At dinner I said the blessing. The family was gathered at my daughter’s home for pizza – a pre-birthday tradition for her since the night her mother went into labor after a pizza dinner. If all goes well, the pre-birthday tradition will continue into the next generation. My daughter is scheduled for a C-section in the morning. We are gathered from around the city and country to welcome this new child.
There is energy in the room, excitement, memory, fear. Stories are told of other births. Details are shared about what to expect in the morning. Plans are made for when grandparents should come and where to wait. It’s New York; they will take the subway to the hospital.
Finally all are gathered at the dinner table. We hold hands. I say the blessing. Not just for the food but for all children born this night and for this one child to be born in the morning. May God’s blessing be upon them. Who knows what else I said. I tried to keep it simple.
Now, in the middle of the night, my prayers are more urgent for this one woman, this one child. And yet the phrase from the prayer at dinner haunts me. So many children will be born this night. So many will enter a world whose primal goodness has faded. There will be joy in many places, but also tears. There will be places bright with future, and others dark. There are places where hunger stalks, where violence strikes. Not every child will survive. Not every mother will survive.
And so my prayer for my daughter and her child in this restless night reveals itself to be a prayer for all in childbirth, a prayer for an end to the world’s sorrows, for a dawning of that bright day when no child is unwanted and all are fed. My prayer “for all children born this night” is a prayer for the end of night.
* * *
It’s a cold February evening, the streets made darker by rain as we drive away from my daughter’s home. The family gathering has been joyful, but we are all silently keeping my daughter and the child to come in our hearts and prayers. The prayer “for all children born this night,” the damp cold, and the haunting concern for my daughter and their child makes me think also of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, refugees sent from home by the edicts of kings and emperors who know nothing of the struggle of the vulnerable.
How full of risk is childbirth. How the world would have been changed had Mary’s child not survived the night. And with that thought I wonder what will be lost this night with those children who will not survive. What songs will not be sung, what books will not be written, what knowledge will not be gained, what kindness will not be done, what salvation will not come. The world is lost with every lost child.
How much God risked in the incarnation! How vulnerable God allowed himself to be! How profound the mystery God presses for us to see! Every child is our child. Every mother our daughter.
* * *
I am lost looking into the face of my new grandson. Whatever conversation I began is forgotten as I hold him in my arms. There is only this moment, this single, eternal moment. I hear no noise from the hospital hallway. I do not know whether it is day or night. He sleeps, but he is not made content in my arms; I am made content. His tiny hand holds my finger and tears well. The world is full of tenderness. There is, for this moment, no night.