So today is the first day of advent.
My stockings with mini chocolate bars are hanging down the wall.
But somehow this year, I find myself thinking about the nativity story. It might have been the rants that I edited out of my video on Christmas books that did it.
For those of you who aren’t aware, between me being a Youth Worker and a Retail worker, I studied women’s health. I spent a lot of time researching, following midwifes and OB/GYNs around. And then I spent 7 years working in a pregnancy crisis centre. I ended up running it with my friend, Sarah, until she left in 2013.
The first few years I worked there we did mostly counselling work, and practical help for some women who wanted to continue their pregnancies. Most of the time this help came from other organisations, like HomeStart. But occasionally we went in to do befriending support for families who didn’t have family close by. You see when someone has a baby the traditional cultural thing to do here is that family come in for those first few weeks to do laundry, cook meals while the mother recovers from the birth (and indeed shock) of giving birth to a small human that doesn’t come with an instruction manual.
You know what would happen every December? One of our clients who we hadn’t heard from in months would reappear, heavily pregnant needing a team to be that family. Without fail that baby would be born between Dec 25th and January 1st. It was like a little reminder of the reality of the nativity story.
Pregnancy and birth are hard. It’s hard in a hospital with all the doctors and midwives ready to step in with their expertise and medical resources. It’s hard at home with your closest loved ones to be there to support you, with all the comforts your own home can bring.
I cannot imagine doing it miles from home, without any or either of the above.
I wonder if the bible leaves parts out that the writer deemed unimportant. Did local midwives get called round to help Mary through the birth? How long was the labour? How long after the birth did the shepherds arrive? How did Mary feel about all the visitors showing up to see her baby son?
However it happened, I don’t think Mary gets nearly enough credit for all she must have gone through. The stigma of being pregnant out of wedlock. Being a stranger in the town her son was born in. Having to traipse across the country while pregnant. Giving birth. And having a bunch of men she didn’t know appearing up soon after.
And if there was a donkey, I’m not sure I would have ridden it after giving birth to be honest. I think I’d have stuck to walking.
Though it’s unlikely the real event took place in December, we still use this time to remember. And tonight, I’m remembering Mary and thinking she was one kick ass strong woman.