As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve spent more of this pregnancy pondering the expectant Mary than either of my previous pregnancies. One factor is that my son, nearly 4, adores the nativity story and always asks to read it after we finish whatever chapter of the Bible we’re on… and has taken to asking if his new baby sister will be born into a manger when she arrives. Quite sweet. [As an aside, we recently got a copy of the Big Picture Story Bible and I’m loving it, as is he – so much more appropriate to his age and developmental mindset than the others we’ve used.]
Here on the left page is this picture of Mary with an enormous belly wobbling atop a donkey while she’s going into labor… and then on the right page, she’s reclining on the hard earth next to an animal feeding stall containing her newborn infant son. Talk about challenging birthing circumstances.
My husband unexpectedly underwent surgery when I was 36 weeks along (I’m now nearly 39 wks) and then spent two weeks lying on the floor recovering… at the very same time as I developed the worst and most debilitating sinus infection I’ve ever had. We had just returned from vacation and our house and life felt a total shambles as I tried to care for my husband and two kids. The prospect of birthing a baby and then adjusting to the life changes this will prompt among all in our household was overwhelming to me. A friend and mentor mother of mine (the one I’ve mentioned before whose top piece of parenting is to “abide first“) is the mother of five children and offered me these wise words:
“I just wanted you to know that I understand how you feel. We so want our circumstances around the child’s birth to be just right so that we can focus on this new life. But I can say from experience the births and circumstances around the births get less ‘picture perfect’ as you add more to your family size. But each one still has a story, no matter what that story is… Our only responsibility is to ask God to show us how we are to respond to these circumstances!”
I love that. It’s in the heart of the mother to smoothe and ready and ease life for her children and her household – all of them (even the ones emerging from the womb!). God made us this way. But it’s also true that God is sovereign over the timing and events surrounding a baby’s emergence into the world. An infant may not arrive in the time or manner of our wishes, but she will arrive according to God’s timing and wishes – which is infinitely more important. The birth of our Lord shows us nothing if not that.
Jesus came into the world to a loving mother at the time and in the place God chose – an inconvenient and less-than-comfortable place, but the ordained one. As a newborn, he would have been oblivious to the surroundings of his birth and to the unusualness of the circumstances. Would he have been happier born in a well-prepared sterile environment with a knowledgeable midwife or OB guiding him out, and then placed in a wooden Pottery Barn Kids crib with matchy bedding? Obviously not.
It reminds me of a quote from my favorite book about pregnancy, Great with Child by Debra Rienstra:
“There are preparations to be made. But they are mostly from the point of view of the world, not of the child. I must make a place in my life, in my family, and in this world for a new person. Part the seas, make the rough places plain, make the crooked straight, because this person will change the terrain, as surely and persistently as tree roots burst a sidewalk apart.”
So I say: come small child, when and how God wills it. Let me put to death my own notions of the timing and my ‘ideal’ sense of readiness. So long as God leads and we keep our eyes fixed on him, then all will be most well.