Those of you following me on Twitter will know that while in Scotland last week I happened upon a beautiful statue of the toddler Jesus breastfeeding. I have now uploaded the photos, and I want to share them with you and tell you a little about the statue and my feelings when I saw it.
This statue of Mary nursing her toddler Jesus resides in a tiny church on the remote Scottish island of Mull. Whether or not you are a Christian, I hope you will agree that it is a gorgeous depiction of a mother caring for her young child. During the service on Easter Sunday, my toddler (age 2 1/2) asked to nurse and I sat down to feed him. As I lifted up my top I wondered how the parishioners of this church, strangers to me, would react to my breastfeeding a toddler in their midst. It was a huge comfort to look up and see this statue. Toddler nursing was nothing new to this small congregation. They saw it every week in this beautiful statue that stood before them.
How old to you think Jesus here? I thought two, my husband thinks he’s closer to three years old. I have seen many paintings of Mary nursing Jesus but never before a sculpture. I love the sway of Mary’s hip as she holds Jesus; it’s a familiar stance for me and for many mothers. We hold our babies and toddlers on our hips all the time. But how often do mothers nurse their babies standing up? For me, it’s when I’m doing something in the kitchen. At the moment she is touching Jesus with her right hand (keeping his hand away from the steaming pot?), but was she also stirring the dinner?
Another thing I love about this statue is the position of Jesus’s hands. Many nursing mothers will be familiar with the roving hands that go with holding an infant close. Whether it’s a very young baby tapping her mother’s chest with her tiny fist or a toddler reaching up to stroke his mother’s face, nursing a child always involves hands! Aidan is forever touching my neck, stroking my face, threading his hand up into my sleeve. Some mothers find that when babies reach a certain age they reach over to the the other side and do a bit of twiddling; perhaps Mary’s grasp of Jesus’s hand is preventing him from doing the same.
Interestingly, the statue was donated to the church by a local resident who unearthed it in their garden. I hope that you are as fascinated by the statue as I was. It certainly gave me food for thought. Please do share your thoughts with me and any experiences you have had of finding breastfeeding in the most unlikely places, or finding this special relationship depicted in artwork.
Words and photographs © Lisa Hassan Scott 2012. For reprint permission contact the copyright holder.