Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Rose's 12 Days of Christmas: A prairie family Christmas



As we get ready to welcome our first grandchild sometime in the coming weeks, I can't help think how wonderful it will be to have a Christmas season baby around the house.

My sons Nick and Stef bookended Christmas.

Nick was born November 27, 1985 and Stef brought up the rear as an Irish twin on January 12, 1987. They were 13 months apart.

Oh, my!

Both boys were born in the Pasqua Hospital in Regina in the dead of winter.

My mother flew in to help me learn the ropes of motherhood. I read voraciously but I hadn't changed a diaper since I was the bad and bored babysitter back in my teenage years. I didn't like diapers then, and I was certain I wouldn't like them when my own children were swaddled in smelly gauze.

I didn't know anything about kids. I was the youngest in my family and all the other kids were older.

I didn't know how to dress a circumsection -- yuck! -- nor did I have a clue about bathing a child or even how to put the kid down in the crib. My mom was an old hand at it, and she helped me greatly, and mended a few fences between us in the process.

My first Christmas with baby threatened to be one spent at the hospital surrounded by unfortunate drug addicted children. The Pasqua was Regina's second choice as a hospital. It was a Catholic place full of stern nurses and nuns, and it was the hospital where most of Regina's aboriginal community had their babies. About a third of the babies in the nursery were screaming through the pain of addiction.

How terrible for these babies. What kind of future did they have?

I hoped many of them would be adopted, but I feared that would not be the case.

I spent a lot of time in that nursery.

Nick was born with severe jaundice, the result of having a congential birth defect -- no thyroid gland -- and so I spent 10 days rocking in a chair beside him, worrying over the little man sporting sunglasses and a speedo sized diaper.

He was beautiful and sweet, sitting in the spotlight, with his tan skin getting even darker from the UV lights. I was terrified they would send me home without him.

Fortunately, a heel prick determined no thyroid hormone and he was put on pablum and a pill from the get-go. Not a great way to enter the world, but not a bad way, either. At least, the doctors could fix what he had with medication.

I was able to take him home just before Christmas and he seemed that much more precious because he was flawed. The jaundice made him sleepy, so our first Christmas on the prairies was quiet one.

By the time the next Christmas rolled around, Nick was going full bore, into all kinds of mischief. When I wasn't at the doctor for checkups on Stef, I was there with Nick sporting some kind of injury. The day before Stef was born, Nick cracked his head open by bringing the stereo speaker down on his head.

Our second prairie Christmas was a waiting game.

I was profoundly pregnant with Stef all through the holiday. I think it was the first time I'd drawn a complete sober breath during the holidays since I was 15. Haagen Daas ice cream and brownies became my comfort and joy, and these sugary concoctions were also the villain of the piece. I think I gained 50 pounds over the course of three years in Regina.

Mr. Big used to joke that I had to buy my bras at Regina Tent and Awning.

Ha ha.

I love baby Christmases. They inject new magic into our lives.

These were my very best Christmases, the Regina years.

And not just because they were baby Christmases.

Having spent most of my adult life in the myopic, self-centred world of Ottawa, it was wonderful to immerse myself in a flat and cold world where people were decent, friendly, and family-oriented.

People worked hard, played hard and were always home for supper.

Unlike Ottawa, nobody was too busy or too important to lend a hand.

I liked that.

Waiting for Wheels, getting ready for her to enter the world as Skylar, has helped me remember how important children are to Christmas celebration.

Like Nick and Stef, her place is ready.

She just needs to come down the chimney with St. Nick.

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