While I love the whole process of birth there are two moments that I love more than any other.
The first is the moment when the baby’s head is crowning and birth imminent. The events leading up to that moment are usually full of excitement and anticipation. I love the intensity of the mother as she gives everything she has to bring this baby to the light. It is the moment when a woman is a wide open portal to heaven and the baby is not quite in the world, but not quite out of it either. That moment never fails to remind me of how fragile life is and how close we really are to heaven.
The second moment I love is watching a mother hold– really hold– her newborn baby for the first time. No matter how her birth experience went there is always something so precious about seeing those two people, who lived so closely together for nine months, meet face to face for the first time. Something beautiful descends upon a woman the first time she meets her baby and every birth I watch for it– it is the mantle of motherhood.
In 2 Kings 2 11-15 it tells the story of the prophet and Elijah and how when, he was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha picked up his mantle (an outer covering sort of like a cape) and used it. It reads,
“…. Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.
He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan. And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.
And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.”
Elisha had been chosen by God to be the next prophet of Israel and because He had been chosen by God Elijah’s mantle of power fell upon him making it possible for him to the work God had prepared for him. This “mantle” of power was so tangible and real that the sons of the prophets could actually see a difference in Elisha, saying “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.”
Just like Elisha had a mantle of power come upon him when he was chosen to be God’s prophet every woman who becomes a mother also has a similar mantle of power come upon her. Sometimes the mantle’s descent is slow and subtle and other times it comes fast and passionate. For some mothers it happens immediately and is accompanied by tears and sobs , while for others it comes gradually and is accepted with an awed and overwhelmed silence. I’ve seen it happen to women under all sorts of circumstances, after beautiful peaceful births, after long hard births, after emergency c-sections, and even after birth through adoption. Every time I see that mantle come– whether it is her first baby or her eighth– it takes my breath away.
President Thomas S. Monson has taught us that, “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.” Each woman who becomes a mother was called and chosen by God to become the mother of one of His precious children and with that calling comes an infusion of power. So often the women I work with as a doula have fears about becoming mothers. If it is their first baby they have fears of uncertainty that they will be good mothers or that they will know what to do with the baby once they have it. If it is their second, third, fourth or eighth baby the have fears of inadequacy, fears of being stretched too thin, and fears that they do not have room in their hearts or in their lives for another baby. All these fears are valid but often times they can be crippling. Every time I hear them I yearn to take that woman in my arms and remind her that God is in perfect control of the universe. That He knows how, when and where each of His precious children need to be born and that if He has selected her to be the mother of one of these spirits then He will give her the ability to handle what He has called her to do.
Motherhood is an eternal partnership with God and He does not leave her powerless.
Her mantle is real.