The Baby Jesus was born today. Well, not today, but, you know, some 2000 years ago. For the last several weeks, I've been reading Jack the Christmas story and lifting him up to get a view of the nativity scene on our mantel. "There's Mary, there's Joseph, there's the Baby Jesus," I say slowly, pointing out each wooden character. And then he lunges for the manger, knocking all the pieces to the floor and Baby Jesus winds up lost under the couch.
This is Baby Jesus' day, but ever since I've become a mother, Christmas time finds me thinking more about his mother. I mean, was Jesus going to remember that he lay in a manger? Tended to by the livestock? Visited by random shepherds? It's poor Mary who got stuck delivering this kid in a BARN.
I was never one of those women who wanted to experience pregnancy and childbirth. In high school, I decided that if I wanted kids I was definitely going to adopt because NO WAY was I going to actually push a baby out of THERE. The universe must be kidding, right? And years later when I stumbled into the world of mommy blogs, I was astonished to discover so many women out there promoting natural childbirth, using words like "beauty" and "amazing" and "empowering." Were these women for real? When I got pregnant with Jack I spent nearly the entire pregnancy resigning myself to what was going to happen. People tried to tell me how special it was going to be, how wonderful and powerful, but I honestly couldn't picture the experience as anything other than something I had to endure.
Nine months later, Jack was born in the middle of the night with the help of nurses, a doctor, and the finest 21st-century anesthesia. It was painful and gross and scary and exhausting and, to my total surprise, the most beautiful, amazing, and empowering moment of my life. I have to think it's that way for every new mother. Suddenly there's a new life in the room, be it a sterile hospital suite or a dirty stable, and the world is permanently altered. There's your baby, red-faced, shrieking, wrapped up tight, and you're the woman expected to feed him and rock him and make sure he gains his weight back at the two-week appointment. You're hormonal, you're tired, you have no idea how to do this breastfeeding thing, and I imagine all of this is true even if you've just given birth to the Son of God. (Maybe even more so. That's a lot of responsibility!) Your child was born and, yes, this day will be his birthday, but it's also your birth day. You are the one who remembers it. My epidural stopped working right when I was ready to push and YOU BET I'm going to remind Jack of that every time his birthday swings around and he thinks he's entitled to a bike or a video game or his own car.
We know what happened when Jesus was born. Linus reminds us every year when we watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, but Mary, I'm sure, remembers a few extra details. Unto us a child is born, but Mary's the one who did the work. I wonder how scared she was, and how elated. How did she feel putting her son to sleep in a feeding trough? Did she have to feed the baby in front of the wise men? I bet the song is totally wrong when it says "no crying he makes."