Saturday, December 24, 2005

Certain Uncertainty: A Christmas Story

Sometimes, it seems the most certain thing in life is uncertainty. The first few days of Erich's life were filled with uncertainty. Will my [Karen's] breastmilk be sufficient? What happens if the baby loses too much weight? Jaundice - what's that? How will we ever be able to take care of this baby while feeling soo exhausted?

Exhausted we were! After having been up almost two days and two nights straight -- starting with labour, then delivery, then recovery, then straight to taking care of the new baby... -- all of this was starting to take its toll! To make matters worse, adjusting to hospital life was far from easy. Although we were very appreciative of the extra hand the nurses gave us, hospital life is filled with constant interruptions: Patient care seems to be an odd combination of a team of professionals trying to nurse you back to health all the while maintaining their busy schedules and checklists. Our lack of sleep contributed to our crankiness which in turn rubbed off on Erich and his food supply, which made him cranky... well, you get the picture.

To make a long story short, Erich developed a mild form of jaundice (apparently very normal in newborns). He also lost a little more weight than the doctors would have liked. As a result, we ended up staying in the hospital two more days than we had first anticipated (Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day). Our hearts sank: We wouldn't be home for Christmas. On the one hand, we welcomed the extra days to help us get back on track. On the other, it was Christmas afterall, and we were itching to get home to sleep on our own bed.

Our family, like most, has the time-honoured tradition every Christmas of Christmas dinner. You know, the informal "formal" affair, where family dress their best for dinner and sing some carols around the piano. This year, of course, our son changed all of that. We ended up moving family dinner from our traditional venue on Walnut Street to Room 11 at St. Paul's Hospital's Maternity Ward. Instead of oven-baked roast ham served with cranberry sauce on fine china, and wine from the finest grapes, we had ham sandwiches with raisin bread served on paper towels with cranberry juice.

Reflecting back on the experience though, it was unlike any other. Perhaps a prayer my sister said that night just before our meal reflected our emotions best: Christmas isn't about having it all together; afterall Christ's birth was in less than ideal circumstances. But Christmas is about the Creator loving His created despite the circumstances: sending His son to save us and to show His love despite His disgust for our sin. Though we could never understand fully the intricate details of what must have gone on in Jesus' earthly family and the Holy Trinity that very first Christmas, we couldn't help but muse at some of the similarities: God's son, afterall, changed tradition forever.

Never had we been so tired, so helpless and so confused! Certainly we had experienced days of sleeplessness when we were students, but never was our alertness and our attention and our love so absolutely required. Assignment deadlines can be missed; exams can be failed; courses ignored, but a child - our child - cannot. Our child demanded our love and our attention. Certainly puts things into perspective doesn't it?

In the end though, the extra days helped us to stabilize, and got us back on the right track before heading home to fend for ourselves. Karen's milk began to flow more readily toward the end of our hospital stay, and we were taught how to supplement without "nipple-confusion" should it be necessary for a few days. Erich's weight stabilized and his jaundice was deemed OK enough for us to go home.

Christmas 2005 was definitely unique, and it will definitely be a story to tell Erich when he grows up.

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