All the stories start with Christmas morning. But what about the night?
I am a birthkeeper. I enter those spaces in the hours before and after birth, with reverence.
I know to keep the lights dim. A baby is new to the world. Eyes used to womb light, rosy in tone, are unsure about bright lights. The time is now, these hours of imprinting on mom’s face and dad’s voice.
Voices are low and singsong. Baby’s ears have heard these familiar sounds through the abdominal cushion. The startle reflex comes too easily, limbs out, eyes wide, head arched. We fold the arms and legs into the familiar, swaddling the wee one.
Smells are important too. The salty smell of amniotic fluid lingers on the skin. Vernix rubbed into soften, the new baby smell that Johnson & Johnson can never replicate. The baby follows the unique smell of the mother, able to pick out that one mom from a roomful by 24 hours of age.
Smells draw, and instincts follow, leading the baby to latch onto the breast. The golden milk, packed with goodness, drips out bit by bit. All this baby needs is here, unique for the gestational age, the perfect balance of protein and fat laced with sweetness.
And touch. Not the myriad of painful ways a baby encounters the world today. But gentle touch, reassuring this new one that the world is a safe space.
Was it like this, that holy night more than two millennia ago? One undisturbed birth, interrupted only by some sheep herders accustomed to dark and lonely quiet spaces.
It matters how we are born. It matters how we welcome new humans. And this more than a baby, welcomed as a caravan stopped for a government rule, deserved no less.
Oh Holy Night after.