She'd long prayed for a child, but signs of trouble during her first pregnancy caused her faith to flag—until she received a reassuring message from above.
Christmas Eve service was beautiful. The deep red, velvety poinsettias on the altar, the soft and warm glow of the candles, the choir singing “Silent Night.” I’d never had so much to be thankful for. After five years of hoping and praying that this would be the month, I was finally pregnant through in-vitro fertilization. My husband, Tony, and I had gotten the news the first week of December. Just in time for Christmas, all my wishes had come true. Now all I had to do was wait for our child to be born. I leaned against Tony, sitting next to me, and put my head on his shoulder.
While the minister read the story of the first Christmas thousands of years ago. I imagined what Mary must have felt that night, waiting for the child God had promised her. No matter how scared she was, traveling all the way to Bethlehem, she knew God was watching over her and her baby. On our way out of the church, I paused for one last look at the Nativity and thanked God again for our blessing. “What a Christmas this is,” I said to Tony.
Back at home I played with my sister Carol’s five-year-old son, Michael, looking forward to waking up with a child in the house on Christmas morning. Michael eagerly examined the stockings hung on the fireplace. One for each of us, I pointed out to him, and one more for the baby. “You’re going to have a cousin very soon,” I told him.
I felt myself flinch. Something didn’t feel right. I excused myself and discovered I was bleeding. While everyone else was distracted in the other room, I called the doctor and described what was happening. He said not to panic. “The best thing is to take it easy. Get a good night’s rest,” he said. “We’ll do a thorough exam at your next checkup.”
When my nephew was tucked into bed and Tony was putting gifts under the tree, I helped Carol set out cookies on the fireplace and sprinkle flour on the floor to make Santa’s footsteps. I took advantage of the moment we were alone to tell her what was happening. “I don’t want to worry Tony unnecessarily, but I’m scared to death.”
“Trust the doctor,” she said. “And God. It sounds like it’s important to stay calm.” Carol bowed her head and prayed for me. I tried to draw comfort from it, but found myself looking over at the fireplace, at the stocking hanging limp and empty. Will I ever be a mother?
I went up to bed to wait for Tony. When I told him, he tried to be reassuring, but I could see he was scared too. How could I trust that anyone was in control?
After the holidays Carol came with me to the checkup. The nurse got me comfortable on the exam table. Lying there, I thought back on that Christmas Eve service. I tried to conjure up the soft glow of the candles, the voices in the choir, the image of Mary in the manger with her baby. What I really tried to conjure up was the faith I’d had that night. A faith that God was watching over me. Now it seemed all I had was doubts.
“Listen to that beautiful heartbeat!” the nurse declared. “Your baby is doing fine.”
Carol squeezed my hand. I was flooded with relief, but still worried something else would go wrong. The doctor tried to calm me. “Many women bleed during pregnancy early on,” he said. “Just lie low. Get plenty of sleep. Let someone else carry your groceries. Don’t run around after your nephew or pick him up. Your baby is growing stronger every day.”
I followed the doctor’s orders and got as much rest as I could. All through January and February and into March. At the end of my first trimester Tony and I were driving along the highway looking at the late winter sunshine shining through the trees. I remembered those candles from Christmas Eve and felt my spirits lifting. Nothing like the same strong faith I’d experienced on Christmas Eve, but hope.
When I got out of the car, Tony glanced down at the seat. “Cherol,” he said. “Honey, you’re bleeding.”
We drove to the doctor. He took every precaution, examined me carefully. “The fetus implanted low,” he said. “Not uncommon with in vitro. But the heartbeat is strong. Some women bleed throughout pregnancy and deliver healthy children.”
I wanted to believe him. But no matter what the doctor said, I was sure I was going to lose the baby. Back at home, lying in bed, gazing at a dense fog pressing in at the window, I tried to pray. “I know this child is yours to give and yours to take home,” I said. Then I broke down. My faith was worse than shaky. God knew it. I had nothing like Mary’s faith that first Christmas Eve. How could I expect him to listen to me? Or protect my baby? “I am weak,” I cried out. “I’ve lost my faith!”
In the quiet, God seemed to answer. I didn’t hear a voice, but I did hear what he said: “I don’t need your faith to perform a miracle.”
I lay there, awestruck, letting the words sink in. He is with me, I thought. God was with me just as he had been with Mary. He was present in exactly the same way. No matter how helpless I felt, God was as powerful as ever. Every birth was a miracle. No matter how much the mother doubted what God could do.
I stayed in bed for the next couple of weeks, just as the doctor advised. Eventually he said I could walk around. I did light housework, played with Michael. I followed the doctor’s orders not to push myself too hard, but I no longer doubted that God was watching over me. If I felt a twinge or had a cramp, I didn’t panic. I called the doctor, took it easy, trusted that God was in control. Finally came the day in August when our son, Kjell, was born. Christmas was months away, but I knew that when it arrived Kjell’s stocking would be full and the Christmas service would be more beautiful than the year before.
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