I know something about waiting for a child and then being totally unprepared. I think that’s why Advent means so much to me.
Twenty-seven years ago and change, my husband and I, unable to conceive, started looking into adoption. A fellow physician told us of a fifteen year old girl who was pregnant and unmarried and wanted to place her child for adoption. Were we interested?
Were we ever. We called, and found that she would not deliver until October, five months hence. As we were in the midst of studying for our final medical licensing exams, we agreed to reconnect in June. We did, and found that she was really due in August--still, plenty of time to get ready. We met with the adoption lawyer and made arrangements to purchase insurance, and get all the proper forms signed to get the adoption ball rolling. He was due to meet with the mother and father the next week.
On that appointed morning, we got a call. Our teenage momma was in labor and the baby was due any minute. By the end of the day, a four pound baby boy had been brought two months early into the world, resting comfortably in the pediatric intensive care until, and we were on the hook for parenthood and an incredible medical bill that we had no idea how to pay.
I remember with great clarity the rush of fear and confusion my groom and I experienced. Would he be all right? Was there brain damage? How long would he be in hospital? What did we need? We had no crib, no clothes, no baby bottles. What would happen if he failed the sixth grade? If he couldn’t get a date tot he senior prom ? How did one raise a kid, anyway? What books should we read--surely someone had the answers somewhere? How would we take care of this tiny baby and still work to pay off that looming debt? What if the white glove lady from the adoption agency didn’t approve us for parents? For that matter, what would we name him? Adam? Seth? We settled on Nathan--Gift of God.
Fortunately for us, our friends stepped in. One, who had a newborn herself, took us to shop for a bassinet and crib. There were showers, and hand holding and stories told with laughter and tears of children, the joys and sorrows of raising them. My colleagues spelled me in my duties so that I could go to the hospital all the way across town and hold and feed my son. That in itself was no small task because as a preemie, he did not take the bottle well. Getting formula down him was a struggle, to the point that the nurses had to feed him with a tube, and his body temperature would drop because we had him out of the isolette for so long. The criteria for his coming home was an ability to eat, and to keep his temperature at a cozy 98.6 degrees.
Four weeks and change--the period of Advent later--our son had gained enough weight and strength that he could come home. We dressed him in his new clothes (doll clothes, he was so small) and propped him in his car seat, and headed off across town. I remember sitting on the couch with my husband and the quiet, cavernous house for company and wondering who in his right mind thought it was a good idea to send this tiny, fragile child home with us? We had no idea what to do--there had not been enough time to prepare, and here we were, responsible for the life of this child. Like it or not, we were parents.
This Advent has been like that. Too much to distract me, too many worries, too many demands from the people in my charge to give me even a moment’s rest. I have spent the month exhausted at every level, the whole world, it seems, conspiring to keep me from taking the time to prepare for the Child who is coming. No time to read. No time to prepare the house. No time to spend with friends who can love and support me in the journey. The candles on the Advent wreath are only half-spent, be cause we have had no time even to sit down at table together. What if He arrives to find the crib only half-made, no milk in the fridge and no blankets to keep Him warm? What if I can’t even feed Him?
And Who in His right mind would send this Child to live with me?
Twenty seven years later, I have the answer, and I know, that in spite of the lack of preparations, I have deep inside the right response, the only response. As I was open to the wonderful, scary, disrupting gift of my son so many years ago, if I am open to the wonderful scary, transforming gift of His Son, I will be blessed many times over, in ways I cannot imagine. Laughing. Crying. Changing. Growing. Holding on. Letting go.
Even if the nursery hasn’t been painted yet. Come, Lord Jesus.