Never the Same Again
My first child, Matthew, was born 2 days before Thanksgiving 1989. I had no idea what I was doing. The physical, emotional & spiritual experience of giving birth was overwhelming. No one told me the real story of what to expect. I attended birthing classes. I went to all the required prenatal checkups. I read books and talked to other new mothers. Nowhere did I get the real story of what the birthing experience entails.
Giving birth is sensory overload. It makes you want to laugh and cry. It is a mystical experience. It is difficult, overwhelming and life changing. When you hold your first child in your arms, you are never the same again.
On this Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I wonder about Mary’s birth experience. She found herself in the humblest environment, but that didn’t change her physical, emotional, and spiritual experience of giving birth. I wonder if she, like me, wanted her mother to be there, to see her beautiful new baby boy. Did she think, “Why didn’t anyone tell me how this was going to be?” When the shepherds arrived at the stable door, did she thing to herself, “Now what?” As we read in today’s Gospel from Luke, chapter 2:
The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.
I remember coming home from the hospital with Matthew. We had a little wicker bassinet that someone had lent to us. I carefully took Matt out of his car seat and laid him in the bassinet. “Now what,” I thought. I had no idea what I was doing. The birthing experience had already begun to fade in my memory. There was no room in my head for anything else but what I was going to do next to care for this little love of my life. In some ways, I already felt “back to normal” physically. Emotionally and spiritually, I was adrift. How was I going to be faithful to my vocation of motherhood?
Matthew needed me for everything. I fed him, changed him, bathed him. (The first bath was a harrowing experience!) but I found myself praying over him, asking God to bless him as Aaron invoked God’s blessing on the Israelites, his children, in the desert:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!
Mary and Joseph took their baby boy to be named and consecrated to the Lord on the eighth day after his birth as was the custom of their faith. The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the 8th day of Christmas is a celebration of Mary’s motherhood and her faithfulness to God’s call. Let us ask Mary to help us be faithful to our call, as well.
Susan Amann is the Director of Spiritual Ministry for the Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary. For more information about her ministry, visit the program page of the Sisters’ website at: https://www.sscm-usa.org/Workshops-Retreats.html