Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Best Birth Story of All

Six years ago today I became a mother.

I suppose the birthday of your firstborn usually makes one feel reflective, but for me the feeling is amplified by the nature of the season. I know there's a lot of tinsel and trappings this time of year that can mask it, but for me, this holiday is all about a mother and her newborn baby. It's a birth story at it's core, one of the most remarkable birth stories ever told.

I have two of my own December birth stories (written about here and here), which means I've spent two Christmas seasons as pregnant as Mary herself. I've spent one Christmas Day in the hospital with a newborn, and another Christmas day five years later in pre-labor praying for the baby to come. And while I can't say I love being pregnant during the holidays (huge NO! to that), I will say that both those Decembers taught me a lot about Christmas.

I feel especially close to Mary this time of year. While many of us celebrate advent, carefully counting down the days and patiently (or rather, impatiently) waiting for Christmas to come, I think of those two advent seasons I spent counting down, not to presents under the tree, but to the babies about to come. That's what advent would've been for Mary. The long, painful, anticipatory wait for that most precious baby to come.

For many of us, waking up on Christmas morning is all about anticipation, excitement, and delight. That Christmas six years ago, I woke up in the hospital in complete and utter agony. I was recovering from the most intense physical experience of my life (an emergency C-section after 12 hours of intense hard labor, plus trying to figure out breastfeeding!). I remember thinking, "Mary seriously went through something like this? Did she feel this way after she gave birth to Jesus? Was she this sore and tired? Oh, she didn't have pain meds back then! Poor thing!" That Christmas morning, lying in that hospital bed where I hurt so bad I couldn't even roll over, my vision of that Holy Night in the stable 2,000 years ago changed forever. All the Nativities make it seem so precious and clean and sweet and quiet.


There would've been blood. There would've been pain. There would've been sweat and probably tears. Even if Mary had the easiest labor (and my goodness, I hope she was blessed with an easy labor), there still would've been blood, and exhaustion, and bewilderment at how to care for this tiny new little human. She was (likely) just a teenager, far from home, in a stable of all places! How could she not have felt overwhelmed?

And yet, despite the pain, despite the blood, despite the overwhelming uncertainty that comes with new motherhood, I also felt strength that Christmas morning. I felt peace. I felt a power beyond me, guiding me, watching over me. I felt angels with me.

Mary had angels too. If she didn't have a real midwife (which I hope she did), I'm certain she had some heavenly ones. Mary may have been tired, and in pain, and overwhelmed by new motherhood, but she also had the certainty that God was with her.

Christmas is a season to celebrate a lot of good and wonderful things, but for me it is also a season to reflect on motherhood, and birth, and birth stories, and the sacredness of life. Not every person gets to be a mother, but every person was born. Every person has a birth story, a birth date, and a mother who shared and sacrificed her body to bring that life into being. Every birth story is different, but every birth story has a few things in common: there is a mother, and there is a new baby. There will be blood, but there will be beauty too. Beauty of new life, beauty of the hope for what that life will bring.

Christmas is many things to many people, but for me, it is a birth story. The best birth story of all.

P.S. Read another essay I wrote about Christmas and motherhood here.


  1. Yes, love this, Suzanne. Merry Christmas!

  2. Wishing your family peace and love at Christmas and always.