By Abigail Edwards
I tried to stifle the sob that climbed my throat, but it pressed against my vocal chords until it was impossible to talk.
The doctor didn’t seem to want me to say anything more as she continued to explain how small my three day old daughter was, and how she wasn’t perking up like they wanted. Her numbers hadn’t gotten better. It was Christmas Eve and it looked like she and I may not get out of the hospital for her first Christmas.
My family lived three thousand miles away, and the snow was coming down in large drifts. Even though I loved Christmas, it didn’t feel very festive in the echoing hospital room. I felt alone.
My husband held my hand and nodded along with the doctor, his brow furrowed like it is when he wants to make sure he doesn’t miss anything. He had been as impatient as me to get our newborn baby home, safe and sound in the crib we had spent months choosing. Each extra day in the hospital felt like a week when all we could do was sit and hope the heat lamps and special treatments would help our baby to thrive.
“So, that’s about it.” The doctor tapped her pen against the papers on her clipboard, eyes glancing at her wristwatch as she was already ready to move on to the next patient. I couldn’t help the twinge of jealousy at the thought that she was probably anxious to leave and get home to her own family.
“Thank you for your time.” My husband shook the doctor’s hand as I tried to lift my lips in a conversational smile. Nothing was going like I planned. I had wanted a natural birth, but after sixteen hours of pushing they told me that my baby wasn’t going to come out that way. So they had cut me open, causing me to shake on the table and watch as they handed my baby to my husband befoew he had to leave the room so they could finish sewing me back together.
Now my daughter was under lamps and constant scrutiny. The staff was worried. I was worried. My husband released my hand as the doctor left and walked to the white board where the morning nurse had written today’s information.
He knew what it said.
We both had read every word of it. But he was trying to take a moment and collect himself. I looked at the holly leaf the nurse had drawn next to her name. Christmas. I had my Christmas baby and yet it didn’t feel like I did.
“We’ll get through this.” My husband had turned back and was watching me, his blue eyes that were usually crinkled in laughter and mischief, were now the deep dark blue of a turbulent ocean.
“Mmhmm.” I forced the sound past the lump that never seemed to dissipate.
“She was named after an angel, so she’ll be alright.” He smiled and leaned down to kiss my forehead
Gabrielle. We named her for other reasons, but mostly in my mind was the angel Gabriel. The vision of an angel with a flaming sword guarding my little baby had been a welcoming image. Praying I asked for a miracle. One that would allow me to take my baby home. It was that image that allowed me to slowly drift into a restless sleep. All the worry and the pain medicine exhausting my body past the point of allowing my mind to keep me awake.
A loud bang woke me, followed by the startled cry of a newborn baby. I pushed myself up and saw little Gabrielle all swaddled and looking madder than a toddler in a tantrum. Someone didn’t like the loud noise any better than I did.
“Sorry about that.” The nurse didn’t look up as she marked something off on the chart at the foot of the plastic bassinet and then she was handing me my baby. “But, I have good news.” She beamed at me and I looked over to the reclining chair my husband had been living in the past week to where he was rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “You get to go home.”
“What?” I bundled Gabrielle closer and inhaled her baby scent before what the nurse had said sunk into my sleep deprived mind. I shot my gaze to her face. “But the doctor said-”
“That was this morning.” The nurse said as though it were weeks ago, and smoothed the sheet at the end of my bed as she talked. “Her numbers rose so much over the last few hours she not only reached the minimum we had been waiting for, she passed it. Like a Christmas miracle. You can go ahead and take her home.”
The lump was back in my throat but this time it was because tears of happiness threatened to fall. My husband reached over and rubbed our baby’s back.
“We get to go home.” The deep timbre of his voice told me more than words could have how much it meant to him.
“I just have some paperwork for you to finish and in a few hours we will get you all out of here.” The next few hours were a whirlwind of activity. Papers to sign, the car seat to retrieve from the car, the baby clothes and my toiletries had to be packed, and all of it done in my post pregnancy slow waddle. But, by the afternoon, after the slowest five mile ride my husband had ever driven, we were back in out tiny house at the end of our dead-end street.
The silence after the noise and bustle of the hospital was welcoming. The only sound was the thump of our dogs tail as it hit the ground in happy wagging, and the tree we had decorated before we left sat twinkling in multi-colored joy, and the three of us glowed with happiness. There was a love I had never knew existed when I looked at my baby’s face. My husband was the love of my life, but this tiny being looked at us and it felt like my heart was breaking and growing at the same time.
The next day we brought Gabrielle to the Christmas dinner at my husband’s family’s house. She was introduced to cousins and aunts, uncles and grandparents, and the love there was tangible. The day before I had felt like we were alone in the world, and on Christmas I felt love so deeply for this family that had become mine, it wasn’t something I could express. So we laughed, and ate and cuddled our daughter, because Christmas is a time for family and love, and this Christmas was one I will never forget.
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