Mama Madison: 'Tis the season

Christmas is a holiday about birth

If you celebrate Christmas, whether in a secular or religious way, and even if you don't, it's hard to deny there's a lot of beauty to appreciate in the season. I kind of wish malls decorated their interiors all year long; boughs of holly certainly go a long way in warming up the dull, windowless interior of West Towne.

And I'll never cease to be impressed by the yuletide creativity of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Nothing says Happy Holidays quite as brightly as the lit-up Packer and Badger helmets at Fantasy in Lights in Olin Park. I enjoy hearing carols playing in the dentist's office and seeing trees tied precariously to the tops of cars on their way to prominent living room displays. But, perhaps because I am a mother, my favorite sensory display of the season has always been the nativity scene.

Because feel as you may about the dueling creches at the State Capitol, they always remind me that the Christmas story is essentially a birth story. And everyone loves a good birth story.

I have three of my own and they are all different. The first took place in a busy downtown Chicago hospital and was aided by modern medication. While my birth plan had been somewhat non-specific on the whole drug thing, the nurse on duty that night told me the closest thing they got to natural childbirth at Northwestern Hospital was a mom without a pedicure. The pushing was long and hard, but the prize well worth it"healthy son number one.

The second was my first Madison birth. I remember being extremely impressed by the plush birthing suite at Meriter, as well as with the attentive nurses who tried (unsuccessfully) to convince me I didn't need an epidural. I felt a bit bad letting them down, but enjoyed the controlled, calm delivery. Calm, that is, until my second son appeared with the cord wrapped three times around his neck. He's been good for surprises ever since.

My final delivery was more closely akin to a short story than a novel. I went to the hospital bright and early on a Monday a.m., evidently fully dilated. Within 20 minutes I had a little girl. I still prize my daughter's efficiency, even though I felt a little gypped there wasn't time during labor for the lower back massage the midwives had promised.

My stories, quite abbreviated here, all took place at hospitals. There were no mangers, no sheep, and no angels, unless of course you count the resident who administered the epidurals. And while I would have loved to have three, or even more, wise men come bearing gifts, I settled for just one, my husband, bearing a milk shake instead of myrrh, the only thing I craved, except snuggling my baby, in the hours immediately following delivery.

But a seeing a nativity scene will always make me smile. Because whether made of painted tin, or whittled wood, or even brightly colored plastic with a removable camel saddle like the Playmobil version, they all celebrate something beautiful"the welcoming of a child.

And even when the night leading up to the birth isn't silent, these stories are holy to someone. And always worthy of being told.

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