“Peace on earth begins at birth.”
I heard this quote somewhere years ago. It is a fairly popular refrain among female activists and birth-givers; accredited to midwife Jeannine Pavarti Baker. Thoroughly unexamined, I thought it referred to “calm,” “soothing,” or “natural” birth practices, or, I don’t know, trying not to make the baby cry. I thought it was about the baby’s experience.
However, my experience of finishing Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth on Good Friday and then going to services—all during peak ovulation and its brave hope—brought out a different and deeper meaning that extends and encompasses the baby’s experience, the mother’s, and, indeed, the whole human community.
If we truly respected women (or “womben”), life-making, and life-giving, there could be peace on earth. If we truly recognized and honored the sacred nature of the birthing process, the holy passage of it all, how could anyone move to diminish or destroy creation, that which came through such a sacred course? If we understood and honored all of the hope and tears and spiritual labor that went into one child—how could we ever take that person from this world, either with one bullet or hundreds of denied opportunities? How could anyone destroy a mother’s child? Someone who has come though the sacred gates?
In being born it is our gift and our right to be alive.
The logic behind the cross event for so many is that Christ was killed so that you may live and live abundantly. If this can be said about the cross, I don’t know, but I do know that it can be said of Christ’s birth, of the incarnation of God through a woman’s flesh and blood, through her womb and its gates, through her cries and willingness to embrace the rushing transformation of birth.
The onus is on the wrong event.
And people are outraged that the Son of God was killed on a cross, but what of the son of Mary? God died that day, which is everything, but only if Mary’s son is remembered. Because in her son, her boy of earth and Spirit, there we all are. There emerges the whole creation in its firstborn (Col. 1:15).
People get outraged that they killed God. The true outrage, though, is that they killed at all.
The gospel on earth begins with birth—with life, not death.
If we truly respected womben and their enfleshed creativity and sacred surrender, maybe we could see this. Maybe we could respect our own births. We could respect the fact that every person alive came through this wild holy passage, this threshold of creation, this dawn we pray and hope began in the uniting of lovers, that began in love.
“Peace on earth begins at birth,” yes.
Peace begins in honoring women, in respecting the sacramental nature of birth (in all its parts), in receiving/recovering the holy gift of one’s own birthright—the right to life itself. Then we may in turn honor our neighbors’ sacred birthright, too.
Peace begins in Christ’s cradle, in the womb of Mary, in the shelter of Joseph’s love, and in the God who is with us despite our confusion and sickness. Spirit is present to each of us, laboring with and bringing us to new life—beginning first with birth.
Make us new, O God. Make us new.
Many thanks to my littlest neighbor, Silas Henry, whose cuddles in part inspired this post, along with his fierce and loving mother, Abi.