From Elizabeth Schroeder:
My heart was broken wide open today.
We visited the St. Vincent’s Crèche orphanage in Bethlehem today. We learned a little about the circumstances of how these beautiful children came to be at the orphanage. They are the children of women who became pregnant out of wedlock or through unapproved marriages. These would include women who have been raped or molested.
In the culture in which they live, these pregnancies in these circumstances would be seen as something that would bring dishonor to their family. And so the family has the option to kill the woman who is found pregnant when she shouldn’t be. In order to avoid the risk of death, these women choose to place their children in an orphanage instead.
But, they have to hide their pregnancies. Even in baggy robes, pregnancies become apparent at a certain point. And so, most of these women have cesarean sections, at 34, 32, even as early as 28 weeks to avoid detection.
This is incredibly early for these babies to be born. At 28 weeks, a baby might need significant help to survive. The mother is subjected to a major surgery and then has to hide that too.
In the US, among the birth community, the subject of obstetric violence has become a discussion topic. Women are often bullied into allowing hospitals to do things that they do not want for themselves or their babies. In Palestine, women are making this horrible choice in order to save themselves from death because of the societal implications.
After we heard the talk from the Mother of the convent, and after we spent time with some of the children, we went into their church and celebrated Eucharist. I struggled with the feelings of incongruity as we sang Christmas hymns that didn’t even seem to want to deal with the messiness of Mary’s childbirth experience, much less the horrifying things we’d just heard. Somewhere along the tour we heard that there is a mother at hospital right now, preparing to give birth, just to relinquish all rights to the child.
I looked up at the white, pristine, pure statue of Mary, beatific in her expression, and railed against her in my mind. How can she be so content there, high on the wall. How dare she be so clean in the face of all this messiness. How could she not roll up her sleeves and help? Be a mother to all mothers, Mary!
I sobbed like I’d never stop. I thought of that woman giving birth, and I prayed for her.