The Midwife


What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.

Luke 1: 48-50 (The Message)


History doesn’t remember me.

It makes a better story, I suppose, to have a young woman giving birth in some kind of primitive cave, all alone except for her unprepared and overwhelmed husband.

There were many unknown faces in Bethlehem in those days. This young couple with their thick northern accents stood out only because she walked with the heavy, weary sway of someone nearing her time

Yes, they were strangers, but they were ours too – of the house of Benjamin, of David. Family. And so they were welcomed in, space was made, room was found, some animals relocated to give them a comfortable place to rest and make their home while they were here.

When her time came, I came swiftly through the darkened streets and joined the other women in that small room, the yeasty smell of bread mixing with the musty warmth of sweat and oil. We stayed with her through each groan and surge, holding her when her strength dwindled, stroking her hair, massaging oils into her back and belly, whispering the ancient prayers for protection.

She breathed hard, leaning into this great transforming pain.

And so it happened that her boy was born into my hands, sticky and grey from his mother’s womb, hands reaching, mouth already gaping for his mother’s breast. She took him to her with that fierce possessiveness that floods a mama’s heart in the first moment, whispering tender words for his ear only, tipping her head back and weeping grateful tears to the One who gives life to all things.

Later, after we’d tended to her and laid her down to rest in the hay, still smelling of warm summer nights, I took that brandnew baby and wrapped him in the swaddling cloths that I’d used for my own children. He squirmed until he felt the comforting linens bind him tight, and then yawned wide and looked straight up into my face.

I’ve helped birth many babies; some have lived, others gone too soon. But this one. This child touched some unknown ache deep within my heart. Something about the intensity with which his young mama held him to her, her cry of deep joy as he was born from her body.

I heard no angel choirs that night, but the song of his mama has become my soul’s hope and strength.