As my husband and I travel ever more closer to the birth of Jesus through Scripture readings, hanging ornaments on our Jesse tree and moving the wooden carving of Mary on the back of a donkey, I pause, as a fellow nurse and I talk long together in the mini van last night before parting our ways after card making at another friend’s house. The subject was inductions. We are both nurses who work in the maternity department of our local hospital. She works primarily labor and delivery. I work primarily Level II nursery. Many pregnant women today want to have medication given to them to force the baby out before the baby is fully mature because they are uncomfortable. It is becoming rare to have a women actually go into labor on her own. Beginning any time after 37 weeks, women are asking their doctors to induce labor so they can get the delivery of the baby “over with”.
In those fuzzy moments just before becoming fully awake, I was thinking about Mary this morning. She was in the last weeks of her pregnancy. She was on a long journey and she was on the back of a donkey traveling in a warm climate over rough terrain. She was probably torn between wanting the baby to be born and fear of going into labor out in the desert away from help. Unlike the women my friend and I care for, Mary had few options. She had to wait till her contractions began on their own. She had to feel those contractions. There was no ambulance to get her to her birthing place fast. Indeed she could not even picture a birthing place. She had no idea where that would be. There was no midwife/obstetrician to guide THE baby into the world, no pain medication to numb the sensations involved with Him being thrust from her body. Mary’s time is growing near.
Each breath is a little harder as the fetus is taking up all the room in her abdominal cavity. She has to stop to relieve herself often as He presses on her bladder. Her pelvis aches as His head presses on her pelvic girdle easing his way down to the way out. She may have felt sharp pains in her sides from the pull on the round ligaments of her swollen uterus trying to steady itself with each hoof beat of the donkey on the uneven path to Bethlehem. Ah, Mary, we who have carried a child in our own bodies have an idea of your discomfort, but we do not really know. Few of us have had to ride on a donkey, in the heat, and camp along the way at 9 months of pregnancy. Few of us have delivered in outbuildings of a strange town without help. Today I pray a prayer of thanks to God for Mary.
God, thank you for Mary. She inspires me with her faith and courage. We have little over a week to go till the Savior is born. Today we pause and give you thanks. Thanks for being willing to come. Thanks for coming in a way we can understand. Thanks for the example of Mary and her obedient, humble heart. Thank you for the story of her natural laboring, of finding the stable cave, of a manger bed and animals all around. Thanks for the story of a faithful husband, a real partner through all of it. Thanks for the shepherds and the star. Thank you for the angels and their joyful display for the shepherds. Thank you that we can be a part of it all through retelling the story year after year. Thank you for keeping your promises.