21 September 2017

Special delivery!

It was just an ordinary day. The alarm clock went off and I pressed the ‘go away’ button; the alarm went off again, I pressed the ‘go away’ button a second time and by the time it went off a third time I reckoned I really needed to get up!

I got the kids up and sorted for school using a mixture of cajoling, encouragement and threats to make it out the door in quite good time.

It was a wintry morning: daylight was trying to peek through and it was cold and a little slippery underfoot. As I drove to my mum’s house the radio was playing a medley of Christmas tunes and it definitely made the day ahead seem a little more bearable.

As I stopped outside my mum’s house I began to go through the disembarking routine – seatbelts were undone quickly and heads were nearly cleaved off as schoolbags, lunchboxes and sports bags were lifted and removed at speed. As I was ushering my little darlings into my mum’s house I heard someone calling my name. I looked up to see my mum’s neighbour beckoning me. She had a sort of anguished look on her face and was speaking in a voice that, at best, sounded a little strangulated.

“Ruth,” she said, “Can you come quickly? I think my baby’s coming!”

I looked over and said, “Hiya!” smiling brightly while sort of thinking, ‘What did she say her baby was doing?’ and then with a sort of click, click, click my brain cells assimilated what she’d just said! Her baby was actually coming…as in arriving… as in being born!!

I quickly looked behind me, just to double check there wasn’t another Ruth she might be talking to but oh no, it was me. I sort of pointed at myself and mouthed, ‘Me?’ (Well, I think it’s always good to be sure) and she nodded, saying again, “It’s definitely coming!”

I have to say, you could have knocked me down with a feather! I mean, I know I have four children of my own, but that’s quite different- I was busy when they were born!

I heard myself replying to her, “No problem, coming now!” (Who was I trying to kid? No problem indeed!) I shouted at the kids, who were standing looking as stunned as I was, to go inside and of course told them to, “Get Nanny.”

I entered the house with an air of calm organisation normally associated with Florence Nightingale – I don’t teach Drama for nothing. I found myself asking all the appropriate medical questions, “Are you alright?” “Have your waters broken?” “Is your bag packed?” “Where’s your husband?” Let’s just say, the answers weren’t totally what I’d hoped for!

I suggested that we should maybe put on some warm clothes as I felt we could make it to the hospital. (Please note the use of ‘we’- a little technique used to make people feel they are not alone!) I picked up a tracksuit sitting beside the halfpacked hospital bag and suggested it might be an option. I was told it had been set aside for coming home from the hospital. I swiftly removed that as an issue by promising to wash it or buy a new one – at that precise moment I would have offered to knit a new one in order to get this lady into the tracksuit and on her way to the hospital.

I maintained a calm exterior saying things like, “It will be alright, we’ll get sorted and have you to the hospital in no time. Yes, we’ll phone your husband and, no, don’t cry, everything will be fine!” Inside I was thinking if I hear the words, ‘I want to push,’ I will die!!

At that moment my mum arrived and, I have to say, I was pretty glad to see her. I brought her up to speed on the events to date and suggested she may want to deal with the pressing medical issues while I sorted out the other child in the house, a little boy of two who was looking at us all as if we’d lost our marbles.

I said I would take him upstairs to get him washed and dressed quickly so that whatever happened, he was ready to go. Now, I know in the grander scheme of this drama making sure the baby was washed may not be top of the ‘to do’ list, but at the time it seemed like a fair enough idea.

I was in the bathroom washing the little mite down when I realised he was looking at me in total bewilderment. Who was this strange woman currently babbling to him while cleaning his underarm area and explaining why she was going to brush his teeth?

I found his wardrobe and began selecting his clothes for the day, but as I was co-ordinating his socks with his trousers I realised that it was not the time to worry about being a fashionista!

As I came downstairs I half expected to hear the “Waaaah” of a newborn, but to my delight neither that, nor the pushing word were audible. As we reached the bottom of the stairs the front door opened and the husband, hitherto on his way to work, burst in to whisk his beloved away to hospital like a knight on a charger – and boy was I glad to see him!

Now, I know I’m no midwife but thinking about it afterwards (after three strong coffees and some hot toast) I reckoned if push came to shove (excuse the phrasing) I could have ‘muddled through.’ Well, my mum and I could have muddled through, but you would have to acknowledge it wouldn’t be the choice you would put on any birth plan!

The experience always makes me think of Mary: a young woman, only a teenager, travelling hundreds of miles on a donkey to a foreign destination. Can we even imagine how uncomfortable it must have been to sit on that donkey for all of those miles? Our Christmas Carol ‘rings out bells’ and talks about ‘dusty roads’ but in no way does it come close to exploring how she must have felt. The midwife?

Possibly Joseph, a young man, a labourer. The hospital ward? A stable – a cold draughty stable with no soft mattress or bedding. The attendants? A range of animals. Not soft cuddly ‘Disney like’ characters but real animals; big and probably very smelly. The visitors? Outcasts of society, shepherds, rough men used to an isolated existence. This is the place, this is the time, this is the situation that God chose for the birth of His son Jesus – the baby who would be the Saviour of the world. John 1 verse 14 confirms: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Christ Jesus humbled himself and became a man that we might have life.

Sometimes we are guilty of glamorising the event – the soft lighting, the smiling, cute animals, the fresh-faced parents – the Christmas card scene favoured by the world at large that camouflages the reality. Let’s not hide behind the world’s misunderstanding of Christmas but let’s make it real; full of the joy that comes from realising that God’s son came to earth for us, and full of the reality that this little baby from humble origins is the answer to all of our problems and worries – not just at Christmas but the whole year through.

Ruth Ravey