Dez: Welcome to The Birth Nerds Podcast, a Utah based podcast in which two friends discuss parenthood, history, and fandom with a unique birthy twist.
Als: Hi, I'm Als.
Dez: And I'm Dez.
Als: And this is our Christmas episode, so we just want to wish everybody a merry Christmas and happy holidays for those of you who don't celebrate Christmas. We love you guys too.
Dez: Yes. Part of the reason that this is a Christmas episode and not a Yule episode or a Hanukkah episode is because Christmas has to do with-
Dez: Birth. And we are not "the holiday nerds", we are The Birth Nerds.
Als: And we both celebrate Christmas. We have a lot of background knowledge for that.
Dez: That's true.
Dez: I mean, being raised in America I think gives anybody-
Dez: -a lot of background knowledge for Christmas. But particularly being raised Christian in America-
Als: As both of us were.
Dez: Yes. We wanted to talk about the birth of Christmas today. And-
Als: Yeah but-
Dez: -I was wondering about the birth of Santa Claus. Because-
Als: That's a good question.
Dez: -I was that child who was an adamant believer. So Santa has always been a part of Christmas for me.
Als: Oh, yeah.
Dez: So I did a little bit of digging, and it appears that Santa was likely born in what is now modern day Turkey.
Als: Which is pretty sweet.
Dez: Yeah, but it was-
Als: And his - his name was, uh, Saint Nicholas.
Als: Not Santa Claus.
Dez: Yes. But it was also part of the Holy Roman Empire at that point. I did look into, kind of like, what birth would have been like when Santa was born. And one of the things is they absolutely would have probably used birthing stools and midwives and it was a woman's affair. Men weren't- men weren't there. But yeah, I thought that was just kinda interesting to just think about where Santa was born, because clearly, he was not born at the North Pole. Their gynecological office is way too small- if we take any- anything from The Santa Clause 2 movie. I think it's number two where she has the baby, right? Maybe it's number three.
Als: It might be number three.
Dez: We'll put it in the show notes, you guys. We'll put a link to the actual clip 'cause it's hysterical. I mean, these elves are, like, running her through and they have to, like, break the doorframe to get through, I'm pretty sure. It is not designed for human people. To be fair, having an elf gynecologist would probably make for a lot more comfortable vaginal exams.
Als: If you choose to have those.
Dez: Yes. If you choose to have those. 'Cause, you know, little hands.
Als: But it's interesting that you bring up the birth of Santa Claus because- or Saint Nicholas, in this case- because the way they birthed in 200 AD isn't that far off topic from what we're going to be talking about.
Als: Not in the terms of birth, at least.
Dez: Oh, interesting on this "historyextra.com" link that we will have in show notes, "ancient texts do not mention episiotomies, nor are there references to forceps, and no such instruments have been found in archeological record.
Dez: Somehow they were able to give birth without all that. Oh! Look at that sarcophagus with a breastfeeding mom!
Als: Oh, I love that! It's so pretty!
Dez: Yeah, you guys are gonna have to scroll through because there are some really cool pictures. Okay, so... we can go more into Santa Claus birth. We can talk about how Mrs. Claus gave birth in the North Pole with elves... What else did we want to talk about today Als?
Als: Well, I wasn't really thinking Santa.
Dez: Fair. Okay.
Als: Being- being somebody who is still a practicing Christian, uh, I- I'm, um, I'm very into the Jesus side of Christmas.
Dez: Oh, right, the- the guy-
Als: And considering-
Dez: -that Christmas is named after?
Als: Yeah, ya know.
Als: Uh, considering that's the whole point of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of one specific individual who is not Santa.
Dez: Well... you know. I mean, I think everybody knows this story though. It's nothing new. I mean, Santa being born in Turkey? That's new!
Als: That is new. But I think you'd be surprised. How about you tell us the story of Christmas that you know.
Dez: Well. Okay. So Mary's a virgin who's not married. An angel comes to her and says, "Hey, by the way, God has chosen you to birth His son." And she's like, "Well, but I'm not married," and the angel says, "Don't worry. We'll take care of that." And, um, she becomes pregnant. She has to tell her, uh, soon to be husband and then she tells her cousin, Elisabeth.
Dez: But thankfully the angel had come and talked to Joseph so he wasn't mad that she was pregnant with some other dude's kid. And, by 'some other dude', I mean God. Which is really common in Greek mythology. Not so common in Christendom.
Dez: Uh, around that time they had to go pay taxes so she had to travel with her soon to be husband's family to Bethlehem in the city of David to pay taxes. And they were there right around the time that she was to have the baby. They couldn't find any place to stay so they ended up in some smelly barn somewhere with animals, and she gave birth- which the scriptures are really ambiguous as to whether she was alone or if Joseph was acting as a midwife or if she had a midwife- I don't believe it ever really says.
Als: It doesn't.
Dez: And she gave birth and there's a star shining above them and the shepherds come and there's angels singing and... yeah.
Dez: And then a few years later the wise men came because I know that that did not happen immediately. I do know that much!
Als: Good. I'm glad you know that much!
Dez: The wise men came from the east which was probably the Orient.
Dez: Um, although there is theories in the, uh, Church of Jesus Christ that I've heard about. The theories that they were actually Nephites who travelled really, really far to go see Jesus.
Als: Oh my gosh. I've literally never heard that!
Dez: Yeah, I'll have to see if I can find that theory. It's- it's a little out there, but I think it was, like-
Als: It is a little out there.
Dez: It was three of them who had been 'translated', and so they were immortal beings.
Dez: And so they came from very, very far to the east.
Als: Yeah. Almost so far to the east that they came from the west.
Dez: Yeah. So I'll see if I can find that little theory 'cause it was really-
Als: That'd be an interesting theory.
Dez: -just random and interesting. You know. We- we live in Utah and that's the predominant religion here, so I've heard a lot of the theories.
Als: You know what, here's the thing though: I've also been LDS my entire life and have never heard that theory.
Dez: It's kind of a cool theory. It helps tie everything together.
Als: Yeah it does.
Dez: Yeah. So. But I mean, honestly, they were probably scholars from Asia.
Als: Yeah, that's what I always thought.
Dez: So. Anyway. So yeah, that was- that was about how that happened, right?
Als: Mmm... not really. Good try though.
Dez: She was about fourteen or fifteen though, right?
