During the Christmas season in 1990, my visions were less about sugar plums and more about gifts and not the wrapped ones that would be waiting under the tree.
You see, it was the first Christmas as a married couple for me and my then-husband, Max, and I was hugely pregnant with our first child. When I found out my due date was December 31, I set my sights on delivering the first baby of the 1991 New Year.
I wanted to have The New Year’s Baby!
Our budget was tight and a year’s supply of diapers would sure be a blessing. But it was something more than that, I thought having the New Year’s baby would make his or her birth more memorable.
That year after Thanksgiving, my nesting instincts kicked into high gear. I was a cleaning and organizing machine. One day while I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the baseboards in our smallish living room, I came up with an idea.
Later that night I told Max, “Since I won’t be able to travel this year for Christmas, we should invite our families here for the holiday.”
Neither one of us fretted about the fact that we lived in a cramped one-bedroom apartment with an eat-in kitchen and one bathroom. Or that we only had table service for four.
The next day we set about inviting both sets of our parents, our three brothers, and their girlfriends to our place for the Holiday.
They all said yes—we would spend Christmas surrounded by family.
I spent the next weeks preparing our dinky place for the arrival of our crew. I planned menus and seating arrangements for the card tables we would set up in the sparsely furnished living room.
Christmas Eve day I had the defrosted turkey Max’s employer had given us resting safely in the roaster pan in the refrigerator, and ingredients for several sides on the ready. I padded around the steamy kitchen making chili and cinnamon rolls while I dreamed of our families gathered together to watch college bowl games, play cards, and eat way too much food—even if they had to do it off of paper plates.
As I sang along with the song on the radio CD player about “The First Noel” and marked things off of my to-do list, I just knew that Christmas would be a memorable one for everyone.
As dusk approached my mom and stepdad arrived hauling in the air mattress, they would sleep on plus all the bedding to go with it. There were stacks of presents placed under the 24-inch Christmas tree perched on our wicker side table.
When everything was finally loaded into the apartment, they both remarked on how big I had gotten. I was barely fitting into the maternity jeans mom had given me for my birthday that summer. “It looks like the baby has dropped. It won’t be long now,” my mom said, beaming with happy anticipation at the approaching arrival of her first grandchild.
We passed the evening eating chili with cheese and crackers and cinnamon rolls, playing rummy, and watching “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”.
After everyone went to bed, I started having terrible stomach pains. I loaded up on my usual mint-flavored Tums, but this was way worse than my usual pregnancy heartburn.
I couldn’t get comfortable.
And then the pain intensified.
Finally, I woke Max up, “I think I’m in labor.” I took a shower, grabbed the hospital bag I’d had packed for weeks, and about 2 am we snuck out the backdoor of our apartment, careful not to wake my parents.
My contractions seemed to speed up on the 25 mile trip to the hospital. We both got nervous when at one point they were two minutes apart.
We finally reached the hospital only to have everything stop once they settled me into a birthing suite.
As Christmas Eve gave way to the dawn of Christmas day, Max placed calls to each member of the family to let them know they were still welcome to have their Christmas dinner at our place, but we’d had a slight change in plans. We’d be celebrating at the hospital with a surprise guest, and it wasn’t Santa.
Since our baby would be the first grandchild on both sides of the family, everyone loaded into their cars and made their way to the hospital to await the birth.
But as the hours passed and still no baby, we began to joke that we might still be in the running for the New Year’s Baby.
But finally, at 1:50 pm with a big cry and a bit of blonde hair, we had an 8 pound 5-ounce baby boy. A son—we named Ross.
His timing may have been a surprise, but something about holding that tiny bundle for the first time on the most special day of the year opened my heart in ways I’d never known before—now I wasn’t just me—I was a mom.
And I was in love in a way I’d never known before.
That Christmas didn’t turn out quite as we expected. Everyone ended up having dinner in the hospital cafeteria. But Ross’s birth would launch shared celebrations by our two families as we gathered on his birthday for years to come.
Today, Christmas day 2020 that once little blonde baby turns 30 and is now the daddy of two blonde little boys of his own. Every Christmas I call him at 1:50 pm and tell him the story of his arrival—his birth story.
That very different Christmas taught me that the most special Christmases are about the small things—like togetherness, no matter where that takes place, surprise arrivals, and babies (and the surprise arrivals of babies, too.).
Yes—that’s what the most special Christmases are about, aren’t they?
Just as the first one was.
When–innocent–helpless–sweet saving—love came down and was born in a manger—a baby, for all of us.
Happy Birthday, Ross and Merry Christmas!
I promise I won’t share the newborn elf outfit baby picture this year—at least not too much! you are just too cute in that newborn elf outfit not to share—Love Mom.