Then Oh! Oh! Aaaaaeeeeeh! My body was pushing. There I was, standing over the manger and my body was pushing out my baby. There was no midwife! No-one to catch the baby! Aaaaaeeeeeh again! I tore off my robes. There was no way I could kneel down to birth the baby onto the ground. I felt frozen to the spot. I grabbed the opposite end of the manger and waddled forwards so I was straddling it. I felt I was holding onto the end of that manger for dear life. So I leaned on the manger. My grounding post, my rock. And I pushed. First relief. Then fire. Then voluptuous, overwhelming, unbearable fullness. Then a POP and a wiggling and turning within me. And at last, one more racking, involuntary, throat-grabbing push and suddenly… stillness. I dont know where I was. Lost in space and time. I must have had my eyes closed, but I wasnt even aware I had eyes. For a moment, I forgot I existed at all. And then… a gentle, throbbing pulsing in my vulva. The wood under my hands. And a sound. A splutter. A tiny mew. And I open my eyes. My baby. MY BABY! My baby boy! Lying naked and purple in the manger. Your cord spiraling up into me, beating your heartbeat in my sacred parts. I scoop you up to me and as I touch you, you fill your lungs and you cried! No weak squawks. No whimpering sighs. You crow your arrival to the world with pure passion! You turn pink before my eyes and as I gaze at your scrunched up face, your flattened nose and your quivering wailing tongue, all I see is the beauty of heaven. My boy! My joy! I sit. In fact I almost collapse. My legs are shaking. But I keep tight hold of you. Your naked self against mine. Your cheek touches my skin and you turn your head, mouth wide. Together we find your way to my breast and as quickly as it began, your blasting birth-song stops, lost, in the re-joining of your flesh and mine. Your face changes – from perfect passion to perfect peace and I sigh at this strange new feeling of you milking my breast. As if you were drawing out my very heart. Surges come still, and once again, my body pushes. Gentler this time, and I kneel up and your birth-flower plops out onto the blanket below me. You pull back from my breast and look at me. For the first time your eyes meet mine. Ah! Those deep, deep eyes. I could lose myself in them. I do. Im cold. I lay you down on a clean blanket and swaddle you in it, birth flower tucked warm against your belly. I wrap myself in a blanket too. And settle back again. We gaze at each other. We gaze and gaze. “She was at another birth!” Its Bec, returning with the midwife. She starts and then grins broadly when she sees us. “Ah you clever girl!” I smile. I feel so proud. So elated. Kind hands tend me, wash me and warm me. They feed morsels of dates and sweetmeats directly into my mouth so my hands need never leave my baby. They comb my hair, and plait it down my back so it never comes between my eyes and my child. They bring clean clothes for me and my baby, and gently, respectfully, release him from his birth-flower. The midwife goes to tell Joseph he has a son, and I hear him just outside. Was he that close all the time? Did he listen to me labour? Hear our babys first cry? I feel so much love for my husband and I long to have his arms around me, as my own cradle our baby. “What will you call him?” asks the midwife. There is a pause. And I wait with baited breath. “Jesus.” Joseph says. And I can hear from the choke in his voice that he is fighting back tears. And then I know it will all be alright – that the painful question that has hung over our marriage all this time is answered. That he will love this child as his own and we will be a true family. And then, in the morning, a new surprise. Five of the guests upstairs have volunteered to sleep in the stable tonight, so that we can rest comfortably in peace in a real room. I feel so grateful, so loved, so blessed. Strong hands carry all our things upstairs, and I rest, at last, on a real bed, warm and snug with my beautiful son. But I make sure we take the manger upstairs too.