Dez: Mary was young.
Als: Yes. Mary was, like, thirteen or fourteen.
Dez: Oh, younger than fourteen.
Als: Maybe fifteen. Yeah.
Dez: Oh, okay.
Als: Because in Jewish tradition, a girl becomes a woman when she starts her period.
Als: So that's around twelve. When you became a woman, you were espoused to somebody. And-
Dez: Can you imagine finding out that you have to marry somebody right after you started your period for the first time?
Als: I know.
Dez: So depressing!
Als: But, I mean, like, to be-
Dez: Boys were still icky when I started my period!
Als: Oh yeah! To be fair though, like, if you lived to be twenty, you were pretty much guaranteed to live another thirty years. So like, if you made it to twenty, that was a big deal.
Als: So I can understand why-
Dez: ...getting married a lot younger?
Als: Yeah. It was the norm, you know? I do think we need to talk about how Mary was supposedly unmarried.
Als: That's not exactly true. Jewish marriage is a two step process and it can take a year plus to complete this process. The first part is the legal binding part of the marriage. So think of it as, like, the wedding ceremony. You sign the papers. It's- it's all the legal stuff. So after that first part of the marriage, to get out of that marriage you would have to get divorced. Like, it's-
Dez: And it's-
Als: -just as legally binding as our marriages to our husbands.
Dez: And at this point they're both still living-
Dez: -with their own families?
Dez: They're not living together yet?
Als: No, they're not living together yet. So, roughly about a year or so later is, pretty much, a big party. And that is when the wife goes and starts living with her husband. You know, it- it's like the equivalent of a reception. You know. It's- it's a party. It's the fun stuff. They have a big dinner, there's, um, if you're familiar with the ten virgins?
Dez: No. Ten virgins?
Als: You're not? The ten virgins parable?
Dez: Oh, yes, yes, yes.
Dez: Okay. With the lamps?
Als: So if you're familiar with the ten virgins parable-
Dez: Our non-Christan listeners are gonna be so confused!
Als: Sorry guys. Uh... there were the ten virgins who had the lamps who- who had- five had oil, five were unprepared. They were waiting for the bridegroom to follow them to the wedding.
Als: Or, to follow him to the wedding. And some of them were prepared with oil, some of them were not. That's not really the point, but- um. The bridegroom would parade through the town followed by well wishers with lamps- it's usually at night- to take the bride from her parent's home and they would have a party and then she would go back to live with her husband.
Dez: I'm sorry, I can't take the term 'bridegroom' seriously. Panic! At the Disco ruined that term for me.
Als: I know, right?
Dez: That song is now stuck in my head.
Als: Me too, actually. Mary and Joseph, at the time of Jesus' birth had gone through the legal process of being married. They just didn't live together yet.
Als: So they were husband and wife.
Dez: Well, and- that makes more sense 'cause, like, I think some of the biblical texts call her his 'espoused' wife-
Dez: -which I always just thought, like, was, like, promised wife.
Dez: Like they were gonna get married.
Als: Like they're engaged.
Als: But that's not- that's not really accurate. Um, they were- they were married.
Dez: Cool. Um. 'Kay. So, but with that ceremony stuff?
Dez: Consummation wouldn't happen until after the party, right?
Dez: Until after she goes to live with him?
Dez: So still- you're married but also you can't do the nasty yet.
Als: Yeah, exactly. You-
Dez: So it still would have been kind of looked down upon for her to be pregnant at that point?
Als: Yes. It- it would have been. So, much like you said, the angel came, spoke to Mary, you know. That she was gonna have the Christ child. That's pretty on t- on point. I think it would be fair noting, like, what a good guy Joseph was. Because in the bible when it talks about Joseph 'putting Mary away', it means pretty much divorcing her and ruining her reputation.
Dez: Well, and theoretically he could have had her stoned, too, yes?
Als: Yeah, yeah, he-
Dez: He could have had her killed.
Als: Yeah. He could.
Als: It really is. The fact that Joseph wanted to put her away privately so that she was not a total disgrace-
Dez: Just kind of put her away as in-
Als: -is a really-
Dez: -hide her from society-
Dez: -but not divorce her?
Als: Well, I think divorce her, too.
Als: But, I-
Dez: Good guy Joe.
Als: Yeah. At least he wasn't, like, being a dick and wanting to stone her. You know.
Dez: Yeah, well, I mean, to be fair, if- if I was a guy and my girlfriend ended- or excuse me- wife ended up pregnant when we hadn't slept together I'd be pretty upset.
Als: I would be too. But then, you know, he- he got the-the dream that this baby was, uh, the son of God and everything was peachy.
Dez: Yeah. I'm sure that- I'm sure it didn't go from immediately, you know, I'm angry with you to peachy though. You know. I'm sure there was a process and I just-
Als: I'm sure.
Dez: -... that sounds very stressful.
Als: I'm sure it was.
Dez: For both- for both parties.
Als: Oh yeah. I can't- I don't even want to think about that. How hard that would have been to try and-
Dez: Move beyond that?
Als: Well yeah, and just the- the level of trust that he had to have in Mary? And also the level of trust he had to have in God.
Als: Because to think, okay, this is- this is God's will, you know? She's not lying to me. Even though I had this dream, it would be- that would be hard. That-that takes a lot of faith. Also to raise a child who's not your own is a really big deal.
Als: You know. That's a big deal for anybody.
Dez: Yup. To step up and parent that child who is not your flesh and blood.
Als: Exactly. If you have done that, props to you, because-
Dez: Seriously. Kudos.
Als: -that's amazing.
Dez: The- the true-
Als: Still to this day.
Dez: The true miracle of Christmas, you know, in addition to the Christ child, is that step-parents rule.
Als: Yeah. And just love. The first-
Dez: Can you talk a little bit about Elisabeth? Her cousin?
Als: Yeah. I would love to talk about Elisabeth. Elisabeth is actually one of my favorite stories in The New Testament. I actually plan on naming a child Elisabeth after this Elisabeth. Elisabeth with an "s".
Dez: Elisabeth with an "s", folks.
Als: Elisabeth with an "s". Elis-a-beth. Not E-liz-a-beth.
Dez: Yeah. Elis-a-beth not Eliza-beth.
