The midwife assured me that the area was numb. I believed her. But as the needle swooped through my skin I felt each hot and shrill stitch. My body had been split and now it was time to repair the damage, to piece together what had been ripped apart by love and desperation and fresh life.
What was once two faint lines on a plastic stick and a flutter against my ribs was now heavy on my elbow. She was lovely and slippery and perfect and ours. I would have winced through a thousand stitches for this—I was reborn that day, a mother.
My body: broken for you.
I think of Mary now. I cannot help it. I think of how she carried Him, how she brought a perfect soul wrapped in dark skin and milky vernix into this broken world. I think of her giving her body on a bed of blood as straw engraved confetti in her back.
I think of her weakness, her humanity, her wonder. I marvel that God chose a woman to bring Himself into the world. I think of how He lived in one of us, grew next to our souls, came through our skin and bloomed beneath our bones.
I mostly think of how He looked up at her for the first time.
She was born again that day too.
I watch as the warm milk makes its way from her rose lips to plush chin, settling gently in a river across her neck. I wonder how eight and half pounds of her fit inside of me, how my body had been a fortress during her most vulnerable days—providing nourishment and a home to grow through each crucial stage.
I rest my palm on the soft and swollen spot now vacated: the very place where her heart began to pulse, where her toenails, ear lobes and eyelashes grew, where she had practiced sucking her thumb.
As the euphoria waned and my legs finally stopped trembling underneath the cool white sheets, it hit me: I can never keep her entirely safe again, my breath crumpled into a tight rock beneath my collar bone, she's out in the world now.
I was afraid and I did the only thing I knew to do. I offered her the heat of my chest against the cold of the world and hoped against all hope that she would cling to it.
My body: take and eat.
Sometimes when I hold the stale cracker and plastic cup of juice, I wonder if we have commercialized the most holy of things.
I think of Mary feeding Him so He could feed the 5,000, and the 12, and each of us. How steam rose from pocketed bread as he tore it in two, my body. How he looked at their faces, knowing they would betray him, disown him, kill him.
His tanned hands wrapped around a glass of dark and bitter wine. My blood. How He felt the sear of these words in his soul, how He wished for a different story, how He raised the glass anyway, and took one long sip.
I think of how she carried Him so he could carry the cross. I see His raw back, black and soaked, engraved with splinters instead of straw. I see her there, weeping at His still feet, a sort of choking sob that only a mother's throat can produce. My boy.
What would she have given to be back in that filthy stable with her beautiful, unbroken babe? He had gone out into the world and now his grown body hung bloodied. The sky darkened, all rage and void, and the treasured moments she had collected must have felt too small and too weak to hold the weight of him there, of him: gone.
I imagine it felt like only moments ago He had been safe and small and whole in her arms.
“You need to get this baby out as quickly as possible.”
The midwife had spotted meconium and it was time to push. I had been hoping for a respite from the pain and pressure, the unbearable intensity. I had been begging for the moment to pass. I cannot do this. This is too much.
The pain only increased.
“You cannot fight against the pain, you have to push through it, you have to let it guide you.”
I growled, kneeling, and slammed my fists into the hard and cool floor. I knew there was only one way and I knew I had to rescue her.
I surrendered to it.
Just as Mary did before me, giving her body and her boy to give us the world. Just as He did in the garden, letting His tears and sweat pour as He begged for a different way. It seems that sometimes the only way is through the pain, that the greatest love demands our surrender.
And, now she is here, her dimpled hand resting, palm up, on her forehead—swaddled, sucking. And here I am—stitched, sore, made whole.
I have tried my entire life to understand God, to wrap my finite mind around an impossible thing, this creator and parent and servant and savior. How could He make me and love me and chase me and redeem me? How could He give of Himself so freely? I simply don't have physical language for it—this knowing and not knowing.
But I do have one thing that helps me peel back a piece of the mystery, a thing that shoves me into glimpsing God.
Becoming a mother.
Guest post written by Hilary Penz. Hilary is a wife and mama from Minnesota. She and her husband grew three babes in three years and now they are all growing up together: eyes tired, hearts undone and bed full every morning. She writes from somewhere between wrestling and resting and you can find her most easily on Instagram or at www.hilarypenz.com