[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jared Oberkirsch just finished medical school in June and is training to be a family doctor. He lives in Regina with his beautiful wife, Haleigh, and they are currently living happily ever after while patiently completing their post-secondary studies.]
Childbirth is messy.
No joke. I have even requested special shoes for Christmas this year in an effort to preserve my limited sock collection.
For those of you who have had the privilege of playing a part (either lead or supporting roles) in the birth of a baby, you will probably agree with me. For those of you who disagree…well…you were either very lucky or very busy paying attention to things more important than the floor!
I recently completed a month-long rotation in obstetrics – the business of delivering babies. It was a fast-paced environment that kept me up late every night I was on call. Babies are not interested in coordinating their arrivals with my preferred sleep schedule. The upside is that the hospital’s hallways are relatively people-free in the wee hours of the morning – no fears of running anyone over as I head to a delivery. Any final feelings of self-pity quickly vanish as I reach my patient and remember that everyone in the room is a little low on sleep tonight.
Not that anyone is complaining at this point – it’s time to have a baby!
One of my favourite moments right after a baby is born is watching Dad’s first reactions to his new son or daughter. I guess I identify with these guys to some extent. One day maybe that will be me (though not anytime soon, mom and dad…and other mom and dad haha). Some dads have obviously been through this once or twice already and handle it like pros; supportive and calm and sensitive enough to shed some tears all bound together in a nice balance. Some dads are…not quite as prepared. These dads, especially the first-timers, are freaking out – inwardly and occasionally outwardly. Thankfully the deer in the headlights look fades once someone brings them a chair.
Regardless of how the situation is initially handled, every dad reaches a particular moment where they are all exactly the same. Usually it happens when Mom is holding the baby and Dad is leaning over the top of the bed. With wide eyes, he stares at his new little miracle and then he looks to Mom and then back. And as it all sinks in, the look on his face is absolutely perfect. Pure, nothing-else-matters, joy.
The coming of the Advent season this year has been a special time for me. Having just finished an intense immersion in the delivering of many little babies, I am now switching gears to focus on the arrival of one very special little babe. I find myself filled with a new perspective regarding Jesus’ birth.
I find myself wondering what Joseph’s face looked like when Jesus was born. Often Mary takes centre stage when it comes to the prenatal nativity story and certainly she deserves the attention. But let’s spend today focusing on Dad.
Joseph was a first-timer. None of this was within his realm of expertise – he was a carpenter. The situation had been overwhelming from the first day of this pregnancy – the baby wasn’t even his! And I doubt that having his fiancée give birth in a food trough surrounded by barn animals would have been his first choice. Childbirth is messy enough remember? If anyone had a right to freak out about becoming a dad for the first time it was Joseph.
Yet Joseph recognized that he had a role to play… and he stepped up.
To my knowledge, there are no accounts of Joseph’s first reactions to Jesus’ birth. Maybe he was freaking out and someone had to bring him a chair. Maybe he was a blubbering mess. Maybe he spent the whole event standing outside praying (I’ve seen dads do that too!). Who knows how long it took him to pull it together.
But he was present. He knew Mary needed him. And it makes sense to me that when he looked from his newborn baby, to Mary, and back that his face held the same expression of pure, nothing-else-matters, joy.
Now bring out the choirs of angels.