Als: Yeah. Um, Elisabeth was old. Just, she was just old. She and her husband Zacharias had been married a very long time and had never had any children. This, you know, this was before birth control, so the fact that they had never had children means that something was wrong-
Als: -with either him or her... we'll never know. But they were old and they had never had any children. One day, Zacharias was in the temple and he was told that he would- that he and Elisabeth would have a child. He didn't believe God.
Dez: I mean, after how many years of marriage and infertility? I don't know that I would believe either.
Als: Right? I mean, that'd be a big deal. But also it's God talking to you, so... I don't know. Anyway. But Zacharias was struck dumb, which means he just couldn't talk.
Dez: That's a whole new, uh, term for speechless.
Als: Speechless. Struck dumb. Speechless. All that.
Als: And then Elisabeth find- found out that she was pregnant. And if you've struggled with infertility or if you're an older mom, you know that that is a miracle.
Dez: Yeah. Well, and I would assume, depending on how old she was, too, if her cycle stopped happening, she just was, like, "Oh. Well, I'm old. I guess I'm going through my time." And then all the sudden she's, like, feeling flutters and going, "What the heck is going on?"
Als: Yeah. Exactly. When Mary found out that she was pregnant, Elisabeth was about six months pregnant. Uh- with actually John the Baptist, if you didn't know that.
Dez: I did know that.
Dez: 'Cause I knew that they were cousins.
Als: Yes. I think that Mary found a lot of comfort in Elisabeth? Because both of those pregnancies are miraculous.
Als: They're- they are literal acts of God. You know. Uh, supernatural in a way. And so I think they- they were able to share a lot of- a lot of experience and a lot of fears, uh, surrounding their-
Als: -their births and their-
Dez: -and can you- can you correct me if I'm wrong. Did Elisabeth know that John had a special, um, assignment on Earth as well?
Als: You know, I don't know. But I know that when Elisabeth, uh, saw Mary for the first time in this situation-
Dez: Oh, I remember this story.
Dez: It's really sweet.
Als: Her baby, who was John the Baptist, jumped in her womb. So like a- a- a big huge movement, and she knew in her heart that this baby- not only that she was carrying but that Mary was carrying- was special. And that these two babies were connected.
Dez: Yeah. Yeah, I remember that story. 'Cause, like, that first huge movement when you're pregnant, too, is just like, "Woah-
Dez: -what was that?"
Als: So it's- it's actually assumed that Mary probably left Elisabeth before Elisabeth gave birth. Uh, because "unmarried" women were not allowed to attend births. Which, yes, Mary was married, but she also wasn't.
Dez: That's where it gets really muddy, especially when- when you're translating into English from-
Dez: -a very different language. Just the-
Als: -and also-
Dez: -definitions are just muddy.
Als: Yeah. And also, in our culture, you're either married or you're not.
Dez: Yeah. There's- there's no- I mean, the closest we get is engaged, but again, you're not married if you're engaged.
Dez: You have no legal obligation to stay with them at that point.
Als: Exactly. Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem, which is the city of David, who was Joseph's ancestor, to be counted in the tax. Something that I find really interesting, um, I'll link the books that I'm- I've been referencing, uh-
Dez: They're really cool.
Als: -in the show notes.
Dez: I kinda need to borrow them from you.
Als: They're really cool. Uh, it's actually theorized, uh, that not only was Joseph a descendant of David, but Mary probably was, too.
Dez: Well, yeah, because... Jesus was to be a descendant of David.
Dez: That would make sense-
Dez: -since he's not biologically Joseph's.
Als: Yeah. Exactly. And that- that's kind of where that is referenced. Because Joseph was Jesus' legal guardian, legally he shared his lineage. But I think that this goes beyond just legal.
Als: If Joseph and Mary were of the house of David, it would be fair to say that their entire families were in Bethlehem.
Dez: So both sides?
Als: Both sides of the family.
Dez: Oh, see, and birthing without your mom, especially when you're-
Dez: -a thirteen year old-
Dez: You need your mommy there.
Als: Oh yeah.
Dez: I needed my mommy there and I was a nineteen year old.
Als: Yeah. So the assumption that Mary gave birth completely alone is not probably very accurate.
Als: You know, her mom, her grandma, her aunts were probably all there, not to mention maybe even part of Joseph's family.
Als: It- it was definitely very woman-centric.
Dez: Yeah. Um, honestly, of all the people to not be there, it was probably Joseph that wasn't there.
Als: Yeah. Probably.
Dez: From what I know about birth. Although there is a really cool photograph, a recreation of Christ's birth by Natalie Lennard, and it's fantastic. We are definitely gonna put that in our link-
Als: Oh yeah. We should.
Dez: -because it is breathtakingly gorgeous. But it's one where it's just Mary and Joseph birthing. You know.
Dez: But it's still gorgeous.
Als: Oh yeah. I mean, I don't think that those alone times weren't part of the process, you know.
Dez: Well, I mean, Joseph was catching. Like that-
Als: Oh yeah.
Dez: -almost certainly did not happen.
Als: Probably not. There probably was a midwife, honestly. Maybe it was even one of Mary's relatives.
Dez: Yeah, well, midwives back then would have been a female relative-
Dez: -on one or the other side of the family.
Dez: I- it'd be an aunt or a cousin or a grandmother or, you know, just a wise woman in your family.
Als: Exactly. That also brings up the idea of where Jesus was born.
Dez: Yeah. So we know it was Bethlehem.
Dez: That's, you know, the name of the town.
Als: Yes. The story in Luke 2 talks about how they- there was no room for them in the inn. Now-
Dez: Which, coming from a western society, an inn to me it's like a tavern, it's a hotel.
Dez: Which would make sense, I mean, they're from out of town. You find a hotel. But did hotels exist in, you know, 30 BC?
Als: Good question-
Dez: Or not 30 BC... It would have been about 0.
Als: I think they say between 6 and 4 BC?
Als: Nobody really knows for sure.
Dez: I mean, fair.
Als: The word in Greek that is translated into "inn"- okay, mind you, I don't speak Greek, so I'm sorry- is "kataluma". Which in modern translation isn't "inn". It's "the upper room". So in- in houses in ancient Israel at this time, the main level of the house was where the animals were kept. You know, so they were safe from animals and predators and thieves. And then above where all the animals were kept was where the people lived. There just wasn't room in those upper rooms. There was probably somebody who was more important than Mary and Joseph staying in those rooms. You know, grandparents or patriarchs or-
Dez: Yeah, I was gonna say. It would probably be the elders.
