Christmas memories are, for me, the thread that weaves my life together. So many major events are connected with this time of year. Some are joyous, some incredibly sad, many are life-changing. This year, Christmas Eve marks the sixteenth birthday of one of those “life-changing” events- the birth of our son, Benjamin John. When people hear that Ben shares his birthday with the Lord, (as my husband says) they feel a certain pity for him. “You must get gypped on gifts, don’t you?” is usually the remark most heard. At the time of his birth my OB offered to induce labor, since I was already past my due date. I politely told him that we would allow our baby to choose his own birthday, thank you. He smugly said “Well, you’ll probably be spending Christmas in the hospital.”
Sure enough, on the evening of December 23 labor began while I finished the last of the dinner dishes. I was giddy as I told my husband and our two- and four-year old daughters that Santa would be bringing them their new sibling for Christmas. We quickly dashed the girls off to bed and tried our best to finish the last of our preparations. It was the end of a long month for us. My father-in-law was suffering with the end stages of cancer. He was home and still well enough to call me almost every day to check in. He wanted to be sure we had a plan to get me to the hospital. Dan worked in Manhattan and this particular year, December was the month of the nor’easter. We seemed to get a quirky storm at least once or twice a week. What a relief that we could call Grandpa and let him know all would be well with getting me to the hospital!
Labor progressed slowly throughout much of it, and as is usual for me, once I transitioned, the birth took place almost immediately. It was the morning of Christmas Eve, 1992, and I got to experience Christmas in a very unique way that year. Cradling my newborn baby boy, much the same way Mary must have cradled the Baby Jesus. The hospital was actually rather quiet since most women due around this time probably opted for the induction a week ago! In the afternoon, Dan dressed my two girls in their matching flannel Christmas dresses and brought them for sibling visiting hour. It was a special time for the five of us. I watched as Dan left with the girls, knowing I would not be seeing any of them until the following night. I wanted them to have Christmas with extended family, as we had planned.
I teared up as Katie looked back over her shoulder at me and it dawned on her that I would not be home for Christmas with them. We hugged one more time and I assured her that I would be fine and she would have fun with the aunts and uncles who would be visiting and anxious to hear about her new brother.
Soon after they left, Benjamin was wheeled in for his nursing. As I held him close, Christmas carols played from the television and any sadness I felt about “missing” Christmas melted away. I was holding Christmas in my arms. This little bundle, so helpless and beautiful was perhaps the best gift I have ever, or will ever, receive for Christmas. I entered into the mystery of the incarnation in a way I had never done before. For a moment, I was at peace, I held Love Himself in my arms. I imagined all the emotions the Blessed Mother must have felt and I shared many of them myself. For all at once, I was joyful for this new life and all its potential; I was beginning the grieving for Dan’s Dad who we knew had mere weeks left with us; I was apprehensive as to what the future would hold for this son of mine; and mostly, I was grateful that our good God had once again entrusted me with another little soul to join his family. And the carols played on and I sang along…
…I love Thee Lord Jesus, look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.