Get any group of mothers together with a pregnant woman around, and it will only take a short while before the birth stories begin. I never tire of hearing the tales. Hours spent in labor. Induction. Ice chips. Husband nearly fainting when he saw the epidural needle. We laugh, we cry, we each take our turns with our anecdotes and experiences, each of us wise in our own ways.
Mary's birth story might be the most famous and celebrated birth story. Mary gives birth to her firstborn son and places him in a manger. But let's just pause a moment inside this phrase, "Mary gives birth."
I could tell you about how long I labored with Lydia and how my body apparently didn't want to ever deliver a child, and how we had an emergency c-section because she was under stress, or I could tell you how we planned our next c-section and Elvis nearly died with respiratory distress syndrome, or I could share with you my final cesarean birth with Henry, gratefully complication-free, except for that whole, slice-open-the-abdomen-to-pull-out-your-baby part.
But I won't go into any more detail, except for this quote: "At the beginning of the 20th century, for every 1000 live births, six to nine women in the United States died of pregnancy-related complications, and approximately 100 infants died before age 1 year." For those of you who are math-challenged, that's 10% of infants born and almost 1% of women. Just one hundred years ago, one in ten infants died before the age of one. In biblical times, it is estimated that infant mortality rate was around 30%.
Can you feel the weight of that, women?
In the last 100 years, advancements in medicine have reduced the rate of infant mortality and pregnancy-related complications. By 1997, the infant mortality rate declined to 7.2 per 1000 live births, and the maternal mortality rate dropped to less than 0.1 reported deaths per 1000 live births (from "Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Healthier Mothers and Babies").
We talk about our birth stories when we get together. They are sometimes dramatic, sometimes easy, sometimes all-natural, sometimes assisted, sometimes life threatening, sometimes water-births, sometimes surgical, sometimes frightening. We survived to talk about our birth stories.
What a miracle.