“O come, O come Emmanuel. And ransom captive Israel.”
It was December 20th, 2010. I had braced myself for the day. A routine I had come to dread. I had a doctor’s appointment at two o’clock for my monthly regimen of infertility check ups. A once-a-month reminder that what I wanted most had continued to elude me for nearly ten years. A baby.
My husband and I had dreamed of having kids long before we were ever married, and now something that seemed to come so easily to others, had become a grueling, gut-wrenching cycle of medications, failed pregnancy tests, and constant heartache.
Those who struggle with infertility know this pattern all too well. I began my day as I always did on “appointment day.” With a pregnancy test. I had built such a fortress around my heart from the constant disappointment that it didn’t even register that the test read positive that morning.
I went on about my day, saying nothing to my husband, as I assumed it was a faulty test. I thought it cruel to give false hope; no need for both of us to muscle through this hit. There was no way I could be pregnant. Nothing was working. I had completely lost hope.
As I checked in for my appointment the nurse pelted me with her usual questions. “Anything different since last time you were here?” she asked. And then it dawned on me. Something “might” be different. “Well, I passed a pregnancy test this morning. But I’m sure it was a fluke.” She laughed as she told me no one had ever told her they “passed” a pregnancy test. In my mind this struggle to become pregnant was somehow a reflection of my personal “failure.” But maybe this time I had “passed.” Maybe I was about to be delivered from this constant darkness. Maybe.
They had me take another test. I sat in the exam room in my paper gown, swallowing tears as I braced myself for what I was sure would be another “no” to my litany of prayers for a baby. My soul was hoarse from crying out to God, and my tears had nearly run dry at that point. I was bone tired of the routine that had consumed our lives.
It took a doctor and three nurses to convince me that I was pregnant. I had accepted that this endless cycle of sadness was going to be my permanent cross to bear. I simply couldn’t allow myself to hear the words, “You’re pregnant.”
I remember sitting in my car, the bag of free samples from the OB/GYN sitting on my lap. I burst into tears and hugged that bag of free formula and pamphlets like it was a life vest thrown to me at sea. I watched countless happy women stroll through the waiting room with those bags over the years like some sort of trophy I would always admire, but never carry myself. And there it was—in my hands—an affirmation of a small and mighty work that God was beginning inside me. I was going to have a baby.
And then fear set in. I was terrified that I would lose this gift that had just been given me. It was just too good to be true. And so my anxiety settled in the form of obsessing over every minute detail of the pregnancy, on constant high alert for nine months. I pleaded with God to please protect and bless this tiny baby growing inside of me.
On August 26th, 2011, after 23 hours of labor that was scary for both me and the baby, I had an emergency C-section and my son was born … not breathing. I was apparently not doing well either, bleeding too much, my husband sitting helpless in the operating room as his heart quite literally was torn in two as he watched the doctors scramble around both me and our son. “Why isn’t he breathing?” I asked. I remember praying, “Please God—don’t bring me this far—deliver him.” I NEEDED this sweet boy to be okay.
And then he screamed. It was, and is to this day, the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. A cry that, in my heart, came from heaven itself. God had heard my cries for many many many years, and he returned it to me. In the form of a small sweet boy, screaming his arrival into this place.
I had been ransomed. Delivered from a place of desperation. A gift had been given to me that I still, to this day, don’t deserve. A tiny baby boy had come and reminded me of a Ransom that was paid for me thousands of years ago.
The greatest earthly gift I ever received was my son, whose namesake reminds me on my darkest days, that even when the answer to my prayers is “no” or “not yet”—I was ransomed by a tiny baby, born in a manger, 2000 years ago. Every time I speak my son’s name I am reminded in that moment that he is the image bearer of the greatest gift I’ve received … my savior. You can think this is a cheesy Christian “gift,” but I assure you it’s the most sincere, raw, authentic answer I can muster this Christmas season.
Photo (Flickr CC) by SAM Nasim