Als: Yeah. May-
Als: Probably mainly elders or people of importance within the family. And so they were kind of stuck... not out in a barn, but just not-
Als: -in the upper room.
Dez: But downstairs.
Als: But downstairs. Yeah.
Dez: Not as nice of bedding.
Dez: There are stinky animals.
Als: Pr- probably. There- yeah. There probably were stinky animals. While Jesus' birth is definitely very humble, it's not-
Dez: Out on the farm humble?
Als: Yeah. And it's not abnormal for the time period.
Als: But it is miraculous and very humble and- and-
Dez: Yeah, but what would be abnormal for the time period is a king being born in those conditions.
Dez: And, you know, he was gonna be the king of the Jews.
Dez: So people were super skeptical. They were like, "He was born in a stable?"
Dez: "Are ya sure?"
Dez: This is the king of the Jews we're talking about. He should have been born into riches and lavish- you know. Been born into a bath with oils.
Als: Exactly. And then- speaking of oils, though- the swaddling cloth that Mary wrapped the baby Jesus in, probably- what they probably did was, um, rub him down in oils. Probably olive oil. Maybe some essential oils? I don't know. Um, and then wrapped him in the cloth rather tightly like a tight swaddle. And that was actually to prevent infection, um, and to keep the skin clean.
Als: Which I thought was-
Dez: Because they didn't understand the function of vernix.
Dez: Don't- don't wash off your vernix with olive oil folks. Vernix is important.
Als: Exactly. But I did wanna kinda talk a little bit about how Mary would have birthed. I feel like a lot of pictures and art implicate that maybe Mary was just laying there in the hay, or-
Dez: Yes, because that's what you want to do-
Dez: -when you're in labor is just lay down flat on your back.
Als: Or reclining in the hay. Also, who wants to lay in hay? Not me. Sorry.
Dez: Especially not with your vagina out. Please.
Als: Yes, and you know, with your cervix dilating. That cannot be comfortable. Childbirth at the time is actually pretty well documented. It's talked about a little bit in the Bible. Um, a lot of times women were birthing on stools- on birth stools-
Dez: Mmm hmm.
Als: -U-shaped kind of stools. Um. Which, you know, kinda puts you in a good squatting position but also gives you a lot of support. You know. You're not having to use your legs nearly as much as if you were traditionally squatting. From everything I've read so far is nearly everybody was squatting-
Als: -when they gave birth.
Dez: Squatting or- or kneeling.
Dez: But probably squatting because birthing stools were so common among midwives.
Als: Yeah. And also, um, you know, or you would stand on bricks and squat on bricks.
Dez: If you didn't have a stool available.
Als: If you didn't have a stool.
Dez: Which, if they were in the stable, they probably had things that they could use, such as bricks-
Dez: -to make birthing more, um-
Als: Yeah. And even if there weren't bricks, you would probably just be squatting on the ground.
Dez: Yeah. Fair. I mean, again, we're assuming that she's giving birth in the company of women.
Dez: So she's probably got a sister or mom or aunt or cousin holding her in a squat while the midwife is there helping.
Als: Yeah. And then another position that's kind of talked about a little, too, in the Bible is on- on the knees. So probably hands and knees. Um. In Genesis, when Rachel's servant Bilhah was having a baby- she was on her knees. Um, so I mean, it's definitely not the typical on your back sort of-
Dez: Well, by the time we were able to translate- I mean- when was the Gutenburg press invented?
Dez: By the time- by the time these stories were available for public consumption-
Dez: -this way, birth had become a little bit more... um, not quite medicalized but more managed.
Dez: And, you know, by the time that most people were actually learning how to read and being able to share in these stories-
Dez: -birth was done at the doctor's, or midwife's, sometimes, convenience while you were on your back.
Als: Mmm hmm. Well, you have to think at the time that the King James Ver- the King James version of The Bible was compiled, you know, King James was the nephew of Queen Elizabeth I. Um, it is rather recent in history.
Dez: Mmm hmm.
Als: If you think about it. And by that time, people were giving birth on their backs, especially those within the royal families. That was really, really typical, so I can imagine that these royal scholars-
Dez: Well, and the artists.
Als: -only had- yeah- only had this one idea of how people gave birth.
Dez: Yeah. And then the artists drawing it, again, they're, "This is what we were told birth is like", and-
Als: Mmm hmmm.
Dez: -some of the early depictions of Jesus and Mary, I'm like, "Have you ever seen a baby? What is that supposed to be?"
Als: Right? It's all so ugly.
Dez: He looks like some grumpy old man. And not in the cute baby grumpy old man way but in the- like, he's got a unibrow going on kind of way.
Als: Yeah. Yeah. I've seen some pretty crazy, crazy pictures.
Dez: They're pretty fantastic.
Als: In Jewish culture, I'm sure now even, but there's this idea that the woman after giving birth is unclean.
Dez: Yes, I've heard of that, yeah, and also when you're, uh, menstruating, right?
Als: Yeah, also while you're menstruating. It's kind of the same problem that we had with the word "inn". The word for unclean comes from the word "tumah". Which to me doesn't necessarily mean unclean. There's not- I think the problem is that there's not really a good translation into English of what tumah means. But I'm gonna read this little blip from this book, um, that I've been referencing. It's called
"Walking With the Women of the New Testament", um, by Heather Farrell. And it's also a really good resource for what life was like, um, for these women in the New Testament. It is from an LDS perspective. You know. If you don't believe that, take it with a grain of salt. Um, but if you do believe that, it's a really great read. "The tumah a woman experienced after childbirth was not because her body was dirty or because she had sinned in creating life. The birth of a child is one of the supernal examples of God's ability to create new life. When a woman is with child, she is filled with the power of God. When the child is born, that intense level of holiness departs and therein there is a greater potential for tumah. This may also explain why a woman is considered to be unclean twice as long for giving birth to a girl instead of a boy. All females, from the moment of their birth, bear within them the power to give life, an open manifestation of godliness. By giving life to a girl, a woman has doubled the potential for life and consequently doubled the potential for death."
So it's this- to me it seems like this power of life and death.
Dez: That's so metal.
Als: It- it really is!
