About two and a half years ago, I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child. The message did not come from an angel, but a little plastic pregnancy test. Actually, three pregnancy tests because I couldn’t believe I was pregnant again. My three older children were finally at an almost manageable stage (ages 5, 4, 2) when I found out we would have one more.
I am not ashamed to tell you I cried when I found I was going to have a baby. I had recently started a new job. I was working on my third novel and revising another. I had laundry to do. I had dishes to wash. I was scared. I was afraid that I couldn’t be a good mother to a fourth child. Reason told me that I could not handle anymore disorder. What would happen to that fourth little baby in all our chaos? I kept thinking, “I can’t do this. I can’t. I can’t manage as it is. How can I manage more?”
On top of that, my doctor considered me “advanced maternal age.” That means I’m old, and they wanted to heap worrisome tests on a mother who worried when things were fine. If worry was an Olympic sport, I could gold medal in it. My husband and I agreed to forgo the extra tests. And wait. And while I waited I did what I’d done the three pregnancies before that: I was sick every day. Not morning sick, but morning-afternoon-night sick. Not only first trimester sick, but sick until the day I delivered. And I waited for that day.
Twelve days before Christmas, I gave birth to a baby who came into the world quietly. It snowed all day. I took that as a good omen, but days later I was very sick and back in the hospital. Without my baby. While I knew that I needed to get better, I also knew that I needed to get back to my kids.
On December 23, I told the doctor I was leaving the hospital. I missed my kids. I needed to see them. Even now reflecting on it, my body braces for the pain of their absence. Two days before Christmas, I got to go home.
That night after everyone went to sleep, I sat by the Christmas tree with the baby. I held her to my breast. Instead of feeling close to my baby, I felt close to someone long ago named Mary.
Maybe no one thought it worthwhile to document her worry or fear. It is possible that she was sick during her pregnancy and the trip to Bethlehem exhausting. Maybe the manger was the last straw for her. Maybe she was filled with doubt and “I can’t do this.” More likely she was stronger than me, more cheerful and more patient. The moment I looked down at my child, I felt a voice inside of me saying, “I can.” I felt a trembling happiness unlike any other I’d felt before. Maybe Mary felt that way.
I thought about my mother holding me as a child. I thought about my mother’s mother. I thought of my mother-in-law and my sisters. I thought about how each of us was once someone’s miracle. And that miracles are born despite fear and difficulties.
Do you know the circumstances of your birth? Was it lowly and in a manger? Did you have a good mother? Did you struggle? Maybe you are adopted. Maybe you will choose to not have children. Maybe you cannot find meaning in a Nativity story. I hope you do.
The circumstances of your birth and what you will become aren’t always related. The road to Bethlehem was difficult, but now, wherever you are, you are a miracle.