This year as we were decorating the house for Christmas and singing very loudly (and badly) to The Pogues ‘Fairy Tale of New York’, I set up our little wooden nativity scene. Now we’re not a religious family (ahem) but I have told my girls about the birth of Jesus minus the virgin bit – far too complicated. But as I am a little obsessed with all things birth, I felt it was important to talk about one of the most famous births in history. And a BBA too! This term stands for Born Before Arrival (of the midwife) and I have to say I praise Mary for being a woman and just getting on with he job in hand despite the circumstances. In a cold stable, with various cattle watching on and not an midwife in sight. Joseph stood by and watched his very young wife give birth all by herself. I often wonder, who was really supporting and looking after that young girl?
There is a joke about what would have happened if three wise women had shown up at Jesus’ birth instead of three wise men. It goes, “Three wise women would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.” I wonder if perhaps a wise woman did attend that young mother in the stable. I always hoped that Mary had someone around who could support her, dry off her baby, help her get started breastfeeding, keep an eye on her bleeding—these are the same things I wish for all women, but unfortunately many lack this very basic care.
If the image of a birth in a stable captures your imagination the way it captures mine, I ask you to think about the conditions and circumstances surrounding birth around the world today. As a midwife, working in a affluent area of South East London, it is easy for me to forget about the deprivation and poverty that babies are born into every day. Whatever your personal beliefs, I know that we all wish for safe births attended by loving and supportive midwives. I know we wish for all children to be educated, valued, fed and loved. I know we all wish for peace on earth and goodwill for humankind.
Thank you to all of you who read Gas and Air, and I wish you a very merry Christmas.