What Mary Knew
by Debbonnaire Kovacs, Dec. 24, 2014 I’ve been through the messy miracle of childbirth. Thrice. Lived through it…just.
After the first time, I told my mother she’d been crazy all those years to say it wasn’t that bad, and I was never doing it again.
There’s a feeling that can’t be described to those who haven’t experienced it—a heavy rawness within, soreness without, exhaustion, elation. There’s a feeling that nearly everyone has experienced—that of holding this unbelievably small thing, a kind of weightless wiggling in your hands, just staring and staring and trying to make yourself believe a new human being has joined the family of earth.
If you’re lucky, you get a fingertip squeezed by a teensy fist, and if you’re really lucky, you catch a wavering, curious gaze. For a second or three, dark, pupil-filled eyes stare into yours and you feel certain you can almost touch the miracle of being and the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Then the eyes slip sideways and the mouth begins to pucker and search again, and perhaps a thin cry, like that of a newborn kitten, emerges.
Find food. Do it now. The thin cry can instantly become an outraged shriek that’s pretty much physically impossible for three-inch lungs, but happens anyway. Studies have shown that part of the reason babies crying on airplanes are so annoying is because our race has been wired to respond instantly to fix whatever our young need fixed, and everybody feels helpless, and rather outraged, themselves.
I imagine the miracle part of birth is about the same whether you’re surrounded by hospital squeaky-cleanness, the cozy blankets of home, or damp straw, furry beasts, and the smells of mud and manure. Thank goodness for dry hay in the manger and the clean blankets you brought from home.
The part that’s not the same? Staring into those eyes and trying to fathom their connection to the Great Creator. Feeling the clutch of the miniature fist and … (how much did she know?) thinking of the hand that started time and made mud into a man.
Mary, did you know?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God…
But then, there’s a sense in which that’s always true, too.