I was excited to get out-of-town. I had a lot of energy that morning. I remember frantically unloading and loading dishes so the kitchen would be clean when we returned home after the weekend. My pregnant belly felt heavy, but I felt light. We were going to spend the weekend at my in-laws, and Sunday after church, some family members were throwing us a baby shower. I was so thankful. It made me feel really special that they would shower us with presents for a fourth baby. A fourth baby, I pondered, I guess we are a large family now! I wondered often how this fourth daughter would fit into our energetic household already full of daughters.
I’m sure Mary did a lot of pondering about how Jesus would fit into her life. I wonder if she was excited to leave town towards the end of her pregnancy. Was she nervous?
I still felt pretty good by the time the girls were buckled up and the bags in the car. About half-way through the three-hour drive, I felt a few contractions come on. My rationalization began internally: I was only 36 weeks. All my other babies were a week late. I have always had to be induced. Nothing was happening at the doctor this week.
“I’m just having some practice contractions….” I said assured as my husband looked at me sideways. I saw him glance at the clock and keep driving. Ten minutes later, I had another contraction. He noticed but kept quiet. Another came and another. “Should we turn around?” he asked, eyebrows raised. “Just pull over and let me get some water and use the restroom. They’ll stop,” I said. When we got back on the road, we were both watching the clock. By that time we were 45 minutes from his parent’s house. Another contraction came and another. “I guess we should just go on,” Matt said, “At least then if we need to go to the hospital, we can leave the kids with Mom and Dad.” I laughed, “I just need to lie on my side. It’s just practice.”
I’m glad I was in a mini-van and not on a donkey. My trip wasn’t mandatory either. Surely Mary was smarter than me. Did she know that she would have her baby on the road?
We arrived at my in-laws ranch house. Everyone was all a flurry with the news that I might be in labor. I was glad to disappoint them as my contractions stopped after lying down for a while. The next day was a fun day of visiting. The kids enjoyed running around and having fun. My oldest came to me after lunch with a headache, and I realized that she was running a fever. I tucked her in for a nap, and then I ran into town to get some Tylenol for her. I was walking into Wal-Mart, and I realized I felt a little crampy. I wondered if I should be alone or not. As I drove the 8 miles back to the ranch, I breathed in the cool air and winter conditions around me. Everything seemed so clear.
I’m grateful that as a woman I got to experience this miracle of pregnancy and birth. There is something about being with child that gives you a clarity that is so maternal. I remember on that drive wanting to embrace the trees and sky that God created. What love!
That evening, we had a birthday party for my sister-in-law. My father-in-law grilled steaks, and everything smelled so good. As I was putting steak, salad, and potatoes on my plate, I had another contraction. It was painful, and I had to grab onto the counter for bracing. My sister-in-law asked if I was okay. I nodded. My husband walked in and saw my face. “You better start timing those things,” he said, concerned. I shook it off and went to the dining room. I ate my whole plate. I remember it being so tasty. We sang the birthday song, and I had cake and ice cream too.
What meal did Mary have before Jesus’ birth? Was she well nourished for the birth? I certainly was.
We were still at the table visiting, and I had another very painful contraction. It took by breath away, and I grabbed my husband’s arm. Then I felt a pop and some warmth. My eyes widening, I said, “My water just broke.” “No, it didn’t,” he answered and then looked down. “Well, I guess it did.” There was evidence everywhere, and my eyes filled with tears. My mother-in-law walked in just then and said, “What’s wrong?” Matt said loudly, “Her water broke!” Everyone at the table stood up. Somebody handed me a towel.
“What are we going to do?” I asked my husband a bit frantically. “Go to the hospital. Have a baby,” he answered with great calm.
I wonder if Joseph was this calm. I wonder if Mary was already in labor when he was trying to find a room somewhere.
So, we did. She was born in the early morning: small, but healthy; beautiful but screaming. She was a blessing, a surprise, and an itinerant birth. We rejoiced in her birth. We gazed at her, and we thanked God for her.
What rejoicing there was when Christ was born! Hope! Joy! Love!
A couple of days later, we were discharged. Everyone in my family had the flu, and we had to pick all the kids up and drive home. I was ready to be a whole family again, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to deal with all that was ahead. We got through the flu, the newborn stage, the colic, and more diapers.
Was Mary ready for what was ahead? They didn’t have flu. They had people trying to find them to kill their baby. All they did was follow God’s leading.
Lead us dear Jesus. We want to follow you. We wait for you.