The title, of course, is inspired by this, the finest of all holidays. I intend no disrespect toward my Savior in borrowing from the scriptures the title of this story. In fact, if anything, it is a subtle reminder of the great awe with which I think of that starry night so many years ago, in which grace came to us in the humblest of ways.
Having said that... I am in fact easily awestruck. The fact that Mary (and all women back then, and many across the world today) can make it nine months of a pregnancy without an air conditioner is amazing enough, before you even touch on what actual, miraculous happening took place on the first Christmas. It is my prayer for you that if you've never considered the full implications of the night of Jesus's birth, that you certainly take pause and do such.
But on a much lighter note, I give you an unfinished snippet of my writing. Raw, unedited, and incomplete. This one is for all the moms out there. Merry Christmas!
Unto Us, A Child Is Born
The birth of a child is a magical time for any couple, and surely an unforgettable memory, regardless of the circumstances and details. Bringing a child into the world is a humbling, remarkable feat that requires a pause; that demands reflection; that sparks something inside our souls that leads us to examine our lives and those who are important in them, as we cradle our new little armful of joy.
Of course, I wouldn’t be me if my daughter’s debut hadn’t been tainted with all kinds of crazy.
First of all, I was overdue. In June. With an air-conditioner that kept breaking. Now surely, I am not the only pregnant woman in the world who ever experienced this crisis, but those of you who have been in a similar situation will surely understand me when I gripe that I felt like all of the world’s injustices had been flung upon my giant pregnant rear-end. I was the size of a barge. It was a hundred degrees. And my daughter was showing no signs of making an appearance any time soon, even though the due date had come and went. Days ago.
As with most first-time mothers, I had all kinds of ideas about the birth that were fine… in theory. I was hoping to remain “drug free” as long as possible, figuring that I would get an epidural if I needed it, but I wouldn’t go that route until absolutely necessary. (FYI… if there is ever a next time, I will be requesting my epidural in the parking lot. Apparently I am not one of those women who handles labor pains well). So when my doctor was talking induction, I was immediately opposed. I had read that being induced could result in more intense contractions, a predicament that was sure to get in the way of my drug-free experience. So while I voiced my displeasure with the proposed induction, my doctor shrugged, sending me on my way to a sonogram to confirm that all was still well, as I was about a week overdue. (By the way, a week overdue in mid-June on the Eastern Shore of Maryland feels like a year overdue. The heat and humidity are unbearable. As a pregnant woman in this climate, your only activity becomes sweating, and your only hobby and interest becomes finding ways to reduce the sweating. And I say this as a person who was never much of a sweater).
So off I went to the sonogram, where the cheerful technician smeared my giant belly with goo and rolled her little magic wand over it, while all the while I shifted uneasily around on the unforgiving metal medical table, which was clearly built for no patient anywhere’s comfort, but especially not for a pregnant lady who’d packed on an extra forty pounds over the past nine months.
“Wow,” the tech said in her little peppy voice. “I don’t even want to tell you how big this baby is measuring!”
“Huh?” I demanded, snapping out of my irritation long enough to engage with little miss cheerleader turned Barbie X-Ray Tech. She’d been droning on and on about everything looking great and healthy and it’s all good, happy flowers, yadda, yadda, yadda. Now I glared at her.
“What did you say?”
“Um,” her cheerful voice faltered. “Let me just measure that again, real quick,” she murmured. I sat stewing, envisioning any number of scenarios in which I wasn’t pregnant, wasn’t sweating, wasn’t sitting on this damn table. Finally, she turned and smiled brightly up at me.
“Good news! That time it looked like maybe she’s about, nine, nine and a half pounds,” X-Ray tech of the year giggled.
“Good… good news?”
“Yeah,” she chattered on, using a gloved hand to brush an escaped wisp of hair back toward her bouncy pony tail. “The first measurement… it looked like your baby was about… ten and a half pounds!”
I stared at her for a second, sure I’d stopped breathing.
“Ten… ten and a half pounds??”
“Yeah, but like I said, this last measurement…”
“Which is it?” I demanded. “Nine or ten and a half pounds?”
“Which is it?” I demanded. “Nine or ten and a half pounds?”
“Well, measuring isn’t an exact science…. We’re estimating, and—”
“You’re telling me that my baby could be TEN and a HALF POUNDS?? And she’s just sitting in there? Still GROWING?” I grabbed the sonogram tech’s wrist, staring her down as I clutched her unrelentingly.
The girl smiled uncertainly.
“Oh my God! She needs to get out NOW!” As big as I had gotten during my pregnancy, I still wasn’t what you would probably call a large woman. I’m tall, but I definitely don’t have what you would say are child-bearing hips. As huge as I was at the end of the third-trimester, the weight was almost all baby. Apparently a ten and a half pound baby. I shook my head, trying to imagine an eleven pound baby and my still relatively slender hips…. And somehow, the vision wasn’t too pleasant.
So I allowed the induction to be scheduled, in spite of my wishes to try and stick to a natural childbirth plan. In the end, common sense won out. I wasn’t willing to let my baby hang out in Hotel Utero another week, gaining who knows how much extra weight, when she might very well be already at the nine or ten pound mark.
The morning of June 17th, 2005, we headed to the hospital bright and early, ready to meet our new addition. The induction began smoothly, and as it took a decent amount of time for the drugs to kick in, we even went downstairs to grab some breakfast (although I wasn’t allowed to eat anything, just in case I ended up having to get a c-section). It was at the end of breakfast with Rashieme and his family that the labor pains began to start in genuine, so I was all too happy to return to my hospital room. The contractions, more than a minor nuisance, but not yet unbearable, were making this whole thing real. Showtime.
Soon, I’d discovered how much I was not enjoying the show. The contractions had quickly escalated into epic pain. I have no basis for comparison, as I’ve never endured an induction-free labor, but if I had to guess, I don’t know that the drug made the contractions more painful… it just seemed to have brought them closer together. I soldiered through about four hours of intense labor before finally breaking down and begging for an epidural.
That, at least, brought sweet, sweet relief. Overwhelmed by the complete absence of pain, when moments before it had been unbearable, I was able, even, to get a quick nap.
Of course, this being my life, the craziness continued.
Rashieme, for example, thought it would be pretty funny to prank everyone in the waiting room, which consisted of our entire families (minus our mothers, who were both in the hospital room with us) as well as some of my closest friends, who’d joined in for the waiting game. On a trip back from the snack machine, he popped into the room where everyone was sitting, and, grinning broadly, he shouted out, “Jenny had the baby! It’s a girl!”
Directly upon the heels of this announcement, everyone stood up, clapping and cheering, rushing to congratulate him. At which point he froze, smile stuck on his face, and managed…
“Just kidding. No baby yet.”