Mary feels like a prodigal, upping sticks like this so suddenly, running away. But at the moment no one can tell. She’s not showing. So it’s easy to slip off. Easy to run to the hills and to her cousin. Someone who she hopes will understand, after all, she’s pregnant herself. Will Mary ever go back? Will she dare face the rest of the community? The family? Joseph? Right now she can’t bare to imagine the looks on their faces and the talk around town. And… the danger of the self-righteous. She stops, shudders. And then she trudges on. If anyone can understand miracle babies then it’s surely Elizabeth. She shouldn’t be pregnant either. For other reasons. She hopes to learn a few things too, ask a kind friend the tough questions about childbirth and motherhood. A shout sounds and Mary looks up, snaps out of her muddled thinking. Someone’s coming, waddling towards her. Arms open. It takes a moment for her to recognise her elderly cousin so radiantly pregnant. So alive. And then Elizabeth stops and clutches her stomach, and for one terrible moment Mary fears that it might all be going wrong. What’s happening? Pain? Complications? But no. The smile breaks again across Elizabeth’s face. She gasps and splutters her greeting.
‘Mary! You won’t believe it – my boy,’ she pats her stomach, ‘this child, he just shifted so much it was like he was trying to get out and greet you himself!’
And then Elizabeth is on her, round her, hugging her. Mary can feel a slight movement in her cousin’s belly as the bulge presses against her own stomach. The baby’s still kicking, still trying to say something. Elizabeth steps back and presses her warm hands to Mary’s face. Cups her cheeks as if protecting her.
‘You are so blessed Mary, God is with you. And with your baby. The child you carry is his. I can’t believe I am here right now, seeing this. What a privilege! Thank you! Thank you for coming to see me. God bless you Mary, for your faith and your dedication, for your courage. And for saying yes.’
And in a single moment worlds crash in Mary’s mind, the emotion wells up, laughter and tears collide. How could she know? Mary’s told no one. How could her cousin possess all this knowledge, and have it bursting from her the moment she saw Mary? Only God, surely. Only God could have done this. She shuts her eyes for a moment, says a silent prayer of thanks for this extraordinary moment of confirmation. This will be all right. God will see her through. Whatever the future might hold.