In the past I've talked about Jesus the baby and how the wonder of the birth of a baby come to die and save the world put me in awe. But, this year, after giving birth twice (one excruciatingly long and hard and one so quick and easy) my thoughts are about Mary. Mary the girl, the woman, the mother.
I wonder if Mary knew exactly what she was getting into when the angel came to her, a girl, telling her she'd be pregnant and still should marry the man who was not the baby's father. She obeyed. What if she hadn't? Did Mary know how fast she'd have to grow up to become a mother and a wife, in such a short time? She and Joseph held their heads' high among stinging gossip I'm sure of that. Being pregnant is not easy all the time, and before marriage in those days I'm certain was shameful but she pressed on to do God's will.
Days of traveling by donkey while at the end of her pregnancy must have been the most uncomfortable journey. Even certain roads while driving in a car would jar my already sore body while in the last trimester, but a donkey? Ouch. I know it was part of God's plan, but the woman in me, the already-been-pregnant woman in me still finds it incredible that not one person in that town would give up their bed or room for this young woman about to give birth. Not even women who had already gone through childbirth and could sympathize with her would give up their bed? Shocking.
I imagine Mary, feeling her body readying to deliver this baby, exhausted and needing a place to just lay down and give birth. I was in a familiar hospital with great staff, my mother and my husband with me both times. To be all alone, in a strange town with no family, only your new husband (who, being an arranged marriage probably she didn't even know him exceptionally well) giving birth to your first child and finding yourself in a stable. A stable! To look around and see cows, sheep, donkeys, a few mats or blankets you threw on the dusty dirt floor, seeing only a wooden box filled with hay. But, probably in the throes and pains of labor not really noticing too much at the time. The Bible doesn't say, and maybe the innkeeper's wife came out to the stable to help Mary deliver, we don't know. Most likely she was alone with Joseph and maybe one other person, birthing this baby. I"m sure Mary saw or assisted in a few births of her family members, but for sure Joseph had never witnessed one, it wasn't done in those days.
And after delivering her baby, Mary laid in a barn, with animals. There were no nurses to get her juice, bring her another blanket, to take the baby so she could sleep. There was no disinfecting, hand-washing or stitching done by a doctor. Only by God did this woman not become ill and infected after childbirth in a barn. That in itself is a miracle. I see why Catholics make a big deal of Mary. Circumstances alone are amazing. Mary was obedient, even though I bet she wasn't entirely sure of what she was getting herself into. She had to adapt quickly and mature fast. She made it through when odds (in those days) said she wouldn't or shouldn't. Both she and her newborn baby. And so, this year, closely after giving birth to another child, I am awed and amazed by Mary and her role in the Christmas story, and beyond.