I am Rachel: a midwife meditation

This story appears in the Lent feature series. View the full series.

by Karan Varker


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I feel so sorry we have no room here. His wife is obviously pregnant and she is so young. Surely we can offer them something. My husband is overwhelmed with the crowd already in our inn. It is now late and this couple is so in need.

I suggest to him that we could offer them our outside stable and he reluctantly agrees. It is not much but it is shelter from the night cold. I guide them there. It is near a shepherd's field. I can see the girl will soon deliver her baby.  I feel the urge to stay and help especially as I am a midwife. While her husband prepares the manger, I hurry to get all I will need for the delivery.

It is only a short wait now. The young woman's contractions begin. I speak softly as I repeat, "Push!" Then he comes — a beautiful boy. Yes, he cries.  I hold him as I cut the umbilical chord, wash him and place him on his mother's breast. The father appears awestruck, and admittedly, so am I. I feel so privileged to have delivered this child. I want to fall on my knees!

Who are these people?  I reluctantly return to my husband who is annoyed I have been away so long. But I am calm and I feel a strange peace. I quietly go on with my work knowing I delivered this child and that something extraordinary happened.

Shortly after the pilgrims leave our city, we are shocked and horrified when that violent, insane Herod sends his soldiers here to slaughter our baby boys.  I do not know why, but rumour has it he had wanted to kill a child who threatened him.

The wailing of mothers and families seems endless. I am so deeply saddened, and I weep. They are my children, too. I had delivered some of these infants. I can still see each one as I placed him in his mother's arms. I wonder, too, what has happened to the child born in the stable.

Years pass and I am visiting Jerusalem. I do not like it because there is so much tension here. I see a crowd gathered nearby. Some people there are noisy; some seem sombre. I wonder what is happening so I go closer. They are watching soldiers taking prisoners up the hill to be executed. There is a group of women near me quietly weeping and I wonder why. I remember the women who wept so long ago.

I look at the faces of these women. I am amazed when I recognise one of them. Though she is more mature, her face is still beautiful, but now drawn with pain as she intently watches one of the prisoners. She is the young mother who gave birth in the stable. She glances momentarily at me and seems to recognise me. I look at the one she watches. I am horrified.  

Though he is soaked in blood, carrying a cross, being jeered at, falling and beaten till he stands again, instinctively I know who he is — the lovely child I delivered.  I follow the sorrowful mother, and the other women and I stand silently at a distance and weep as he dies on a cross on which is written, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."

I remember now hearing of his goodness, his miracles and his love for simple people like me. I suddenly realise he was the infant whom Herod wanted to kill. Sadly I return to my hometown. "What now," I ask myself, "is all lost?" and I quietly wait. I am Rachel weeping for my children.


Precious Son

Night is quiet, safe.
Stars dancing, singing.
Kneeling beside her,
Midwife shepherding birth.
He comes!
Light all round smiles.
Creation rejoices!
Gentle mother, grateful father.
Women joyfully laugh.
Precious Son,
Mystery of love!

He falls. She weeps.
Crucified, thirsting, dying.
Darkness all round laments.
Creation groans.
Women sorrowfully weep.
Precious Son,
Mystery of hope?

[Karan Varker is a Sister of Charity of Australia. She has been a teacher in in Papua New Guinea, America Samoa and Australia, served as a principal in Australia and Samoa, and trained Catholic teachers in Samoa and the Solomon Islands.]