In this column, Kristen Mulrooney writes letters to famous mothers from literature, TV, and film whom she finds herself relating to on a different level now that she’s a mom herself.

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Dear Virgin Mary,

First let me just say, you may not consider yourself a pop culture icon, but we have to put your story in historical context: if you were born two thousand years later, you’d probably be the star of your own reality TV show, have 362 million followers on Instagram, and people would post pictures of you at the Met Gala with the caption “Mother is mothering.” Undeniable fact: you’re an icon.

You popped into my head from time to time when I was pregnant and imagining all the ways childbirth could take an unexpected turn. Giving birth in a barn seemed uniquely horrible. Unmanaged pain aside, it seems like the hay would be itchy. The smells would be too much for my sensitive pregnancy nose. And for reasons I can’t fully grasp but don’t feel I need to explain, I wouldn’t want a cow within fifty yards of me during that particular life event.

By the time I was pregnant with my third baby, I wasn’t scared of childbirth itself, but my nerves were fraught for another reason. My body had proven itself super adept at expelling babies, and my first two deliveries were quick and easy. My fear with Delivery #3 was that it would be too quick and too easy.

The major concern was that the hospital where I would deliver the baby was twenty minutes from my house, and that’s if the conditions were perfect. However, the only path to take was Route 3 to 95 North via the exit ramp near the Burlington Mall, which locals will understand to mean that if I went into labor any time between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., I could be trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic for a couple of hours, for no apparent reason. During rush hour, it’s probably faster getting from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey.

Thus, I resigned myself to giving birth to a Car Baby.

I thought about you as I mentally prepared. If Mary, Mother of Jesus, can give birth in a barn among the goats, I told myself, surely I can give birth in a Toyota Rav4. I stocked the Rav with a sheet and some towels, like we used to line the closet when I was in seventh grade and my cat gave birth. Then I called my friend Dan, a firefighter, and asked him to tell me everything they taught him in EMT training about delivering a baby in less-than-ideal situations.

“It was really just one PowerPoint slide,” he said.

Alarming, but okay. “What did it say?”

“As soon as the baby’s out, clear its airway.”

I jotted this down on a Post-it.

“Then hand the baby to its mother.”

I wrote that down. “Okay, then what?”

“That’s it.”

“That can’t be it.”

“That’s it. They really stressed that last part, though: the most important thing is to put the baby in the mother’s arms.”

I thanked him for the info, and he wished me the best with my potential Car Baby, leaving me with much to think about.

Modern moms all know about the importance of skin-to-skin contact after birth. Among other benefits, it releases oxytocin and regulates the baby’s heart rate, breathing, and temperature. Still, my other babies’ births had happened in sterile environments, with needles and IVs, beeping monitors, excruciating epidural placements with glorious rewards (hallelujah!), and a team of doctors and nurses with years of training in getting babies safely into the world—all of which I was incredibly grateful for.

But I found myself comforted by the information that, in a pinch, the most important thing I could do was hold my baby. Make sure they’re breathing, then hold them. Later, maybe pop them in a manger, which really isn’t as odd as it sounds—the Finns do basically the same thing with their baby box, and everyone loves it.

This was all irrelevant anyway since I went into labor in the middle of the night, and my husband drove swiftly down the empty highway, making it to the hospital with the upholstery of the Rav unscathed and nearly ten minutes to spare. But in the four years since then, I haven’t forgotten the instructions. The kids are getting older, and even though they’re just Sons of Some Guy Named Matt and not saviors sent from God, their problems are getting bigger and more complicated. I’ve had no professional training in parenting. I don’t always have solutions or answers.

So sometimes, the best I have to offer is a deep breath. Then once I’m sure they’re breathing, I put them in my arms. I don’t know if it still has the same medical benefits it had right after they were born, but I’m convinced I can feel their heartbeat and breathing regulate so I choose to believe that when things aren’t ideal, in a pinch, being in their mother’s arms is good enough. I have faith!

Anyway, Mary, Our Lady of Solitude (jealous), you’re a champ for that barn birth, and even more of a champ for not biting the heads off of unexpected visitors bearing frankincense and myrrh. Honestly, I think you should write a tell-all. You’re the original Madonna, after all. I bet you could even outsell Britney.

Blessed art thou,