I had so many clever ideas for Christmas posts. This blog is a lot about looking back and working out how and if that lets us/me look forward. I had things to say about my sardonic view that Mary did things right, giving birth in a stable with animals all around. And a more grown up view, which I find myself taking these days, that even though I don’t believe in the whole story I have tremendous sympathy for her – young, alone, screaming into the night, surrounded by old men. I almost wish the inn keeper’s wife had a role in the story, helping out, bringing hot drinks, showing Mary how to swaddle, chucking out her placenta.
Fate intervened however, and Son2 was ill all Christmas. I can confirm that A&E, Children’s A&E no less, is as grim as you might imagine. For me it was upsetting because the little one had, among other symptoms, lost his voice. A dear little pup without his bark, I was humbled and terrified. Later, after we’d escaped admission, schlepped the country, opened lovely gifts and shared food he got more ill and I realised that I had committed a terrible folly. Because he was quiet I’d not really registered how ill he was – a 7 hour screaming fit is oddly easier when it is silent.
We returned to doctors and were admitted to hospital, he had lost a lot of weight and kept losing, throwing up each feed and needing help to breath. I stayed with him and learned a lesson in humility about the pressures of expressing and breastfeeding. Last time I had a shit run of luck when my son was born and was ill myself. I always said how lucky I was that it was me who was sick not him, and also that despite all of the hassles we had feeding him was always fairly easy. I was right. Watching the newborn covered in tubes and obsessing like a crazed extra in LOST over numbers I didn’t understand – pulse-oxygen numbers darting in and out of danger zones and screaming and beeping all night whilst expressing to order was just useless. Being under pressure to provide food to hourly order, watching him get it through a tube, watching myself fail to pump enough milk. It was awful and made me feel all Dickensian – I truly have been blessed, for all my moaning.
The Good News, and now I sound like a vicar, is my boy is back at home, which means I can see both my lads snoring on the sofa as husband and I catch up with some Christmas telly and a hot cup of tea. It may not be the post I wanted to write, but it is pleasingly Christmassy: a newborn boy, wise doctors offering gifts, support and kindness and presents, room found for our boy at the inn. And as he is swaddled tight I am mindful of our short time as Mum and her little pal and really realise that whatever the truth of it Mary’s story has a lot to say. After all, she had it shown to her so brutally that we are only borrowing our kids for a short while, they belong to everyone else, to the world and are at the mercy of it. Our job is merely watchwoman – to see if we can’t help them grow enough to care for themselves and go forward alone, with us waiting in the background, thinking about the stable and how lucky we have been to have so many milky kisses and tantrums and sleepless nights spent all together.
So I wouldn’t swap our first Christmas, for all its tears and terrors. But I’m hoping for noisy crying and less breathing apparatus next year.