Dez: That's so cool. Well, and I think it's almost taking in the scope of how transformative childbirth is.
Dez: That, I mean, we- we recommend as- you know- doulas- anyone in the birth community recommends- you keep to yourself for a little while. You don't need to go out in public. You don't need to go to church the week after you have a baby.
Als: Yeah, exactly.
Dez: Please stay home!
Dez: And I'm wondering if that's part of it. Because, you know, they need rest.
Dez: I always thought, you know, growing up I would hear about being "unclean" and, you know, the "red tent" and- that sounds so cool as a grown up!
Dez: I'm like- can I please, just like, not deal with people while I'm menstruating?
Dez: You know. My kids can stay with their dad. I'm gonna go menstruate with some other cool ladies. It's gonna be fine.
Als: Yeah. It's not- it's not meant as a negative thing by any means. It's a powerful thing. And I think that's really, really cool, and I think it comes down to the fact that- you know- you have to think about the time when the King James Bible was compiled. It was a time when women were seen as powerless and weak.
Dez: And when we were seeing periods as dirty.
Als: Yeah, exactly.
Dez: And unhygienic.
Als: And you know, I think that that translation is one of those things that was lost.
Dez: Well, I wanna talk about breastfeeding, 'cause breastfeeding is always an interest with me-
Als: Oh, yeah!
Dez: -and I know wetnursing was very common back then. Do you have anything in your book about how Jesus was fed? Because, I mean, it- it was incredibly common for families to just feed their babies together.
Dez: You know? Um, "I need to run up to the river and gather water. Can you watch baby Jesus?" "Yeah, sure," says Elisabeth. "I'll just nurse him and John when they get hungry." You know.
Als: Oh yeah.
Dez: Although I don't think she was back in Nazareth at that point when he would have been breastfeeding. But there's also- didn't you tell me? There's something about a weaning ceremony in Jewish culture? Was that you that was telling me about that?
Dez: Oh, who was I talking to about breastfeeding and Jews? There- I was talking to somebody- but that when a baby weans... You know what? It was Hannah Kidd. I will get resources from her.
Dez: 'Kay. When a baby weans in Jewish culture, there's like a weaning feast that they throw. And of course, this is not a baby. This is like a four year old.
Dez: Like- there's a feast though. And it's like a party and a celebration that you've been on the breast for four years and, "Oh, now you're having all this big kid food and you don't have to nurse anymore. You're a big kid now!" It's like this huge thing and it sounds so beautiful. As someone who had a 'big kid' nursing- I mean, we weaned just before she turned four-
Dez: I could have so done with a party.
Als: Oh yeah!
Dez: I mean, to celebrate my accomplishment too. I kept- I stayed sane-ish through that entire process.
Als: Well, and that's really cool too because by the time they're four or five, you know, they can probably remember that. I could see somebody looking back at that as part of- a huge milestone of growing up.
Dez: Mmm hmm. Well, maybe we'll have to have Hannah on the podcast 'cause she's really smart about breastfeeding and stuff.
Als: Yeah! That'd be super fun. I'd love that.
Dez: So Hannah, when you hear this, hit me up girl!
Dez: Our Birth Nerd Alert today is all about the gifts of the wise men. Specifically frankincense and myrrh. What on earth would those be useful for with a new baby, a new mom, or possibly a three year old? Because like we said, they probably didn't get there for a few years after his birth.
Als: Yeah, I mean, in today's world those things are pretty much useless.
Dez: I know. There's a meme that goes around on all the birthing pages every year getting close to Christmas that's about the three wise *women* and they're bringing things like casserole and pads and, you know, lactation cookies, or- you know. But actually, frankincense and myrrh would have been super useful for a new mom. Frankincense is known to lessen stress and trauma. It helps to promote healing. It actually is really helpful for, um, immune support, and it can ease the effects of depression. So I actually wrote a blog post a few years ago all about how I think Mary probably had postpartum depression.
Dez: And frankincense might well have been helpful for that. When combined with myrrh, it can also reduce stretch marks.
Als: Both those oils are very healing though. Just in general.
Als: -medicine pretty much.
Dez: Well, and myrrh is used to preserve things as well. So there is a theory- and I will have to dig it up and find it 'cause it was a little out there but also kind of awesome- that Jesus' cord stump from his umbilical cord and his foreskin were preserved in a liniment or an ointment and that that particular ointment was the same one that Martha washed his feet with with her hair.
Als: Which is nasty.
Dez: Which sounds really nasty. But also, if you're gonna use it to preserve something like a cord stump, myrrh would be another, you know, really useful gift.
Dez: I- you know- I don't know a ton about essential oils. I know most doulas tend to know a ton about it and I have a passing knowledge.
Als: Yeah, same.
Dez: But, you know, I always wondered as a kid, "What on earth are they giving him a frankenstein monster and myrrh for?" Uh, yeah, not frankenstein. Frankincense. Very protective oils from everything I can see. And I will make sure I link it for the birth nerd alert in our show notes.
Als: We talked a little bit about how, you know, the whole "unclean" thing, and, you know, how girls you would be unclean for 80 days. So in the other book I've been looking at- it's called "Mary, the Mother of Jesus" by Camille Fronk Olsen, she says, "According to the law of Moses, birth, not conception, rendered a woman ritually unclean for seven days before a son was circumcised and 32 days afterward for a total of thirty days." Now, the way that's written, I could see that the mom would be able to go to the circumcision ceremony.
Als: Would you agree?
Dez: Yeah, the phrasing almost sounds like you're unclean for the first week and then, oh, you can go to the bris, and then you're unclean again until you're forty days. Which, I think forty days is pretty interesting too because a lot of cultures revere those first forty days-
Dez: -um, as a time of healing and, um, building the mother back up.
Als: Yeah. It's almost a time for- for renewal.
Als: Instead of just jumping right back into being-
Dez: Which our culture could take some learning from.
Dez: I mean, I know my mom was fortunate to be able to stay home after, um, her girls were born, but she did have to go right back to work after my brother was born, and to school.
Dez: Because she was- she was still in school. And, uh, when I talked to my mother in law, she was back to work two weeks after my husband was born.
Als: That's crazy!
Dez: I can't even imagine having to function two weeks after having a baby.
Dez: And she was at work full time and she still had a baby at home and that- that just sounds terrible.
Als: It really does.
