I would like to know Moses’ mom.
I was reading about her this morning, and as I often do with the character in any book I’m reading, I imagined the truth of her as a person, a woman, a mom.
She gave birth to her son at a time when the King of Egypt had decided there were too many Hebrews, they were a threat to his kingdom, and all baby boys must be killed as soon as they are born. Only the little girls would live.
These were the days before ultrasounds; she couldn’t know the gender or the fate of the child within her womb until he was born. A boy. A boy who must be killed.
She hid him for three months. (This, I propose, is the original definition of Attachment Parenting.) She hid him until he became too big to hide, and then she fashioned a waterproof basket that would carry him down the river. She hoped he may be carried to safety, but she couldn’t be sure. She couldn’t be at all sure.
That’s some intense optimism, to know that sending her newborn ‘out to sea’ was the safest plan.
I imagine her grief as the day approached. I wonder if she delayed it even past the formidable deadline she had set. I wonder if she thought, “Not today. Just not today. I need one more day.”
Until she couldn’t have one more day. I imagine her holding this infant, probably less than four months old. I imagine her breathing his scent, kissing his eyelids, tracing the lines of his face, memorizing him.
And then placing him in a basket and letting him go.
The story unfolds just a bit down the river, when Pharoah’s daughter hears the baby crying. She finds him tucked safely in the basket, caught in the reeds of the riverbank.
Immediately, she knows he must be Hebrew; that’s the only reason for his mother to choose such a relinquishing, lifesaving measure.
Baby Moses had an older sister, and she too had trouble letting him go. (We big sisters keep an eye on younger brothers for as long as we’re allowed.) In such boldness – and I assert, in an Oscar winning performance – she pretends she doesn’t know this baby, but she could perhaps find a nursing mother who would be able to care for him until he is weaned.
Well played, Miriam. Well played.
Pharoah’s daughter agrees, since she’s apparently neither lactating nor skilled in the constant needs of a newborn.
And in a divine act of protection and providence, Moses is returned to the arms of his mother. She gets him back.
She had given him up; she had relinquished the baby and her role as his mother. She had grieved the wrenching loss of both – more deeply than I can imagine.
I picture her taking him in her arms once more. I imagine him quieting as newborns do when they know the comfort of mommy’s arms, her voice, her scent. I imagine her feeding him, her tears falling into his hair as he nurses at her breast.
“Come, my precious boy, I know you.”
I imagine the overwhelming joy of taking him back, claiming all she had given up.
I don’t know what to say about the thousands of Hebrew mothers whose stories are not written that way. The women who perhaps lost son after son after son in the name of Egyptian law.
I don’t know. Sometimes stories don’t end happy. Sometimes relinquishing is permanent; the gift is gone for good. All you can do is hope you loved him, noticed him, studied him, cared for him, enjoyed him enough while he was here. All you can do is let yourself live in the vague definition of ‘enough.’
But my heart is tender today for Moses’ mom, Jochebed. She’s barely mentioned in Exodus, and yet she is listed among the greatest of faith in the book of Hebrews.
I’d like to know her.