“Call my doctor!” the voice came out of my mouth but was unrecognizable as me.
“But, Mrs. Leite, you are having this baby,” the nurse said.
“Can you give me an epideral? Can you give me drugs?”
“Then call my doctor! He said I could have a Cesarean any time I wanted!”
The nurse was right. Oh, she called the doctor and he came to the hospital at 4am, but I did have my baby boy and I didn’t have a Cesarean just as she said. What can I say, everything about childbirth was uncomfortable for me. Labor itself was painful since I didn’t have access to pain killers with either childbirth. I was nauseous, had the chills, was sweaty, lost all sensibilities and social graces evaded me. There were tears. There were demands and mild threats. There was every form of bodily fluid. It was not a pretty scene. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
Even so, both children were born healthy in well-respected hospitals with trained doctors and nurses. We traveled less than 30 miles by car to get to the hospitals Once they were born, the pain and discomfort quickly became distant memories as I held one of the greatest treasures of my life ~ my children ~ in my arms. My room was filled with flowers from family and friends. We were loaded with goodies to get us off to a great start as we embarked on our new lives as parents.
Several times this week I heard the story of Mary and the birth of Jesus, which is not surprising since Christmas is right around the corner. But each account focused on the real conditions under which Mary gave birth to Jesus. Over the years I have learned to pay attention when God repeatedly puts something in my path. And so I pondered about this miraculous birth, and in doing so, I was brought to tears.
I imagined Mary, young, maybe 15 years old, full into her pregnancy traveling by foot or by donkey for many miles a day. She was so close to giving birth and yet their traveling wasn’t taking them any closer to a hospital. No, far from it. They were traveling away from home, away from familiar surroundings, away from mid-wives and mothers. They were traveling to a city crowded with visitors. I imagine what must have gone through her mind. I know what would have gone through mine.
Lord, please don’t let me go into labor until I get somewhere safe, preferably home, Lord. I’m scared and I really want my family here. I want my mother. I’ve never done this before. I love Joseph, and I don’t mean any disrespect, but what does he know about birthing babies?
They arrive at their destination only to find every available human shelter taken. Even human shelter in this city was not much ~ a room consisting of four walls, a makeshift floor raised inches off the dirty ground below. Travelers used their own bedding and slept on the floor while their animals rested in a corral. But even this most basic of shelter was not available to Mary. We’ve probably all sang these words before “away in a manger, no room for a bed.” And so Mary and Joseph made their way to a stable to get some rest. Again, I imagine what my thoughts would be.
Oh, Lord, please, not here. Please, don’t let my baby come tonight. It’s bad enough that we have to sleep with the animals, don’t let this be the place where my child is born.
But the pains come anyway. Regular, sharp, contractions that make sweat break out on your brow. Painful, nauseating contractions as your body begins the process of helping this new child make its way into the world. There are no ice chips for Mary. No monitors to track her progress. No bathrooms, doctors, nurses or medication. Her body just does what God designed it to do in this situation and she gives birth. It was painful, scary, uncomfortable, messy. It happened in an unfamiliar place among animals, with only Joseph to help. I imagine her pain, her fear, her vulnerability and it brings tears to my eyes.
Joseph lays baby Jesus on Mary’s chest. I imagine that they both radiated with love. Like me, Mary has already begun to forget the pain and discomfort. The little family, so focused on each other, for moments at least, that they are oblivious to their surroundings. Their full attention is on the precious child that rests on Mary’s chest, so close that it is difficult to distinguish where one ends and the other begins. From her meager belongings, Mary pulls out a swaddling cloth and wraps her newborn baby boy. No flowers, no special outfit, no stroller that converts into every other conceivable form of transportation, no pushing presents. No, they didn’t have much besides each other. Just a beautiful, silent, star-filled night. Just the angels calling out the good news, singing glory to God in the highest. Just kings who were beginning their travels to worship her newborn child. Just the satisfaction of being obedient servants. Just the presence of God. Just the humble honor of being God’s special delivery team. Just being the vehicle by which God brought incomprehensible joy to this broken world. No they didn’t have much, just everything. It really does bring tears to my eyes.