Dez: And I mean, she's fantastic-
Als: Yeah. Of course.
Dez: But, I mean-
Als: You do what you have to do.
Dez: Yeah, exactly. So just the idea that just, maybe just take some time? Forty days seems like a really good amount of time to not have any social obligations.
Dez: And that's kinda what that is.
Als: Yeah. Exactly. Well, and I don't know about you but I'm totally on board with Trump's plan to have, you know, more maternity leave. And paternity leave too.
Dez: Yeah. Well it's something that people have been pushing for and pushing for and pushing for and I really hope it finally comes to fruition.
Als: Me too. And-
Dez: It would be a really good way to end his presidency.
Als: It would be. Or-or maybe start his next term, you know. Who knows? You know. We don't know. I am not about, like, having tons of taxes to pay for different things just for everybody, but honestly that is one thing that I would not mind paying a little bit every paycheck.
Dez: Well and it- it serves so much more.
Als: It does.
Dez: It's kinda like how we don't mind paying for WIC-
Als: Yeah exactly.
Dez: -because it serves the world much more that we pay pennies into it really.
Als: Exactly. Or medicare-
Als: -things like that. Like we're- we're always paying for stuff like that. That's not something I would mind paying for. So with the forty days, it's like the only day that a woman wasn't expected to be, you know, in this state of uncleanliness was the day her son got circumcised.
Als: Do we wanna talk about what circumcision was like?
Dez: Yeah. Um. I do want to preface this: I know that this is a super hot topic in the birth world. I'm not saying one way or another whether I believe circumcision is right, wrong, whatever. It's not relevant to this conversation-
Als: Mmm hmmm.
Dez: -'cause this happened, like, 2,000 years ago you guys.
Als: Yeah. Exactly. It's what you did back then.
Dez: So... Bris ceremonies though are definitely something that is still practiced in Jewish culture. Um I think the first time I ever heard of a Bris was watching M*A*S*H because they had a- a Jewish soldier who had gotten a Korean woman pregnant and he wanted their baby to be circumcised. So Hawkeye snuck and got the baby into the Bris ceremony. And I know Father Mulchayhe, the priest- the chaplain- was reading it out in Hebrew and they had to get it transmitted from a Rabbi on another place- I think it was Navy so on some ship. And he's just slaughtering the Hebrew words of the ceremony.
Dez: So they did the Bris, and, you know, droppers of wine in the baby's mouth and things like that. Um, that's where- that's where my introduction to what a Bris ceremony was came from.
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: M*A*S*H is one of those classic TV shows that is always funny, and yet, actually in hindsight, kinda problematic in some of their humor. I- I still shamelessly watch M*A*S*H though.
Als: That's okay.
Dez: Anyway: Bris ceremony. Jesus was likely- almost certainly- circumcised.
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: He was a Jewish baby boy.
Dez: And the Bris ceremony would happen eight days after the birth. Now in conventional wisdom, you know, modern Christians believe that would have been January 1st. Als, why is that wrong?
Als: Because Jesus was probably born in the springtime.
Als: Um, the records that we have- I believe this is the base of it- but the records that we have of Herod's taxing: it was done in the springtime.
Dez: April 15th just like America, huh?
Als: Yeah. Something like that. You know.
Dez: The other basis I can remember is I think about the shepherds watching their flocks at night. They only did that when they were expecting babies to be born. Sheep babies. Which would be in the spring.
Als: Oh, yeah, which would be in the springtime.
Dez: So they wouldn't be watching their flocks by night in December.
Dez: And then the theory behind why they put Christmas in December when the church sat down and decided to do this was, um, in a way to help- it was symbolic 'cause it's right after the winter solstice, so that's the darkest day of the year-
Dez: -and this is the new light. It's also a little bit to help convert those darn pagans, at least according to the church-
Dez: -because it's Yule time, so you know, even in our Christmas songs today, we talk about Yuletide treasures-
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: -and, you know, the Yule log, and these are- these are things-
Dez: -that were traditionally pagen religion.
Als: Well, I can imagine even if it wasn't meant to convert people, that the people who did convert who grew up, you know, with these traditions... you don't wanna get rid of everything.
Dez: Yeah. Well, I- I know in South America when the conquistadors came, the Virgin Mary became a huge symbol because they already had a goddess like that.
Als: Yeah. Exactly!
Dez: So they just kind of adopted the Virgin Mary as another prototype of this same goddess that they had already been worshipping.
Dez: I think that happens with a lot of religions. I mean, we assimilate into our own culture.
Als: Yeah. That's not necessarily- you know- that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Dez: Yeah. But almost assuredly, Jesus was not circumcised on January first-
Dez: -although symbolically that's kind of cool too.
Dez: You know, it's the start of a new year, a new life, and the symbolism behind the circumcision: it's the first time that Christ's blood was shed for mankind. For God. Um, so that's- that's-
Dez: -kinda cool symbolism when you think about it.
Als: His blood was shed for God and then later on for mankind.
Dez: Yeah. And that's- that's kinda cool. Um.
Als: A whole life dedicated to God and to man.
Dez: We believe in Wikipedia. I will just say this right up front. Because it's really hard to put inaccuracies up there. I mean, I know we were always told in high school that it's not a reliable source- It's a much more reliable source than it was maybe fifteen years ago.
Dez: I'm looking at the "Circumcision of Jesus" wiki page, because that's a thing.
Als: Wow. I woulda never thought that.
Dez: Um, there's some really cool artistic depictions of the circumcision, so in a circumcision- in a Bris ceremony- traditionally, and even still, babies are carried in to their ceremony on a pillow. And the person who's chosen to carry them is often what Christians would think of as, like, a godfather figure.
Als: Oh, okay.
Dez: Someone important to the family. And then, the person who holds the baby during the circumcision is almost always a relative, uh, the patriarch of the family, so a grandfather.
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: Um, but not always. It's performed by a Mohel, which is somebody who's had the training to safely do a circumcision.
Als: I am glad for that.
Dez: Yes. Well it's-
Als: Not just some random Joe Shmoe.
Dez: -it's not medical training but it's still- from what I understand, and I don't know a whole heck of a lot about Biblical circumcision versus modern circumcision- but the Biblical version seems like it was a lot less... involved?
Dez: The traditional method of circumcision wasn't complete removal of the entire glans and foreskin. From what I understand. Um. I would love for comments if I'm wrong on that.
