“Why is their nativity empty?” you ask about a neighbor’s creche today as we walk around the block to stretch our legs. Their stable is still on display in their yard but the three-foot tall plastic figurines of Mary, Joseph, and the whole kit and caboodle have been put away for the year.
“Because most people take down their Christmas decorations by New Years Day,” I tell you. And you stop in your tracks.
Literally, you stop, and look at me like I have just said the craziest thing you’ve heard all day.
Today is the ninth day of Christmas, girls. Nine ladies dancing.
This year, we stayed home for Christmas and had family in and out at various times. It was good to see folks, and good to have so much down time, especially because we have all been passing around a virus and not always feeling our best. We got some house projects and organization done. We opened little presents each day of Christmas (and will for three more). We’ve read So Many Books and played So Many Games of Guess Who? and Spot It! and Uno. Also, Legos. We’ve had a great Christmas.
And still it drags at times, girls, I’m not gonna lie.
On Sunday, I told your dad that I wasn’t feeling very Christmasy. That I was kind of frustrated because we did so many special things for Advent and I had such a rich Advent season but then here was Christmas and I felt blah. Why wasn’t I more celebratory? And how do you make it feelmore celebratory, apart from more presents and pizzazz. How do you celebrate quietly and still feel celebratory? I didn’t know, but I just wasn’t feeling it.
Just after that confession, I picked up an Advent devotional we’ve had for awhile but I haven’t read in a few years. It is meditative and thoughtful and, I noticed as I grabbed it, has readings through Epiphany (January 6). I thought I’d start there to reinvigorate Christmas.
The introduction to the book considered the deep theological implications of birth and its connection to our creation theology. I’ve always found the connection between birth and creativity fascinating, so I wanted to read more. Among other things, the introduction talked about how significant the “begats” are to the Gospel story—the generations of births—that happen long before Jesus was born, but then, of course, the culmination of his birth, the significance of the incarnation and what that means for us today.
Girls, birth itself is significant—at once significantly risky, significantly profound—but that’s true for anything we birth, not just biological birth.
Still, putting the book down, I thought I would try to shift my less-than-Christmasy attitude by focusing on the obvious births in my lives: your births.
I guess maybe it’s strange but I turned to the pages in an Advent book to try to “feel” more Christmasy, and I came away from them contemplating birth narratives.
About a year after each of you were born, I tried to record your birth narratives as honestly as I could. Both narratives—in Word documents—are long and rambly, like much of my writing, and both reveal me to have felt quite traumatized by the experiences.
Girls, hear me out: I could hardly get through them. Tears were streaming down my face as I relived the births through my own words and memories.
I think it’s important for you to know that I do not sentimentalize childbirth in the least. I do not say it is the most beautiful experience. Not at all. It was easily the hardest thing I have had to endure, and maybe precisely because of that, I felt like an absolute rockstar for having survived it. (I mean, an absolute rockstar combined with postpartum hormonal mess, but still: rockstar.)
And here’s what I wanted to say today, girls: I had forgotten that I was a rockstar.
As the years have gone by, childbirth has seemed like a normal kind of thing.
I had forgotten that I had done this really, really hard thing because quite honestly the difficulty of those particular moments has over time faded into the background with a lot of other difficult circumstances connected to life in a broken and wounded world.
But as I reread those birth narratives this weekend, I let myself cry, and then I closed my laptop and said to myself: Self, you are a Rockstar.
Actually, what I said to myself was more along these lines:
Self, why are you so bogged down by the tasks you have in front of you? Why are you finding the finishing of your first novel so difficult? Why does that feel like it is looming? If you can survive unmedicated labor with trauma—twice—and make it through with fistbumps, you sure as heck can draft some more words. Nothing else you have on your to-do list can even come close to what you have already survived—and survived with grace.
You have birthed human beings.
You have birthed an intentional, sacramental life.
You have birthed creative projects.
You have birthed community.
But of course, I haven’t really birthed anything.
Not on my own.
Which is how we get back to Christmas and creation.
It’s God’s work that we are privileged to birth into the world. We partner with God, every time we create, whether we are creating human beings, or books, or cookies, or love.
Which is a miracle, right?
That we get to partner with God?
That God chose to come down as a baby and live as a human being and partner with us?
It really is a miracle.
And in your birth narratives, there’s a miracle, too.
Not just that your dad and I survived them, but that we have you.
(I know, I know, it’s a little sappy to say so, but it’s Christmas for a few more days.)