It seems as if every year about this time, my mind begins to wander to Mary, the mother of Jesus, quite often. I don't know if it's the mother in me, or perhaps the birth story junkie, or the nurse in me....regardless, I think of this young woman with wonder and awe.
The Bible tells us little about this young woman, but scholars and texts from the time period tells us that Mary was young -- perhaps as young as 13 or so. Her fiance' Joseph was older -- possibly much older. We know that Mary was a virgin.
And we know that Mary said yes.
She said yes to the God she worshipped. Her fears and doubts and anxieties were overshadowed by her faith and her belief that she was a servant of her Lord and she said a resounding "yes" when asked if she would carry the Christ child.
We don't know how much she knew of what would happen to her boy one day. We don't know if she understood or comprehended the task set before her. But we know that her soul glorified the Lord and she was filled with thankfulness and humility.
From the beginning of time, women have given birth. In Biblical times, women were attended by midwives and female relatives. They were pampered and cared for and birth was a time to learn from other women how to become a mother. All children were nursed at their mothers breasts until the normal age of weaning (3-5 years), and if the mother was unable to nurse, another woman, usually a relative or a hired woman, breastfed her child for her. (Consider the story of Moses and the Pharaoh's daughter, who hired a Hebrew woman (Moses' own mother) to nurse him until he had weaned).
I wonder when Mary's contractions started. Was it during the journey to Bethlehem? Can you even imagine contracting while riding a donkey?
When did her water break?
How long was her labor?
How long did she push?
Did Jesus nurse right away, or did it take some time?
Did she have any trouble nursing him?
How long exactly did she breastfeed? Did she have to nudge him to wean?
Women love to tell their stories, and it's vital to our health and psychology to do so. It's like de-briefing after an important job or mission. We need to talk it out with a group of people who know what we're talking about. In the talking, we learn things about ourselves as well as the work.
The outcome isn't what we talk about....it's the journey.
This holiday season, as we hear songs about the Christ Child, stop and think about Mary, his Mother. You don't have to be Catholic to appreciate what Mary's cousin Elisabeth says to her when she sees her pregnant with the Lord, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb."
We share a kinship with all the generations of women who have gone before us. Take time to give a knowing nod and smile to other mothers this season. No matter how different the mom in line at Wal Mart seems to you, she has felt the pains of a babe kicking her bladder, the inability to breathe from a wee one hiding in her ribs, the sleepless nights, the worry....the unending love.
Let's make a pact to love one another in the New Year. To give education to one another in a spirit of love instead of one-upmanship. To make it a priority that EVERY woman in EVERY city get the compassionate, loving care from other women. That EVERY woman receive not just adequate, but excellent, prenatal education, breastfeeding education, and support every step of the way.
Let's make it a point to say "yes" when God nudges US.
To visit a new mom and offer to do her dishes.
To offer to babysit a pregnant mom's other children.
To pay for a frazzled mom's coffee when her toddler is in one of those moods that we all recognize.
Just say yes.
Like Mary did.