Dez: I always wanna learn more things! Oh, there is a theory that Jesus' foreskin was kept-
Dez: -and it's a- it's an artifact that people actively look for, which is bizarre to me.
Dez: I'm sorry. I love Jesus and all, but I really have no interest in seeing his 2000 year old foreskin.
Dez: There are three stages in a Jewish ceremonial circumcision. First, the Mohel would remove the baby's foreskin with a special knife, a ceremonial type knife, um, then it would be torn off and folded back- or, "tearing off and folding back the mucous membrane to expose the glans".
Dez: And the final stage- I know, it sounds just brutal.
Als: Yeah it does.
Dez: The final stage is called "Mezzizza" (SP), which means suctioning the blood from the wound. Now, this part, when I read it I just had to turn my phone off and, like, walk away for a second. Because in the Talmud (SP) they actually used oral suctioning. They would put their mouth on the wound and suck the blood out.
Dez: Um, because, you know, it was "suctioning of the blood". They thought it was more hygenic that way. Which we now know is not the case-
Dez: -not to mention the creepy image that that brings up.
Dez: Um, most folks nowadays would do something like a- like a cannula. Think like a Baby Frida, like a Nose Frida, to suction the blood but it never actually touches your mouth. But you're still using the suction of your mouth.
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: Does that make sense?
Dez: And others just use gauze and call that good.
Dez: Um, it's kinda controversial in the Jewish community from what I understand as to which is the, you know, right way-
Dez: -the good way. So circumcision is part of the Law of Moses and Jesus would have most certainly had that done.
Dez: Um, the other cool part about circumcision is that that's when they would be given their name. It- you know, they might have casually called the baby something before but it's like the official naming ceremony. Our- our LDS listeners-
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: -will kind of probably think of that as, like, the baby blessing that they do in church.
Dez: That, you know, they're taken in front of the religious group and given a name and a blessing, and that's basically what a Bris ceremony was.
Als: Yeah. Other- other religions do too, you know, a lot of times a bap-
Dez: Yeah, like a Christening.
Als: -baptism is when you would receive your name, too. Or dedication. Some people call it a dedication.
Dez: Yeah. But, I mean, I think it's kind of interesting how there's the trickle down effect 'cause Judaism gave birth to Christianity.
Als: Hey, hey! Ba dum tss.
Dez: That's a terrible pun. Um. So there is that sort of trickle down effect of, you know, all these Christian religions that do a really similar naming/religious type ceremony but maybe without the circumcision.
Dez: I did find more on breastfeeding too.
Als: Oh did you?
Dez: 'Cause we took a quick break. Um, Ian is working on stuff upstairs and was coming down the stairs and I heard like two steps and he paused and was waiting for us to stop talking so he could come down.
Als: He's so sweet.
Dez: He's very sweet. But I did find more about Jesus and breastfeeding, specifically like the weaning ceremony-
Als: Oh good!
Dez: -like I was talking about. So I do have resources now, you guys.
Als: Yay! I'm so excited!
Dez: So the weaning ceremony actually started with Abraham when Isaac was weaned- so his son-
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: There was a celebration and a feast, which- oh! That would happen after a Bris too. That was what was gonna lead me into this.
Als: Oh, haha. Oh well.
Dez: The- the religious ceremony's just the first part and then you have a party afterward, which, again, a lot of Christian folk do too-
Dez: -after their Christenings or blessings or whatever.
Als: Well, look at the wedding we were talking about.
Dez: Yeah. You've gotta party!
Als: Yeah, you have the official thing and then you party.
Dez: Yes. Because it's exciting.
Als: It is.
Dez: This is a new life and a new name and...
Dez: Yeah. Weaning a child in- in the Bible, it doesn't really give an age for when you should wean-
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: -but it's suggested that it happened anywhere between fifteen months and five years old for most children in the Bible.
Als: That's a big gap.
Dez: That is a big gap. But I mean, that's natural weaning ages.
Als: It is, yeah.
Dez: Um, the other reason for the feast is partly symbolic again. I mean, it all goes back to symbolism. Once the baby is weaned- and I keep saying baby- once the child is weaned, they're a lot more likely to survive because they've gotten through the hardest part of infancy.
Dez: They're no longer solely dependent on their mother for nourishment. So if their mom dies, they're still gonna be okay. So it is, it's a big celebration feast. And I vote we bring that back.
Als: Heck yeah! Why not?
Dez: And in all cultures. Because if you breastfeed for two days or two weeks or two years, you deserve to celebrate.
Als: I agree.
Dez: Yeah. And your baby deserves to be celebrated. Now, of course, if you only breastfeed for, you know, less than six months, please don't give your baby the food at the feast.
Dez: Food before one is just for fun and before six months is not recommended at all. I really like the idea of having a celebratory feast at the end of breastfeeding.
Dez: That just sounds very sweet. I'll throw you a party Als.
Als: Oh, hey, thanks. We'll throw you a party. You know, once you have that third baby.
Dez: Yeah, um, we'll see. We should have thrown me a party when Alia finally weaned.
Als: Yeah, that wasn't that long ago.
Dez: Gosh that kid was a boobie monster. I love her but, oh my goodness. Breastfeeding for three and a half years is just not for me.
Als: Okay, should we talk about maybe what it would have been like to raise a perfect child.
Dez: Oh, you know- we- we have some theories on that.
Dez: Because when you think of Jesus who's supposed to be this perfect being- you know, he never sinned- that doesn't necessarily mean he never screwed up. At least in my mind.
Dez: Or that he never, like, made his mother tear her hair out.
Dez: You know.
Als: I mean, if you think about when he went to- when he was at the temple teaching and Mary and Joseph kind of freaked out because they couldn't find him.
Dez: Well they, you know- their kid was in a whole different city.
Dez: They'd gone on without him and hadn't noticed. Which also makes me feel better as a mother because I've left my kid, you know, at one store and we've gone on and I've looked back and my kid is gone-
Dez: If she's in the same city as me I'm feeling like I'm doing a pretty good job.
Als: Yeah. I think all children come with challenges despite how good they are.
Dez: Yeah. Well and I- the obsession with having a 'good baby'-
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: Um- that's one of the most harmful things you can ask a new parent is, "Oh, do you have a good baby?" The heck does that even mean?
