I don't think I've ever told you this before, but I had a baby on Christmas Day. I didn't really plan it that way but as we all know, despite our best calculations, babies don't always arrive according to our schedules. (In this case though, my husband was delighted that Lauren came when she did, in late December instead of on her January 2nd due date, because he got to claim her as a tax deduction for the whole year! Men are so sentimental that way.)
Of course, like every mother, I remember every detail of my baby’s birth, and for me those memories are all wrapped up in tinsel and twinkling lights. Back then it wasn’t standard procedure to find out the sex of your baby before it was born (unless you count the "Drano test!”) so we had to pick out contingency names for both a boy and a girl. Marc and I didn’t tell anyone our choices. We just wrapped the names in a tiny little package and hid it deep in the branches of our Christmas tree. (I’d love to follow up that sentence with, "That present bearing Lauren Michelle’s name is one of my treasured keepsakes” but unfortunately the little package was so well hidden it got tossed out with the tree.)
As I said, I certainly didn’t plan for her to come on Christmas Day. Having dined with my parents on Christmas Eve the night before, we splurged on a rather pricey standing rib roast for our own little Christmas dinner – the first in our brand new house – and had just put it in the oven that morning when "things happened”. In our excitement and haste to get to the hospital, we dashed out and forgot all about that roast. Nine hours later Marc suddenly remembered it and dispatched my dad to turn off the oven. Alas, by then there was nothing left but a small black clump of charred leather.
Arriving at the hospital I was delighted to see that the labor ward was fully adorned for the holidays. Piped in Christmas music filled the air and the nurses on duty, having resigned themselves to working this unpopular shift, were in a remarkably festive and giddy mood. There was a beautiful tree that was decorated, not with red and silver ornaments, but with tiny little plastic babies wrapped in pink and blue blankets. On every patient’s door hung a big red felt stocking with a baby sticking out of the top – ours was a cute little black baby – and like the tiny present hidden in our tree with Lauren’s name on it, I wish I’d kept that door decoration as a memento.
Lauren arrived at 10:23 that night, but because I was totally "out” during and immediately following an unscheduled C-section delivery, I didn’t get to meet her until the wee hours of the next morning. By then Marc had gone home for a little sleep, so I was alone when the nurse presented me with my new baby daughter. Someone in the nursery had used baby oil to swirl her long dark hair into a little jelly roll on the top of her head (it took me two days to get that gook out of her hair when we got home) and she was pink and chubby and indescribably beautiful. For hours I just held her and gazed at her little face as she slept. Forget hidden packages and door decorations – the memory of that sweet time is the only keepsake I really need.
Yes, as a result of the timing, I consigned myself to yearly complaints from a child who never got to attend school on her birthday; and although there was always a lot of family around on her special day and I made sure we celebrated with a party and a real birthday cake, her friends were never in town to join us. Back in the eighties somebody came up with the bright idea to bake a birthday cake for Jesus, but that that didn’t happen at our house. Lauren was a pretty good sport about the whole Christmas birthday business, but she wasn’t about to share a cake with anybody – including baby Jesus!
And so now it’s the holiday season once again. For most it’s a time for buying gifts, decorating trees, mailing cards, singing carols, and of course, celebrating the birth of our Savior. I’ll be doing all of those things myself too. But for this mother it’s also a time for looking back thirty-four years to a Christmas I will never, ever forget, and for wishing my beautiful daughter a very Happy Birthday!