Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Faith Works 12-25

Faith Works 12-25-10

Jeff Gill


No One Is Ever Really Ready For a Baby




There are books and videos and websites, all telling expectant parents what to expect, how to prepare, and the stuff you need when a baby is on the way.


Plenty of advice and counsel and even some cultural assumptions (color of nursery, having mother come stay with her daughter and new grandchild, rituals at the door), but in the end, it comes down to this: they send you home with the kid, and you think to yourself "I have no idea what I'm doing."


This may be a guy thing, but I've talked to enough women about their first day home experiences to know it's pretty common for mothers themselves – although men may find it easier to forget about what's about to happen than does the expectant mother.


For me and my wife, we were both a little later-in-life parents, and with a fair amount of experience with other people's kids, plus I'm an oldest of four, so we felt pretty prepared. Even prepared for the feeling "Whoa, this is happening now" before it happened, thinking of it akin to the first day on a new job or sliding down your first solo rappel rope.


What we hadn't considered was, of course, what happened. There were a few complications, and my wife had to go back into the hospital . . . and I had to go home with the baby. Alone. Well, he was there, but you know.


It wasn't the stuff you had to do that was daunting: strapping into the car seat, feeding the bottle of breast milk to him, bathing, diapering, diapering, putting him down to sleep, diapering, and so on. That was familiar from my own siblings and other experience, and it wasn't the very first day, anyhow. (Did I mention diapering?)


The frightening part was when there was nothing that needed to be done. Thought one: I'm forgetting something that should happen next. Check, check, diaper check, no. Thought two: is the baby still breathing? If you've never had children, you have no idea how much time a parent spends at first checking that simple fact. The absolute unreality of a new life, where there were just kicks and ultrasound pictures before, and then the amazing rugged fragility of a baby – you just can't quite comprehend it all, and you respond by checking to see if it's still breathing. Often. (And the diaper.)


I got through those days just fine, but never without a vague sense of unease when the tasks were done, and the child was sleeping. Because the next thought, after breathing and diapering, was "What next?"


My vision of the next few decades ahead, and even beyond my own appointed span on the earth, had a different focus. A little bit longer view to the horizon, a tiny bit sharper in some places, and surely a wider field of vision. It takes some getting used to, and I'm not entirely there yet. It only took me four months to get used to bifocals, but having a baby is an orientation changer that keeps you squinting.


Christmas is a celebration about a baby being born; born then, and born now, "in your heart" as the pious phrase has it. If that doesn't work for you, think of it this way: for Christians, the birth of that Bethlehem baby changes our view of everything as far as the eye can see. We can't look at anything in our world the same way after that baby came into it.


In a sense, that's true, or should be, about any baby, though we tend to only really feel it when the baby is "our own." The infant Jesus is a baby for all of us, and he's offered into our arms, our care, our lives . . . our hearts, if you will.


Take him to yourself, and then look up, and look out. What do you see?


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about your childlike wonder at knapsack77@gmail.com or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

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