Als: Right. All babies are good babies.
Dez: Right. Well. I mean, theoretically I mean, like, Rosemary's baby? Probably not a good baby. But-
Als: I mean, yeah, but that's not even a real thing.
Dez: I know. I- I definitely had an easy baby and a difficult baby.
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: But I don't think either one was "bad".
Als: Yeah. Exactly.
Dez: If you're raising a 'perfect child', does that mean that they never cry?
Dez: Does that mean that they never, you know, fight their nap?
Dez: They never have an accident in their pants?
Dez: Or, in their toga, robe, whatever he would have been wearing.
Dez: I think we just have such a narrow vision of what perfection is.
Als: I agree.
Dez: I think there's a difference between "sin"- and- and for me a lot of that is intent-
Dez: "Oh, I really don't care what you think about this, I'm gonna do it anyway, and F you and teenage angst,"
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: Versus, "Oh, these people really need to learn from me so I'm gonna stay right here and teach them."
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: And then not- you know- he- He was twelve?
Dez: He wasn't thinking of his mom and dad.
Dez: He wasn't intending to worry them.
Dez: Does that mean that Mary did not throw up her hands and, like, scream at God, be like, "What did you send me?!"
Dez: I think we all do that.
Als: Well, and, you know, I don't think that it meant that he didn't cry as an infant.
Als: Because that's- that's how infants communicate with us.
Dez: Well, yeah, and I mean- There's so much and they're just learning about their world and again, I think it comes back to intent.
Dez: Little kids really- when they're really little aren't capable of "sinning"-
Als: Yeah, I agree.
Dez: -in my mind because the intent is always just, you know- if your kid is acting out, they're not doing it because they wanna be naughty. They're doing it to get your attention, often-
Als: Mmm hmm.
Dez: So I think that that would have to be taken into account and I think- like I said earlier, I wrote a whole blog post about how Mary probably had postpartum depression- the stress of having to raise a "perfect" child and still having normal new mom mess ups? That sounds like a lot to go through.
Als: Yeah. Well I feel like with the- you know- having a perfect child, I think there would be this expectation that you would have to be a perfect mom.
Dez: Yes. Well, and I mean, we all put that expectation on ourselves-
Dez: -kind of.
Als: Even when we have unperfect children.
Dez: Exactly. So, I mean, the pressure- the self-directed pressure- was a lot.
Dez: As far as raising a perfect child, I don't think that that means that they're perfect if that- that doesn't make any sense.
Als: It's not this idea that-
Dez: They're perfectly one hundred percent well behaved.
Als: Yeah. That there were no tears and no whining and no crying and-
Dez: Jesus never knocked a goblet full of milk off the table.
Als: Yeah. Like, this perfect child sitting there with their- you know- their hands in their lap patiently waiting-
Dez: Yeah. I think we're- um, I think we're thinking polite and pious rather than perfect.
Als: Yeah. Exactly.
Dez: A perfect child would be learning and running and playing and growing and exasperating their parents.
Als: Yeah. Now that- okay, now that we're talking about this a little bit, it's like... in a way, are all children perfect?
Dez: You know, I believe so.
Dez: I definitely don't always feel that way.
Dez: I feel that way right now 'cause I've been away from my kids for a few hours. There becomes a point in your life when you can consciously make decisions in order to hurt others or to gain for yourself-
Dez: -and I think that's where imperfection lies is in the conscious choice to do something that you know is wrong and that you understand why it's wrong.
Als: Yeah. I agree with that.
Dez: I mean, a kid who- who has frequent accidents-
Dez: -might be doing it consciously for attention but they're not doing it consciously to hurt you or-
Dez: -or to frustrate you or anything. It's just- they need something else.
Als: Yeah. Or like the toddler who likes to throw their cup and their food on the floor-
Dez: Oh my gosh! Whew!
Als: How often does that happen? All the time.
Dez: I hate that stage.
Dez: The- the "go-fetch" stage.
Dez: It was great with the second kid though because the first kid was super happy to go fetch.
Dez: So it happened a lot longer with her, but also, I didn't have to pick crap up constantly.
Dez: I had a toddler for that. It was great.
Als: But, you know, that's a totally normal stage of development.
Dez: Yeah. It's really frustrating but there's nothing wrong with it.
Dez: So I guess that's what it boils down to when you're talking about a perfect kid, is- I mean- you gotta think about what your definition of perfect is. And maybe this will give us all a little bit more grace when we're thinking about ourselves and our own children because we all have bad mom moments, including Mary. The mother of Jesus didn't notice her kid was gone for, like, three days.
Dez: Okay. Um. He still turned out fine.
Dez: I mean, yeah. We all- we all do stupid crap.
Dez: And I think, you know, this Christmas, don't hold yourself to the perfect virgin Mary/Madonna motherhood ideal.
Dez: Remember, Mary lost her kid. She just had to do her best and that's all we can do.
Als: She's just another normal-
Dez: Hot mess mom?
Als: Yeah. Just a normal girl, a normal woman.
Als: Yeah she was special but she wasn't immune from challenges-
Als: -that we all have to deal with.
Dez: No. Not immune.
Als: We hope that you guys have a wonderful holiday season and if you're celebrating Christmas this year we hope you have a wonderful Christmas and we hope that you can remember the- the true meaning behind Christmas. You know, it's about love and grace and-
Dez: And that motherhood is hard.
Als: Yeah. New life and joy. And we hope that we can help you find those things.
Dez: Yes. Well, and our next episode will be released on the 26th.
Dez: So right when you're getting elf on the shelf finally packed away, we're gonna talk about how much we hate it. And also all modern Christmas gimmicks and crap. So it'll probably just be a mini episode but... we have some things to say.
Als: Yes we do. 'Kay.
Dez: Happy holidays. Be safe. Stay warm. Have a merry, merry Christmas, happy holidays, happy new year, we'll-
Als: Merry Christmas guys!
Dez: Please send comments! We are finally on i- no, not iTunes- Apple Podcast.
Dez: So please comment, review, share. All the things. We are brand new baby podcasters and we have no idea what we're doing. We're working on it.
Als: We are. It's a work in progress.
Dez: Nothing in this podcast is intended as medical advice. Please seek appropriate care for any medical concerns.
Als: Thanks for listening. Join us next week for another captivating episode of The Birth Nerds Podcast.