She gave birth to a boy surrounded by animals, filth, and dirt. There was no midwife or doctor or antiseptic or sterile instruments. There was no one to help. She was young – probably not fully physically mature. Still, she gave birth to a boy and survived. The unnamed miracle of Christmas is that Mary survived.
I first heard this statement from Katey Zeh, Project Director of Healthy Families, Healthy Planet. This initiative of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society is funded by a grant from the United Nations. Its mission is to educate people about the dangers of motherhood in the Global South, and to advocate for the protection of these mothers. They have produced this video, which is worth a watch.
A lot of people get very tense when you start talking about family planning. This is a hot-button issue in American politics. Yet I believe that this project is one of those things that can and should transcend partisan politics. Maternal health is a pro-life issue, and so is family planning. Family planning includes education about contraception, birth spacing, and the importance delaying a girl’s first pregnancy. Maternal health is not a women’s issue. It is a human issue. When women are healthy, their children are healthy. Education about women’s health reduces abortions, miscarriages, and maternal mortality. That is something we should all be able to support.
In many parts of the world, where women are still treated much like cattle, family planning and education can be a matter of life or death for a mother and her children – both born and unborn.
This Christmas season, as you ponder the miracle of God becoming flesh, think also of Mary. Think also of a 14 year old girl you know. Ponder what would happen to her if she were forced into pregnancy, and was unable to access a doctor, a midwife, or even a clean floor on which to give birth. Think also of the mother that died in the last 90 seconds in childbirth. Think of the women that are valued not as people, but for the service their uterus provides. They are forced into pregnancy too young, and too often. They are giving birth in terrible conditions. They are dying. Their children are suffering. They need us.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief provides a guide for putting together Birthing kits. If you are interested in putting these together, you must follow the guidelines precisely. Follow this link, then click on “Birthing Kits” along the right side of the page. This is a great way to #BeChristInChristmas.