Jesus relates how his mother gave birth
lying down, but standing up.
RACHEL Hey, Master … Jesus! … Where have you been?
JESUS Shalom, Rachel!
RACHEL I’ve been looking for you all morning…
JESUS I was over there talking to some shepherds … They were telling me about the lands that have been taken away from them…
RACHEL Well, let me tell you, Jesus, many of my colleagues have been calling Emisoras Latinas, and they’re interested in getting interviews with you… But, from what I see, you prefer to talk with the shepherds…
JESUS Not so. I’ll speak with anyone who comes by…
RACHEL Well, then, keep speaking with me. …. Attention, studios. This is Emisoras Latinas live and direct from Palestine. We’re talking with Jesus Christ about a topic we brought up before … Yesterday, Jesus, you began to speak about how your mother Mary gave birth, do you remember?
JESUS Yes, I remember. And what would you like to know?
RACHEL Well, just that. How did the Virgin give birth… That is, your mother… I understand that these are very personal questions, but …
JESUS Personal? Births in my time had nothing private about them. When the time came for a woman to give birth, the whole neighborhood heard about it. People would run to advise the midwives, the relatives…
RACHEL Since there were no hospitals, they’d naturally take care of the woman in her house….
JESUS Yes, that was the custom.
RACHEL And did they put her in a bed?
JESUS What do you mean “bed”? In my time women gave birth while standing.
RACHEL Ah, yes, of course, standing on their feet … I saw that on the Discovery Channel…
JESUS You know what they used to do? A cord would be strung from the roof so that the woman could grab a firm hold of it when the pains were beginning. Another woman would stand behind her and support her.
RACHEL And the midwife?
JESUS The midwife would be in front of her, seated between the mother’s legs and helping her to breathe. Other women would be heating water and preparing ointments.
RACHEL And while all this was going on, what were the men doing?
JESUS Waiting. They just waited outside, sitting about and keeping silence. They used to send us little kids to look for fennel to mix with wine, and this would be given to the poor woman, holding onto the cord, pushing and pushing … Until the little head appeared and the baby was born!
RACHEL And then everybody returned to their homes.
JESUS Quite the contrary, Rachel. More people would come. The women would begin to sing and shout for joy for the newborn baby… The men would offer a toast… The midwife would wipe away the blood and cut the umbilical cord … it was quite a party!
RACHEL And your mother Mary gave birth like that?
JESUS Of course. How else would she have given birth?
RACHEL Well, I’ve read in some catechisms … that you came into the world … just as a ray of light comes through a pane of glass, without breaking it or staining it.
JESUS I’m not sure what you mean to say, Rachel.
RACHEL Ummmm … Well, … the question is whether your mother gave birth without breaking … the seal of her virginity.
JESUS Seal? What seal?
RACHEL That is to say … the hymen … Well, you must understand that it’s a topic that’s difficult for me…
JESUS No, Rachel, it’s very simple. My mother gave birth the same way all women give birth. The waters broke and the seals broke, and she gave birth like anybody else.
RACHEL That means that …?
JESUS Don’t complicate the matter, Rachel. The door of life is sanctified when it opens, not when it remains closed.
RACHEL But … but maybe it was that way during the birth … But we need to ask you what happened before and after and …
JESUS Each day has troubles enough of its own, Rachel. And each interview as well.
RACHEL Yes. Maybe it’s best to close the program for today. But attention, all of you who are tuned in to our broadcast don’t you all want to know more about Mary, the mother of Jesus? Or maybe you think that we reporters are guilty of acting more like paparazzi of the microphone? Give us your opinions. For now, reporting from Bethlehem, and covering the surprising second coming of Jesus Christ to earth, this is Rachel Perez, of Emisoras Latinas.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
*More information about this polemical topic…*
Giving birth: a community event
Among the apes and monkeys, our closest animal relatives, mothers can help to bring their own children to birth, by guiding them through the birth canal with their hands, cleaning out their nose and mouth so that they can breathe as soon as possible, and freeing them from their umbilical cord with a good bite. For that reason giving birth among the apes and monkeys is a solitary act.
In our species that is not the case: the mother cannot see the face of the baby, nor can she help it come out, because she might hurt it in doing so. Therefore, in all human cultures the women seek assistance when they are going to give birth; they don’t go through the experience alone. Human birth is a social, communal activity, and it is an event that creates community. The traditional image of Jesus’ birth in a solitary cave is neither historical nor realistic. It does not derive from the gospel story, but from the plastic figures that came much later, and it is an image that only reinforces the dogma of the “virginal birth”.
Giving birth while standing: a human right
Throughout history, and in all parts of the world, women have not usually given birth to their babies lying down, but rather squatting down. Or else they stood up, holding on to a tree or a cord, or they were held up by other women. In the 17th century the French doctor Francois Mauriceau began to have women “lie down” when they were going to give birth. From that time on, people’s homes gave way to hospitals, and midwives gave way to doctors. And because the doctors made themselves the main agents of the process, giving birth while lying down became a business, and a completely natural act was treated almost like an ailment.
In reality, the horizontal position is risky for giving birth. When a woman is lying down, her pelvis is flattened and the birth canal becomes rigid. Today many women are returning to the traditional practice and are experiencing the advantages of giving birth in an erect posture. The improved flow of fluids helps to avoid infections, the baby’s head passes through better, and the uterus dilates more rapidly. This position also improves the oxygen supply for the mother and the baby, produces fewer hemorrhages and makes the contractions more rapid. As a result, the birth is made easier, and the placenta is expelled more readily. The vertical position also diminishes the birth pangs. For this reason, there is ever more talk of a new human right: the right to give birth standing up.
Mary gave birth standing up
Mary must have given birth to her son Jesus standing up and assisted by other women. This moment was reproduced with moving images in the documentary film, “The Virgin Mary”, produced by Alan Bookbinder and shown on the British television network BBC on December 21st, 2002. Also, the British psychologist and journalist Lesley Hazleton wrote a fascinating book called Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother, in which she describes how “Maryam” and other Galilean women gave birth in those times; this is the most suggestive and well-documented recreation of the history of Mary of Nazareth that we know of.
Like a “ray of sun”
The Catholic Church proposes as a dogma of faith that Mary was always virgin: before, during and after the birth of Jesus. By the 15th century a well-known Christmas carol referred to Mary’s virginity by using the metaphor of a “ray of sun that passes through a pane of glass without breaking it or staining it”. Centuries later this image was incorporated into the catechism of Pius X, and since then it has been popularized by countless catechists throughout the Catholic world. Regarding this the Protestants hold diverse opinions: some affirm the virginal conception of Jesus, others do not. Most Protestant churches do not believe in the virginal birth and believe that Mary had other children, not just Jesus.