Finding the Presence

December 2020

Karmen Bennett

Karmen Bennett, Daily Word, Mary’s faith, Christmas story, Jesus birth

Karmen Bennett is a member of Unity of Columbia in Missouri and works as a mental health counselor.

Mary’s faith inspires a new mother to recall her own innate strength and resilience.

I rock my 3-year-old son, Jackson, back to sleep in the middle of the night. Despite the late hour, I feel grateful for the extra moment with him as I pause to think about him as a newborn and the time we had to spend apart.

Immediately after his birth and for the first four days of his life, my son was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Even though I had barely slept in days, the sound of the phone ringing in my hospital room would jolt me awake like a child on Christmas morning.

The call meant that it was time to go feed my baby, and every moment with him was a precious gift that I eagerly received.

Unexpected Circumstances, Shifting Expectations

This had been my first pregnancy, so I had planned extensively for my labor and delivery. I wanted a natural childbirth and had read up on how best to prepare. I also took mindful birthing classes and practiced prenatal yoga.

I daydreamed about my family cheering me on as I delivered, and I could not wait for the moment the doctor would place my baby in my arms.

The reality of Jackson’s birth could not have been more different.

My need for a C-section began a scary cascade of medical and surgical interventions. My labor was long and painful and culminated in my baby being born not breathing and being rushed from the surgery room and placed in the NICU. I did not even get to meet him until eight hours after his birth.

I felt like a victim, as though God had betrayed me. I had done my part and prepared—why hadn’t God backed me up?

As I recovered in the hospital, I had time to reflect upon another birth that did not go as planned—the birth of Jesus. I remembered the Gospel of Luke describing the angel Gabriel coming to Mary, saying, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28).

“I am favored. God is with me.”

The Faith of Mary in Each of Us

Mary accepted Gabriel’s proclamation with faith, yet she, too, would face challenging circumstances. But nothing changed what she knew to be true. Mary kept her faith and felt peace because she knew her journey wasn’t about how things looked on the outside.

Good was to come because God was within her.

I applied Mary’s story to my own. I realized the key was not to look at my circumstances as proof of God’s absence, but to use my faith and power of perspective to find God’s presence.

To move forward with faith and peace, I, too, had to process my son’s birth in a way that allowed me to feel loved and supported. I needed to be able to say, “I am favored. God is with me.”

I realized I had to choose to see how God had been with me throughout Jackson’s birth.

I began by allowing myself time and space to feel sad, scared, and angry. Only then could I identify the support and resources that I had during my labor.

A Greater Meaning to My Own Birth Story

I let myself feel that support and my appreciation for it. I found more things to feel grateful for—most important, that my baby and I went home healthy.

Later, through meditation and self-reflection, I began to shift how I saw myself and the story of Jackson’s birth. I asked myself, How did I overcome this? How has this helped me grow? I began to see myself as strong, resilient, and adaptive.

Like Mary, I drew strength from discerning a larger meaning and purpose in my story. I took away from my experience the gift of deep appreciation for my child.

In every moment with my son, I have a newfound power to be fully present and grateful, and I feel that God is with me always. Holding my son in the middle of the night reminds me that life is full of challenges, but every moment is an opportunity to practice the faith that Mary demonstrated.

Every experience is an opportunity to bring forth the Divine—to see the good and the blessings. Even in the darkness, I can shine the light of God’s love and see the truth.

No matter how things appear, God is within me and all people and situations. When I acknowledge God’s presence in and as my life, I know that I am favored, and I know that I am loved.