The aroma of roast beef filled our home. Light snow fell outside the window as dusk began to settle. A warm fire gave our dining room a cozy feeling. Reflected light from the candle-lit centerpiece danced in the yet-to-be filled wineglasses. Clean linen placemats and fancy napkins adorned our festive table.
The roast would be done in 20 minutes, all I had left to do was make the gravy. Things were coming together right on schedule, only one thing was missing – my husband.
My daughters and I had been playing Christmas music all day while we made last minute preparations for a fun evening. It would only be the four of us, but we were eager to make the evening special. First a delicious meal, each of us dressed in our holiday best, then off to the Christmas Eve service at church, and finally back home for a relaxing evening of family games and maybe a sappy old Christmas movie. The girls finished decorating the cookies, and we’d make hot cocoa later. Everything was set.
The phone rang. It was Glenn.
“Hi Hon.” My husband sounded tired, but cheerful. “Looks like it’s gonna be a while. Things aren’t progressing like they should – we’re gonna give it another 45 minutes before we decide, but I think I’ll end up doing a C-section.”
“OK. I’ll tell the girls.”
“Sorry about that. Why don’t you guys go ahead and eat without me. It’ll be at least two more hours before I can make it home.”
I replaced the receiver and broke the news to my daughters. We were down to three for dinner now.
People refer to a pregnant mom as one who is expecting. I remember the excitement, and the agony of waiting those last few weeks, and the bittersweet moment when you realize that today, after long hours of painful labor, you will celebrate your child’s birthday.
My “expecting days” have taken a wholly new twist. No longer am I expecting to feel the first pangs of labor. These days I wait expectantly for my physician husband to return home.
Glenn and I made the decision for him to change careers about 14 years ago. That decision plunged us into a twelve year, debt-ridden, transient lifestyle as my husband endured the grueling path through medical school and residency training. During that journey, I struggled to raise two young children (often by myself), while working full time, and changing jobs often as we packed up repeatedly to move on to the next stage of our adventure.
Over the years, we’ve been “cheated” out of more holidays than I care to count. Now since my husband has chosen Obstetrics as his medical specialty, that pattern has become permanent. Babies have no consideration for anybody else’s plans. They come when it’s time – usually right in the middle of dinner.
“O Lord!” I said as I stirred the gravy. “Why today? You know we’ve all been looking forward to this. It’s our favorite day of the year!” My festive mood had darkened considerably. The fancy table setting now seemed ridiculous. The kids would have preferred grilled cheese to roast beef anyway. What was the point?
“You know, Lord,” I continued, “he’s gonna miss church again. It’s like taking two steps back! It’s hard enough for him to find time to come to church on a regular Sunday.”
The girls and I managed to share a delightful meal in spite of our circumstances, and then went off to church, without Glenn. Much later my husband finally made it home. The kids were already in bed, so we got busy with our traditional activity of assembling and wrapping a few “surprise” gifts to sneak under the tree.
“So did everything go well with your delivery? Mom and baby OK?” These were my usual questions.
“Yeah. They’re fine.” Glenn responded as he wearily put the last screw in the new bookshelf my daughter would receive as a gift the next morning. “This was my miracle baby.”
That was a response I didn’t expect. My scientist husband doesn’t talk about miracles very often. “Miracle baby? What did you mean?”
“Maybe you remember about five months ago, this mom came in to see me. During the exam we discovered that the amniotic fluid that surrounds and protects the growing baby had drained out of the womb. It’s very serious. The fluid doesn’t replenish itself. I’d never heard of such a situation where the baby survived. So I counseled the patient and her husband about what to expect; I told them to expect a miscarriage. I couldn’t do much to change things – the baby was far too young to survive outside the mother’s womb.”
Glenn moved the bookshelf to its spot near the Christmas tree. I plopped a big bow on top of it. “Then what happened?” I urged him to continue with the story.
“Well obviously they were scared, upset. But they thanked me and said they needed time to think, and pray about it.” We sat for a few minutes just staring at the lights on the tree.
“I honestly expected that baby to miscarry any day,” my husband spoke thoughtfully, “but my patient made it to her next appointment and things were looking pretty good. I was amazed, the fluid within the womb had somehow replenished. No explanation for it. I don’t know of any documented cases where such a thing has happened before.”
“Wow! That’s awesome!” I said.
“Yeah, the couple was thrilled, but they didn’t seem as surprised as I would have thought. Then they told me that the baby was on their church’s prayer chain, and they were all expecting a miracle.”
“And today that miracle was born.” I couldn’t keep the smile off my face.
God is so full of surprises isn’t he? Here I was counting on a church service to strengthen my husband’s faith, but all the time God had another plan.
I know the Christmas story by heart. I know that most of the Israelite people missed the event of Jesus’ birth – they missed the miracle of “God with us” because they had other plans, different expectations. And here I was, nearly in the same boat. I was so caught up with my own expectations I forgot that God is always at work.
God accomplished what He meant to accomplish that Christmas Eve, without fancy napkins and scented candles, without Christmas hymns and Bible readings. And He did it the same way He’d done it more than 2000 years ago – with the sound of a baby crying.
Lynne this is an incredible story that you have written with heart. The ending was the best one I've read in a long while. Perfect in its directness and simplicity. This will make a great story for the Faith Writer's Magazine next Christmas that I would love and be honored to use in The Joy of Family department. With your permission. I will print it out in hope that you agree, unless you have promised to someone else or plan to sell it, which I forgot to notice. At any rate, it is a blessed piece with a fine message. Let me know about the magazine submission. Yours in Christ, ladybug Karen