Strolling along the Ludington pier under a hot August sun, Anna smiled dreamily. She felt like shouting with joy. Four months pregnant, she had safely passed the dates of her previous miscarriages. Fittingly, this gift from God was due December 25. Oh how she prayed for her Father’s protection, wondering if Mary had done the same while carrying Jesus.
Nausea rose in her throat, her stomach tossing in rhythm with the choppy waves of Lake Michigan. Knowing her tendency to fall prey to sun stroke, Anna slowed her pace. Blinking rapidly, she wiped the back of her hand across her face, feeling a bit woozy but the beach was only a short distance away. Face lowered, she took a few more steps—the last into air—and dropped eight feet onto hard-packed sand, landing on her stomach.
Gripping fistfuls of white sand, Anna thrust herself into a squat, her head whirling and her stomach suddenly in view. Oh, God, she groaned, swaddling herself with her arms, while rapidly checking for contractions, water breaking, or blood. Would her hopes be dashed so soon?
To her elation, the baby suffered not at all—and Anna’s song of thanksgiving surely rivaled Mary’s.
Three months later while she drove home after an apple-picking jaunt, Anna’s world erupted with shrieking metals and bursting glass when a sedan ran a red light, broad-siding her car. Blood trickled from small gashes in her forehead and arms, her hands white-knuckled on the wheel. Gasping “No, God, not now! Save my baby!” she assessed herself, relieved to find no contractions, no bleeding, no broken water, though purple bruises mottled her stomach for several weeks. Anna knew without a doubt that God’s right hand had once more reached down.
With Christmas only three weeks away, Anna was dusting the living room when a sudden wet warmth soaked her capri-clad legs. Puzzled more than surprised, she wondered where the contractions were. Her stomach showed not a wrinkle.
Doctors rustled about Anna, uncertain why she was not in labor. Everything else seemed fine, so they sent her home, telling her that if she was not having contractions by the next day to return. At home, she ran the vacuum, made dinner. She crawled into bed but dozed restlessly, pleading for God’s intervention.
The next afternoon the doctor opened the IV drip of medicine which should jar her body into action. Anna shuddered at the clang of his stethoscope against the glass bottle. God was silent, but she waited and waited. Nothing happened.
Three hours after he had planned on delivering the baby, the doctor started another drip and left Anna’s sister, a student nurse, hovering. Both were unprepared when two hours later the contractions savaged Anna’s body. Gripping her hand, Anna’s sister ignored entreaties to hear the baby’s heartbeat during the rare breaths between the hammering contraction storms. “No, Anna. We can’t get a reading at a time like this. Just wait a little longer.” Time and again, she resolutely soothed Anna, refusing to let tears glimmer in her eyes, for there was no heartbeat to hear. There had not been one for several hours. This baby would be stillborn.
When the head with long tufts of jet-black hair crowned, a push sent it forward, revealing skin, lips, and nose a mottled purple. Another push revealed the umbilical cord tightly entwining the neck. Not sure why he bothered, the doctor shoved the baby backward, his fingertips unraveling the twists away from the neck. In moments, a tiny blue body slid into the doctor’s palm and a nurse bore it away. Anna heard no cry; her sister’s shaking head sent Anna’s heart plummeting. Was God stealing her joy and replacing it with a dirge?
And then they heard a contented sigh, as if the baby had merely been fast asleep in a delightful dream. Her body gradually grew pink on the scale, which jiggled near five pounds. Anna sobbed blissfully as she held her daughter. “Oh, my love, God has blessed me with a beautiful new song. You will always be my Christmas joy.”
And beautiful she was. The doctors, nurses, friends, relatives, and strangers passing the Preemie area all chimed with charmed bemusement over this miniature Gerber baby, perfectly proportioned with smooth, unmarked pink-golden skin, with cherry-rose lips, with sparkling blue eyes rimmed by lush lashes. Knowing Mary’s joy in God’s gift; Anna sang it anew every time she called her daughter’s name: Carol.
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