If I Had Been In Bethlehem...

I remember the labor and delivery nurse who attended to me while I was having Lilly.  She was a young mom herself, with pretty blond hair, light eyes, and a warm smile.  She catered to my needs and treated me with kindness and understanding.  She kept me informed of all that was happening in my delivery room; valuable information when you are about to embark on something that is both scary AND unknown.  I appreciated her tremendously, and was grateful she was there for me.

The labor and delivery nurse assigned to me when I had Camren was older--her children were grown and the mention of her grandchildren put a smile on her face.  She was funny and easy to talk to, and I knew we'd hit it off the moment I saw her short, "rock star" hair.  She had tremendous experience in the delivery room--as a mother of six and a nurse of over twenty years.  I was grateful for her "matter-of-factness," her calm demeanor, her humor, and her wisdom.  When it came time to bring my baby boy into the world, she was the one who said to me, "You can do this.  You're going to be amazing."

Women administering to other women during the birth of a child is a common, age-old practice; a beautiful service that dates back to biblical times.  It is among the earliest and most widespread functions in human society.  According to the “Jewish Women's Archives,” midwives were present (and significant) in ancient Israeli society.  They were expected to provide comfort, pain relief, and encouragement to the woman giving birth.  They performed rituals and prayers that would protect the woman and her baby.  Before each birth, they prayed that God would assist the expectant mother, that she would birth quickly and safely.  Ancient Jewish midwives aided in the actual birth of the baby, as well as supervised aftercare for the mother and her newborn.  And most wonderfully, Jewish women and midwives exhibited a deep reverence for childbirth, that stemmed from an understanding that birth is Godly in nature.

The day Bridget was born.
Typically, a woman giving birth was surrounded by women she knew and trusted—her relatives and friends.  Her loved ones would gather around her-- working in shifts to massage her or to wipe her face and body with damp cloths.  Birth usually took place on birth stones or on a birth stool, and the laboring woman was supported under the arms by other women.

The laboring woman was supported by other women.

As Christmas approaches, I reflect on the holy mother, Mary.  I wonder if she experienced moments of fear, anxiety, and pain as she prepared to give birth to our Savior.  I wonder who supported her.  Joseph must have offered her great solace and love...but had another woman been there, to administer to her, to help her?  To aid in her delivery and to stay by her side?  To pray for her and her precious, perfect baby?  To wipe her brow?  To hold her hand?

If I had been in Bethlehem on that sacred Christmas night, I know exactly where I would have wanted to be.  I would have wanted to be with Mary.  I would have wanted to encourage her with loving, positive sentiments--as an inherently nurturing woman and as one who sympathizes with the experience of bringing a child into the world.  And I would have wanted to honor her in quiet reverence, for being a most choice sister in humankind's eternal family. 

I would have wanted to be the one to take her in my arms and say, “You can do this.  You're going to be amazing.”    


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