Enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 5 of Catherine Brunell’s book, Becoming Catholic, Again.
Now it was time to focus on a safe and low-intervention birth. It does sound a bit unrealistic given our current culture, but early in my first pregnancy, I was converted to thinking of birth as a totally natural and powerful thing that my body knew how to endure. I wasn’t all that sure that I really wanted to endure it, but I found a group of midwives that helped get me there. I actually imagine that Jesus’ birth was attended by a whole host of women like the ones I found. I assume that the innkeeper ushered the young couple to the stable and then sent for the women in the town who could help. I’m certain that Jesus was born in the midst of these women who knew what each bodily sign meant and who were there to reassure a trembling Mary and Joseph that everything would be fine. Like priests celebrating a Mass, these women presided over Jesus’ birth.
My pregnancies have each brought me into an active prayer with the Nativity story. The story doesn’t begin in the stable; it begins with a young woman who receives an invitation to share a life with God. I’ve always loved the artwork that depicts Mary, in the scene with the angel, as having a bit of uncertainty. I wonder what she was thinking and what eventually enabled her to say yes. It is Mary’s gestation that I see most in the story. The end of the Nativity is Jesus as a gift into the world, but the rest of it is about the people who witnessed his packaging and how they interacted with this first miracle. With this thought, I caught on that my baby’s gestation was also my own and that we might also share a birth.
Even though labor is one of the most holy things I’ve ever experienced, it is also by far the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Because of that, I positively dread it. In each birth, I have experienced a moment when I am on a threshold between what feels very concrete and what is entirely uncertain. The body is concrete; the birth itself is inevitable but also fraught with uncertainty. (I am also sure that this moment happens in all births and that the type of birth—cesarean, drug-assisted, or natural—does not matter.) On this threshold, we create the holy ground on which the capacity of our life is extended beyond what we thought was possible and pours into the start of another’s. It is the most real moment of communion I have ever experienced.
For the DDF community: What event in your life has connected you to part of the biblical story?