I hope that Mary had a midwife. I hope that when the innkeeper sent them to the barn, he woke up his sleeping grandmother or great-aunt, some wise woman who, maybe grumbling a little as she wiped the sleep from her eyes, sat up and got to work. I imagine her sending her dithering grandson of an innkeeper to start boiling some water and gathering herbs while she pulled on her sandals and headed to the barn.
I imagine Joseph, scared and uncertain, wringing his hands while his young wife was wracked with pain. I hope the midwife set him a task and squeezed his hand while she rolled up her sleeves. I am sure that she wiped Mary's brow and felt her belly and watched her face and told her to breathe.
I imagine her pushing firmly into Mary's lower back, swayed and rocked with her while shooing inquisitive animals out of the way. Maybe she held a cool cloth to her temples and wrapped Mary's fingers around her gnarled hand and told her to squeeze as hard as it hurt and then when it was over to breathe, just breathe, and rest until the next one.
I imagine how scared Mary must have been. Young as history predicts she would have been. Riding a donkey in early labor. In exile with a husband who she probably barely knew, running from the law and turned away from every door.
I hope that when she felt like she was being wrenched in half, and she called upon her God and heard nothing but the sound of her bones being ground to dust by the force inside her, the midwife looked into her eyes and told her she was safe, told her it was almost time for her baby to be born, and to be strong for just a little longer. I imagine her speaking the words that cross cultural and linguistic lines - just give me one more push
you can do this
breathe now, deep breaths
it's almost over
this is the hardest part
here he comes
reach down, Mary, and take your baby.
Words that I say. Words I will probably say tomorrow. The words that midwives have been saying for millenia.
I don't even know if I believe in God. I believe in goodness, and being kind, but I can't wrap my head around some magical palace in the sky where we go to live when we die, that some people get into and some don't. But I do believe in birth. I believe in how it opens people, both literally and figuratively. I believe in the transformative power of doing the impossible task, of women being an island of one, the only person who can birth their baby, buoyed up by support and love and faith and warm hands and cool cloths. I believe in who I am when I am there. I believe in midwives, and partners, and mothers, always mothers. I believe that that which breaks us is the only thing that can truly heal the darkest parts of us. I believe that peace on earth begins with birth.
Merry Christmas, everyone.