, soothe raw teething gums, nurse recurrent ear infections, or to tag team as I replace bed linens while my husband bathes soiled little ones. Other times, it’s my oppressed bladder calling, pleading to be relieved as my burgeoning womb occupies increasingly more territory. (Yes, my newsfeed looks as terrifying as yours these days.)
These years of disjointed sleep, hormonal surges, and neurochemical flux in an ever-expanding and shrinking body yield three vital extensions of our lives. My husband knows all too well the bizarre food pairings–like banana slices atop spiced olives–and noxious smelling fish oil pills that sustain the incubator and dairy cow my body morphs in and out of for three pregnancies and three years of near-exclusive lactation.
Nourishing their tiny bodies hinges on the nourishment of mine; thus, I am exempt from fasting, Ramadan after Ramadan. I am not, however, exempt from worship.
“Not recently. … I know it’s Ramadan. … Can’t you just pray for me? … I meant, on my behalf, so, like, I don’t have to? … Calm down, I’m kidding Ammi! Anyway, you’re reaching your prayer reminder quota, let’s discuss something else.” Versions of this phone conversation take place every Ramadan. Luckily, my mom goes easy on me, in turn, I make her smile as I relay to her the silly antics of her grandchildren.
Spirituality doesn’t come easily to me, and heightening it during Ramadan — without fasting — is a challenge I don’t embark. The exempt, be they the elderly, the ill, the menstruating still have a myriad of ways of worshipping besides abstaining from food and drink—Qur’an recitation or study, prayer, or meditating by rhythmically repeating God’s 99 names. For me, however, the absence of tangible food and water is essential to my Ramadan experience.
For a few of those Ramadans, my fatigued mind, glimpsing the grey clouds of postpartum depression, is preoccupied with the steep learning curve of motherhood. Guidance and support is less readily sought in the Qur’an or at a mosque and more often in parenting books, blogs, and forums.
Don’t get me wrong, there is some remembrance, gratitude, and a sprinkling of prayers. God’s name is evoked and not just in times of need — like the time my newborn began shooting projectile vomit two feet into the air like a fire hydrant. (Yes, it’s possible. Look it up on YouTube.)
Alas, that time has passed. This year, I fast. This year, my body is returned to me (albeit with a four inch long line, a C-section memento). This Ramadan, it’s my iPhone that summons me awake, and I eat suhoor. My mind quietens. My focus shifts away from want. My awareness heightens and my periphery expands like a panorama. I am awash in awe and gratitude. It is good to be back. (Full stop.) The En–
–I would love to end there. Truthfully, though, those sentiments begin evaporating by 6:00PM, sometimes sooner, and irritability or delirium start setting in (and I still have two hours to go). Humor is lost on me at discovering our pet beta fiercely dodging saturated Goldfish crackers floating in its glass bowl courtesy of my brats. Mass timeouts ensue. Last week, in my sugar-low stupor, I insist we watch the film, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” so my eyes may indulge animated scoops of ice cream rain from the sky. Worry not, thankfully, my husband is working from home these days and able to anchor me back in when I’m completely out to sea.
My Ramadan experience is still a work in progress and, perhaps, it will always be so. Nonetheless, it is good to be back.Shazia Riaz is an editor at altMuslimah and a mother of three.
Photo Credit: Abdullah Al Muhairi