Or that Mary did not carry him for the full forty weeks we define pregnancy.
I know the Bible is big on the number forty, but it’s impossible for me to imagine Mary willingly setting off on a four-day cross-country journey to Bethlehem riding on a donkey during the last two weeks of the traditional forty weeks of pregnancy.
How did she do it? Did she have any hesitation preparing for this journey when she was so swollen with child? How much did her hips and lower back ache during the ride. How did she get any rest sleeping on the ground? What did Joseph do to make her more comfortable? Did he have to help her up from the ground every morning? How large was she? Was she irritable or calm and serene with a holiness bestowed by God for this purpose?
It occurs to me that all my ideas come from the traditionally told version of the Nativity Story, that implies she was “great with child” laboring as they entered the city, and delivering the very night of their arrival. However, we don’t actually know how pregnant Mary really was when she made the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The Gospel of Luke only says,
“And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (NAB Luke 2:4-7)
Is it possible that Mary and Joseph traveled and arrived in Bethlehem weeks earlier, when she might have been less uncomfortable? Maybe they were in Bethlehem for the census and delayed their journey home because she was too close to delivering to travel.
My own final weeks of pregnancy are passing slowly, one day at a time, one night at a time. I realize that when I focus too much on my own discomfort and irritability, I’m disconnecting myself from God. Yet this is the time when I should be prayerfully drawing closer to Him. When I don’t, I find myself lying awake in the middle of the night with my head full of thoughts. Often, these thoughts gravitate towards Mary, wondering how she dealt her final weeks, awaiting the delivery of our savior, Jesus.
Hail Mary, full of Grace, grant me the sereneness and inner peace that carried you through your own anticipation of birth. Guide me to fully embrace these last days before bringing forth my own son.