Musings on Mary
Musings on Mary
By Samanda Rossi, owner, educator and doula at Naturally Prepared 4 Birth
This time of year usually focuses on the birth of Christ, but for me, I cannot help but think of Mary on her journey. I have often thought that the celebration of birthdays should not just be about the person born on that day, but the person who gave life that day. I know around each of my children’s birthdays I grow thoughtful of those days and moments that brought them into the world.
So, as we journey through Advent, I think of a young woman, full of child, anticipating, waiting, dreaming, and probably equal parts hopeful and fearful about the journey before her. Mary is an important figure in my life and work. To me, she is the embodiment of motherhood, a culmination of the Goddesses before her and the Saints that would follow. I am no expert on Mary from a theological perspective. However, I DO know that when I was laboring HARD with my second son, I told myself repeatedly, “Mary did this with Jesus” and that mantra resonated with me and helped me surrender to the power that was coursing through my body. She connects me with a realm and a strength all mothers embody – both in giving life and in tragedy and loss.
Since I love birth stories, I have always been fascinated by the story of Jesus’ birth. And it has always seemed to me that a birth with so much significance was so sparse in details in The Bible. Most people in American culture are unfamiliar with the accounts of Mary (known as Mariam or Maryam) in The Koran. Mary is a VERY prominent figure in Islam. Much of the birth of Jesus story is aligned in the Bible and Koran, one big exception is the actual birth! Here’s how the Koran depicts the labor and birth:
“So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place.
And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, ‘I wish I had died before this, and had been long forgotten. Then (baby Jesus) called her from below her, saying, ‘Don’t be sad. Your Lord has provided a
stream under you.’ Shake the trunk of the palm tree towards you, and it will drop on you fresh ripe dates. So eat and drink and be happy.” Surah Maryam, 19: 22-25
The first time I read this (already having given birth), it completely resonated with me. This could be any woman’s birth story. Her desire for privacy, the need to stand and to grab something (can’t you just see her squatting as she holds onto that palm tree?), talking to her unborn baby as she endures, wishing she was dead instead of laboring so hard. Eating and drinking in labor! I see these actions and thoughts in the vast majority of women I accompany on their journeys. And dates, maybe that was the inspiration for the date study (if you don’t know about it, read here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280989 ). Of course, I think this account could be translated more deeply and symbolically in meaning beyond the physical experience. However, for my purposes, it is so inspiring to acknowledge Mary wasn’t exempt from the physical, emotional, or mental intensity of the mothering experience. This has given me immense strength as a mother – in labor and beyond.
Mary was human, Jesus was human. They had human experiences and feelings. I am sure Mary had days when Jesus was like any joyful and challenging toddler, or when she was tired of being woken every hour and a half when he was a nursling. I am certain as she cradled him, she wondered as all of us do in our immense loving of our children, What Child Is This? May we all work to honor the mothers around us as some faiths honor Mary, and nurture the great potential that exists in each newborn to live a life of LOVE as Jesus set forth.