Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mother and Child by Patricia Soud

I felt twinges and tightenings throughout the day, but I kept on baking and cleaning for a Christmas Eve get together at our little home. No point postponing life for a baby who's already a week late, I reasoned. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and parents were all invited for a last party BB (Before Baby). At supper, my husband asked, a little nervously, if it was time to go to the hospital.

I shook my head firmly. "I still have a lot to do." As the former head nurse at the hospital's coronary care unit, I was determined not to entertain my colleagues by showing up in false labor.

I continued getting ready for the party.....but by 11:00 that night I gave in.  "I think this is the real thing," I told Larry.  "You might as well take me to the hospital so you can get some sleep" - which in the early 1970's, was what husbands did while their wives delivered babies.

I, on the other hand, was ushered through heavy metal doors to the Sacred Refrigerator room designated for labor and delivery in the days prior to birthing suites.  Six hours later, shaking and shivering with exhaustion and exhilaration, I called Larry to tell him we had a son.  A Christmas Eve son.

I'd missed my own party and would spend Christmas in the hospital. And my son would celebrate all his birthdays in the shadow of the holidays.  My prayers to the contrary had been divinely dismissed.  I could almost hear God chuckle.  Nothing had happened the way I had planned.  Yet, as I rested quietly in the maternity ward, I experienced Christmas in a fresh, new way.

Mary and I had already become close friends on the pilgrimage of pregnancy.  When I first felt the flutters of life, I reflected on how Mary must have felt, knowing she was carrying God's Son.  When I grew enormous with child, I gained a new appreciation for the eighty-mile walk she made right before giving birth.  Now, when I thought of going into labor without a room in the inn or a midwife, I suspected she may have wondered why God hadn't made better arrangements.  Did she hear the echo of that same divine chuckle I thought I'd heard?

As I held my son, I marveled at the grip of tiny fingers winding themselves around my heart, filling me with an overwhelming sense of responsibility and a fierce maternal love.  Like Mary, I pondered  the mystery of life and incarnation.  Why would God pour Himself into a helpless human infant who entered our world through the perils of birth in a cave where animals were stabled? I fought back tears as I sang quietly to my baby.  "Silent night....holy night....all is calm....all is bright..."

The words made me pause.  Things couldn't have been silent, holy, and calm that first Christmas night.  Not as a mother and child labored and struggled and fought for life.  And yet, somehow, having just gone through the process myself, I understood a deeper holy silence and a brighter calm than anything I had ever known.  Somewhere beneath the obvious, beyond the visible, in the realm of the eternal, I could hear God orchestrating an oratorio that would forever celebrate His joy in birth....the birth of His Son....the birth of our sons and daughters....our rebirth as His children.

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