While working in Afghanistan with an international aid organization, I heard birthing stories of Afghan women. Then I personally experienced my own birth miracle. When I became pregnant, I traveled to the United States to give birth. This decision proved wise, as my baby lay in an impossible position to descend into the birth canal: I needed a cesarean section. The realization was bittersweet, as I realized a common medical procedure for me was not available in many remote parts of the world.
Several years later, while working in a neonatal intensive care unit in the United States, I reflected the miracle of the birth of Jesus, our Savior in a new light.
Mary would have had no prenatal care: no blood pressure checks for hypertension, no fundal measurement, no ultrasound. She would have taken no prenatal vitamins in a time when adequate nutrition would have been difficult or been able to take a single birthing class.
How did Mary know when it was time to give birth? In present-day healthcare, expectant mothers frequently come to the hospital thinking they are in labor, when what they are feeling are Braxton Hicks contractions. Did Mary make it to their rudimentary shelter in Bethlehem before her water broke?
Most likely, a midwife in Bethlehem could have attended Mary's birth. For Mary's sake, I have always hoped that someone—besides Joseph—was there to help her.
Jesus could have been breech, transverse, or sunny-side up. No fetal monitoring could have detected possible late decelerations in his heart rate. What if Mary’s labor had failed to progress?
During birth, Jesus could have aspirated meconium or had his cord cut with an unclean instrument, causing infection, in an age without antibiotics. The risk of tetanus exposure from the animals in the birthing setting was real.
Mary could have hemorrhaged, had a retained placenta, or developed an infection. She could have had challenges with breastfeeding or experienced low-milk supply. Jesus could have developed jaundice or respiratory trouble.
But none of these affected the outcome of God's plan. When the angel first came to announce to Mary that she would carry the Son of God, the angel declared, “...nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, ESV).
Safe birthing practices have dramatically advanced since Jesus' birth, and the ability to diagnose and prevent complications has reduced innumerable maternal and infant deaths. As we contemplate the miracle of Jesus' birth in the light of modern medicine, may we appreciate the miracle that Jesus and Mary survived the birthing process. Indeed, God had a plan. The hope of the world came with the birth of a little babe.
--Melissa R. Meyers, RN, worked for 9 years in Afghanistan with a Christian international aid organization. Currently she is a neonatal nurse at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
A version of this article appears in the current issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing.
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