As I reflect on my own birthday today, I think back to the day that has taught me (so far) what birth means. Looking back on the pictures from S’s arrival, I am astonished by how joyful I look in this photo. Having gone through the pain and exhaustion of childbirth just an hour ago, having flung aside my last hope that any part of my birth plan would be salvaged (once we were informed that S had to stay in the level 2 nursery and could never come to my room), and unable even to untangle my baby from his web of monitors and IVs to pick him up and hold him to my chest, I still look like I have won the megamillions lottery. Because I had.
Theologically, I know that I became a mother 9 months before this photo was taken. Once the prayers and drugs and charts and hopes and God’s gracious goodness had all done their work, and that miracle of conception had taken place, F & I started the journey of becoming parents. The birth of S was another step in that process, and it continues each day, this process of becoming, unfolding. But the glory and mystery and pain of a Birth Day still stands as an incredible moment of creation, a day that we remember and celebrate each year for the rest of our lives. Parents are born as a baby is born. And I imagine that this transformation is just as incredible for the second (or third, as I’m a biased middle child!) or fourth or fifth child. Creation is recreation, constant miracle.
Today I have been thinking (amidst the flurry of work-nurse-play-read-wash diapers-work some more) about what God teaches us about birth. When I was a little girl, I loved to ask my father to tell me the history of the world en route to preschool. (Precocious much?) I loved to ask for him to start at the beginning each time, with Genesis and the story of God creating the heavens and the earth. He would start by describing the darkness into which God’s light entered: “…and suddenly, there was a treMENdous explosion!” (Pretty solid blending of Scripture and Big Bang theory, I later came to appreciate.) Creation is explosion, light from darkness, action from stillness, cry from silence. It must have involved incredible energy and effort, this outpouring of the Divine Self. So what does it mean that God constantly recreates us anew? What love and energy and gift of self does this require of God as parent?
And to think that after all the times we fail, all the times we turn our backs and reject the very Creator that gave us life, that God welcomes us anew with utter joy! Pure, honest joy – with no trace of the pain that came before or the failure to live up to expectations. That is the ideal of a mothering spirit, of the father in the parable of the prodigal son. God teaches us how to love, and God is teaching me how to parent. Some days I am more open to learn than others (a nice euphemism for my stubbornness and impatience) but this ideal of God’s Mothering Spirit always calls me home.
I’ve gotten in the habit of thanking my mom on my birthday for all her work those many years ago that brought me into this world. Now having experienced childbirth myself, that “thank you” seems all the more insufficient and all the more meaningful. I think I owe God some thanks, too…