This was the first time I wasn’t excited about the upcoming month of Ramadan! Yes, you heard me right. In fact, I am ashamed to admit I was almost dreading the month. And yet I am writing this piece and confessing, in the hope that it might benefit others in a similar situation.
It’s not that it was my first Ramadan away from home and family. Last year was a similar experience however I was in my pregnancy’s last trimester and hence not fasting plus my parents were coming over for my delivery so they intended to spend the last 10 days of Ramadan with me so I had something to look forward to.
But this year the upcoming Ramadan sounded bleak and terrifying. My husband had warned me that it would be his busy season and he would be working late and not be home in time for Iftar. And it was my little one’s first Ramadan. She was teething and the nights had been nightmarish for the past few weeks with her waking up every few hours and at times every single hour.
She was used to the peace and quiet in New Zealand and I was very much aware of her habit of waking up at the slightest noise. How will I prepare for Suhoor without her waking up? Will I just keep nursing her back to sleep at Suhoor and leave myself and my husband hungry for the day? Will I get any sleep and rest? Were a few questions that kept haunting me months before Ramadan started.
And to top it all she absolutely loathed formula milk and was exclusively breastfed – since she had no tolerance for a bottle, expressing milk was not an option either.
Skipping fasts was a no-no for me. I had already skipped fasts last year due to pregnancy and I didn’t want to lose out the opportunity to please Allah and earn Thawab this year and so I was adamant on fasting but very scared of the outcome it may have on myself and my baby.
As I had expected, the first fast was a disaster. My milk supply has low and I was trying to keep her on solids and formula which wasn’t working much. I tried resisting the urge to breastfeed her often and that made her more cross. She ended up screaming and crying for most part of the day and I ended up having a headache and feeling utterly exhausted and hopeless. I even skipped Taraweeh and went to bed as soon as she slept. The next day was worse with her waking up at Suhoor and then not going back to bed.
I was so frustrated that I ended up crying in my prayers and deciding to give up fasting. And that’s when Allah’s magic happened.
Somehow I got new hope and faith. I asked him, I begged him for His mercy to make it easy for me. And that’s when I realised how much He had blessed me with. It’s only when we go through hardships do we realise how much He has bestowed us with. And that’s when I decided to make the most of Ramadan through other ways. Here are a few tips for other Sisters in the same or similar situation of how I am trying to make the most of this month.
• Niyyah: We cook Suhoor and Iftar for ourselves and our family, we clean, feed and look after our children…what if instead of considering these as daily chores, we thought of these actions as a means of pleasing Allah?
It may sound difficult, even hypocritical at start as we’d be doing those tasks anyway, however, I kept reminding myself of it again and again. And now when I find myself getting drowsy and irritatable at the time of preparing for Suhoor, I remind myself that in addition to myself, I would also be feeding another person who would be fasting and Allah will reward me for it and that makes me extremely happy.
Alhamdulillah Allah has blessed us with so many opportunities to earn Thawab, our daily actions if done with the right intention can please Allah so much.
• Taking care of yourself: This might sound like another task on your never ending to-do list, in fact, the last and least important task on your list. Try making it a priority this month. You have 11 more months to take care of the house chores. Think of it this way, how will you be able to fast, make the most of this month and take care of your family if you don’t take care of yourself?
Like I mentioned above, have the correct intention. If you are drinking water to keep yourself hydrated, think of it as a way to keep your milk supply up and help you fast.
• Supplicating as and when possible: If you are waiting for the perfect quiet time to pray, trust me it won’t happen! Being a mother to an infant, I know how fast those minutes tick away and you get so engrossed in your daily tasks that making time for Allah becomes the last task.
I know it’s hard to find time to offer extra Nafls and Tasbeehs, so I decided to just supplicate and pray Tasbeehs as and when possible. Be it when nursing my daughter or when rocking her to sleep. It doesn’t have to be something complicated. Just do what your heart say. At times, I just find myself saying Astagfar and asking for the Lord’s forgiveness while at other times just staring at my daughter sleep and saying Alhamdulillah for blessing me with her.
• Don’t forget to thank Him: You may be frustrated and tired but you are still better off than millions other. You may be tired of cooking Suhoor and Iftar but there are many who don’t have enough to eat.
Though my baby fell ill on the 3rd of Ramadan and I had to skip my fast in order to cater to her growing nursing needs, yet I thanked Allah that he had given me the chance to serve Him and earn rewards in a different manner.
At times, it’s just about seeing the positive in the negative. Allah never leaves His servants alone, for He is the most merciful.
• Ease up: It’s not your baby’s fault if you are thirsty or if you are feeling hungry after constantly nursing her during your fast. I ended up screaming at my infant during the first fast though it wasn’t her fault that she was feeling hungry and I had suddenly decided to feed her formula.
To all the mothers out there – whether breastfeeding, working, taking care of school going kids or any other…you are doing a wonderful job! Hats off to you! Pat yourself on the back and say thanks to Allah for giving you this opportunity to become a mother, to be responsible for another human life. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take a break and make Dua to Allah to ease all your hardships and He will surely answer.
Don’t fret if you are missing fasting because you are pregnant or nursing, Mashallah Allah has blessed you with this wonderful month and opportunity to take care of another life and earn rewards through other means. Never give up hope in Him. Confide in Him. Don’t worry about what others say, this is a matter between you and Him and surely Allah knows best!