Friday, December 20, 2013

Did Mary Get Morning Sickness?

Being with child in the lead up to Christmas, I find myself repeatedly wondering things about Mary that never come up in the Gospels. Or even any Christmas sermons I've listened to.
Did Mary get morning sickness? Heartburn? Constipation? Leg cramps? Cankles? Insomnia? Bloody gums? Nose bleeds? Haemmorhoids? Fainting? Breathlessness? Carpal tunnel? Pelvic instability? Varicose veins?
You know, all the millions of things listed in the pregnancy books and websites that tell you each week what you can look forward to, so you can go down and tick them off. Yep. Yep. That one. Oh, and that one. Aha. That was last week. That one must be saving itself for next week.
I tend to assume Mary probably escaped most of the indignities, on the grounds that she was young, presumably active, with a healthy diet of loaves and fish and olives. Being not so young and not so active, with not such a healthy diet, I seem to have got all of them. None of the serious ones. Just the little niggles. (And let's be clear, while few of the niggles are things I want to talk about in company, now the morning sickness has gone I just want to dance with relief I can actually eat again. And you know, put together a semi-coherent sentence.)
Oddly, I find myself wondering about Mary's pregnancy complains more at say, 3.59 in the morning when I'm reaching for the quickeeze and counting donkeys.
At halfway through my pregnancy I am already large enough that I spend car journeys shifting around trying to make my belly more comfortable, especially as it goes into tight Braxton Hicks. Our last journey to the beach house had me considering Mary's donkey ride from Nazareth to Bethlehem with great sympathy.
I don't think I've ever ridden on a donkey, but every time I've ridden on a horse I've walked stiffly and uncomfortably for the following days. Not pleasant at the best of times, but nine months pregnant? Ouch.
Come Christmas day we have a four hour round trip to my Grandmother's house for Christmas lunch. Come Boxing day we've another four hour drive to our beach house. I look forward to lots of shifting around while my hyped-up, over-sugared kids squabble and wail in the back. But poor Mary went miles and miles and miles. Listen to all the songs about it!
This morning, instead of lying in the dark counting donkeys, like I should be doing, I decided to google map the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem.
I blinked, and then blinked again.
According to google, it's only a three hour walk. Fourteen kilometres.
I'd always assumed it took weeks, if not days.
I would have sworn that little donkey was plodding onward for months! Obviously, if I'd bothered to look at a map I would have realised it was silly to think the journey was quite so long. And maybe there are hills or mountains in the way? One day I'll go and find out for myself.
Of course, with everyone rushing around for the census there could have been donkey jams to draw it out awhile, and we'll throw in an hour for toilet stops, but still.
On reflection, I have decided that the fact so much fuss has been made, that those three hours (and two minutes, according to google, although that's walking. Oddly, they don't have a donkey icon) have been talked, sung, preached, danced about for over two thousand years, is oddly comforting.
For two thousand years people have realised that traveling during late pregnancy (especially on a donkey) is A Big Deal.
I hereby expect those twenty four hours I spent flying to the UK (and back) while pregnant with Poppet, with morning sickness, and chasing a one year old up and down the aisles, to be sung about for at least a few months. Of course Poppet, while in my eyes completely miraculous and amazing, has no claims to the divine.
A quick check of the temperature during what is thought to be Jesus' actual birth month of September (at least according to calculations that seem vaguely reasonable to me) shows me the reason why Mary and Joseph arrived so late at night - average temperatures around Nazareth and Bethlehem in September are about 31 degrees celsius, with a dry heat. I wouldn't want to travel (especially while nine months pregnant) until the heat of the day was well gone.
Now, I'm still not entirely sure why Joseph didn't go the day before to book a room, if it was only a six hour round trip. You know, wife about to give birth and all. To the Son of God. It just doesn't look good. I'd assumed the journey took weeks, so he had an excuse. But hey, Guys.
Of course, it seems highly possible that the donkey ride precipitated the birth, and Jesus was actually due a month later, so they didn't know Mary was about to give birth. Although of course, they didn't have dating scans back then, so the due-date would have been even more of a guesstimation. More of 'the baby should arrive... well, sometime in these two months.' Although even now we go a lot on Time of Last Menstrual Cycle… so depending on how knowledgeable they were, they might have had a fair idea. Give or take two weeks.
Maybe I should go back to counting donkeys now. It appears that in addition to all the other pregnancy symptoms baby-brain has arrived. (Baby-brain: Coherent thought, coherent thought… aw… my baby kicked! who's a clever darling. What was that again?)
O yes, so, still pondering.
Donkeys. And did Mary get heartburn?

1 comment:

  1. love this. and several of my fellow clergywomen do ponder similar things, I promise! Whether anyone ever gets up the nerve to put it in a sermon…well…

    I will note, though, that Bethlehem is a little tricky. Bethlehem the city of David is just a 8km outside of Jerusalem, and is therefore about 157km, or a 32 hour walk from Nazareth. The Bethlehem in Galilee (3 hours walk) wasn't there then. :-)