A Christmas Memory…
For the second time in her life, our daughter Christi wasn’t here with us on a Christmas Eve. Four days ago, she was in Arizona with her new in-laws. However she and her hubby kept the promise to fly back home in time for Christmas dinner. Prime rib, fun stuff, and family.
The first time we spent Christmas Eve apart was Christi’s first on earth. Two weeks old, she spent it in a neonatal intensive care unit hooked to every wire and tube imaginable. I still get shivers at the memory.
Thing is, she’d been born a hearty nine-pounder, healthy and content after a short easy labor. As I held my newborn daughter, I knew my life was complete with a handsome hubby at my side and a precious two-year old son waiting at home.
But four days before Christi’s first Christmas, disaster struck. Her unusual irritability and sudden fever of 106 brought about the fearsome diagnosis of bacterial meningitis, and my perfect world began to unravel. She went into isolation, and I went into full panic.
“She’s in good hands here,” said the pediatrician, also a mom. “Come here whenever you want to, but remember, it’s Christmas, and your little boy needs you, too.”
Good advice. Although our hearts were heavy, we took her brother to see Santa, shopped and cooked and pretended, laid the tiny red velvet dress from her Uncle Mike across her empty bassinette at home. We saw our baby whenever possible, but it was total agony not to touch her, to only see her through the transparent confines of a tiny temperature-controlled isolette. The nurses hung a little white Christmas stocking on it to add some cheer.
Tears rarely stopped although we did our best to hide them, and nights were long and sleepless. We prayed without ceasing.
On the second hospital day, the report was half-comforting: She’s a big, strong baby. The antibiotics are powerful, so she could possibly make it.
Okay. But what if she doesn’t? How could I ever celebrate Christmas again?
Day Three: Your baby girl will live, but…meningitis is a very bad thing and it can bring about many bad things. (We knew this. Blindness, deafness, seizures, crippling, mental retardation.) We don’t know how much residual damage yet…
When will you know? Terror flamed again while everybody else sang Joy to the world.
Day Four: Christmas Eve. Christi will suffer no residual damage. We’ve run tests and consulted. She’s fine, she’s perfect in every way! Have a Merry Christmas!
Talk about a Christmas miracle! The timing couldn’t have been more perfect! I still get shivers.
Both as precaution and to complete the antibiotic protocol, Christi stayed in NICU for five more weeks. However, the day did come when we could hold her, when I could nurse her, when her “big” brother could peek in through the inner sanctum NICU windows and be reminded he had a new baby sister. Here they are the next Christmas and skiing in Yosemite a few Christmases later.
In February, she wore that tiny red velvet dress at the family party following her baptism. (She wore my little white baptism dress to the ceremony.) And she’s had a ton of cool Christmases since then, including 2009 as a happy newlywed.
Well, I learned first-hand on that long-ago Christmas Eve that the Lord lives…and that the Lord loves. Christmas miracles are real. May all your Christmas dreams come true, may all your Christmas prayers be answered, and may God bless you all, everyone, in 2010.