Birth * An Advent Reflection by Bethany Ruth Beams
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
– Ecclesiastes 11:5
Christopher was delivered by his mother with a small cry into my gloved hands when I was fifteen. His father gasped and I was silent with joy upon hearing a blessed wail from his lungs.
I could see the clock hands moving even though I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that time stood still as I laid all ten pounds and eight ounces of pure existence gently on his mother for the first time. Overwhelmed does not begin to cover how I felt at that moment, and how I still feel upon remembering it.
His was the sixth birth I had witnessed on that day of days — but the only one I touched first.
The one whose head I supported while his body remained in the womb.
The one who I turned ever so slightly to help his broad shoulders into the world.
The one who gave me new dreams before he even took a breath.
Ninety-three births and fifteen years later, my own son – Ellison – arrived more than a day and a half after letting me know he was on his way. I felt no joy, no amazement, no wonder: just exhaustion and relief that the process was over, and terror that it had just begun.
As the days moved into weeks my mind couldn’t grasp the vastness of possible universes with dangers seen and unseen. The OCD talked me into counting every step and embracing fear as my constant. The anxiety created unimaginable scenarios that I couldn’t help but believe. The depression told me I’d never get anything right, especially mothering. My therapist pushed me to understand that my brain was lying to me. Medication, time, and work have moved me slowly but surely back to health. Nonetheless, damage was done and I will bear the scars for the rest of my life.
Eli’s was the one-hundredth birth in this life of lives — but the only one who is mine.
The one who I nourished with my own body.
The one who stretched my skin over nine months only a fraction of how he would stretch my soul over the years ahead.
The one who I love more fiercely than any other because I had to conquer my own mind to do so.
Millions of births and two thousand years ago an infant made his presence known. After hours and days and months and years of pleas for this to be over, for something different to start, for life as it was to become life as it could be.
His mother and father waited with bated breath to hear the cry of God’s acknowledgement that all was not lost. The heavens exploded with song as the incarnation came to life amid long journeys, extended families, and farm animals. The unexpected who had been expected all along woke the world from its slumber with shouts of joy and whispers of peace.
His was one birth in the middle of history — but the only one who created the very life he became.
The one whose humanity was not a reflection but a reality of divinity.
The one who reminds us that the process of birth is an exercise in cyclical contradictions: a coming-together that separates before becoming something more, an end that is the beginning of another end, pleasure into pain into promise.
The one whose very being breaks through even the bleakest of nights with ferocity and tenderness to shine light in and out of and around the cracks in the darkness.
But not the only one whose life calls us to greater things.
We are holy creatures, scarred and bruised but glorious and grace-filled, made to lift one another up until eternity.
And so we shall, as it is for this that we were born, and born again.
I was born to love / I’m gonna learn to love / Without fear
Over the Rhine
Bethany Ruth Beams is a fourth-generation ginger who loves people and their stories, would do best with eighteen hours of sleep a day, has a pair of Converse shoes for every occasion, and sings the third harmony part whenever possible. She believes, along with Julian of Norwich, that “all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”