The Gift of a Child

merry-christmas-free-clip-art-merry-christmas-clip-art-7-jpgEvery Christmas, I think about the gift of a child and remember my brother’s birth.

At the age of nine on a worn-out day in February, I heard a rackety car approach and ran to the kitchen window. The barren branches of cottonwood trees streaked shadows across dirty snow; and a pale sun fled behind West Mountain as Mom stepped from Mrs. Anderson’s car.

She slammed the car’s door behind her — launching our resident crows into an orbit of admonishment — then walked along our sidewalk of frozen mud, her face as tired as the day.

Entering the house, Mom glanced at me — my scattered paper dolls, their cut-out costumes and her sewing scissors. Then, saying nothing, she slowly stirred the coals in the stove with a poker. Made uneasy by her silence, I wondered about its cause: Was it her visit to the doctor in town or my use of the forbidden scissors?

“Mom, what’s wrong?”

“I’m pregnant.”

“What’s that mean?”

“I’m going to have a baby.”

“Don’t you like babies?”

“Oh, Janet, I’ve loved all my babies. But I’m old. And tired.”

My mother had delivered family news, introduced me to a new word and shared a confidence. I forgot all three before dinner.

Then, a few months later, my family arrived at church, and I rushed to catch up with my best friend. “Oh, your mother’s pregnant,” she remarked, looking at Mom in her new, ballooning outfit.

“What’s that mean?” I asked.

“That she’s having a baby. My mother’s too old to have another baby. She said at her age, it would kill her.”

My insides shriveled. A few years before, my mom had nearly died giving birth to a baby sister who hadn’t lived. When she told me she was old and tired, did she mean having a baby would kill her this time? My world slowed to a standstill; and in the following weeks my anxiety grew along with my mother’s stomach.

In September, shortly after Mom told us the baby could come any day, she and Dad went to Provo, saying they’d be home by dinner. But they weren’t. So we ate the bottled tomatoes and toast Carolyn fixed for us; then, sent to bed, but wide-awake and worried, I crouched by a bedroom window and hoped the headlights I could see across the fields would turn at our lane. I held my breath, watched the headlights, and promised I’d do my chores without whining and change the new baby’s diaper without complaining, if Mom was in that car rather than dying, far away in Provo, trying to have a baby when she was too old. The headlights turned.

A week later, I again stood sentry by a window. The evening before, Dad had taken Mom to the hospital. Grandma either believed my lie about an upset stomach or understood the fear clouding my eyes. When the others ran for the school bus, I stayed home.

Again, I tracked our car until it stopped beneath the cottonwoods. Dad stepped out, then stopped and studied the sky. Why was he looking at heaven? I ran from the house. Panic squeezed my voice tiny: “Dad?”

“Hey, Janet. You have a new brother. We named him Blaine. They’ll both be home Friday. Looks like it’s going to rain, doesn’t it?”

A few days later, I experienced an unexpected rush of love when Mom let me hold my brother, bundled in white flannel, smelling new, small fists waving at nothing. I smiled up at Mom, and my last worry vanished as I saw that she, too, loved this baby.

In that moment, as I exulted over the birth of our baby, I began to understand why hearts overflow with joy, love and hope each Christmas.

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70 thoughts on “The Gift of a Child

  1. Absolute beauty in words. Thank you for sharing! It’s so interesting to see my Dad’s birth from your perspective. I was right there with you, feeling frightened and upset, and the ending was perfectly peaceful.

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    • Becca, you know that I admire your writing, so your comment means a lot to me. Your dad was the most wonderful addition to our family; he made us all happy. I’ll never forget the moment I described in the post when Mom called me into the kitchen and asked if I’d like to hold him.My love for both of them felt boundless.

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  2. This is such a heartwarming story, Janet. Thank you so much for sharing it. Childhood fears are so hard to describe. Emotions, mixed with misunderstanding and a fear for others and ourselves, all tangled up. I like the part where your father announces the news and then comments on the weather. Nothing to be concerned about.

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    • You describe the tangle I experienced perfectly, Dan. It’s the first time I remember fearing for the life of a loved one. As you said, my dad handled it perfectly, telling me immediately what I needed to hear and then getting back to life as normal.

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    • I know, Jeannie. My stomach was tied in knots so long it’s a wonder I didn’t grow up to be a pretzel. Looking back on it, I wonder that I didn’t talk to my oldest brother or dad about it. But, then, I’ve always been a quiet worrier.

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      • This is such a moving story. It makes me wonder what worries my own children and grand-children have borne alone in silence. Sometimes we don’t even know how worried we are until it stops, but that was not the case with you. The blessings of mother’s survival and a darling baby brother must have been glorious after those anxious months.

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      • You are right, Rachel. I think I remember the joy of holding Blaine and looking at Mom because of its contrast with my months of anxiety. It was a glorious reward. Ii hope you and your loved one enjoy a Merry Christmas. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

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  3. Such a lovely story and memory. I remember, as an older of 6 siblings, becoming aware of my mother’s pregnancies. We used to persuade her to take castor oil, to speed things up, since we were so excited for the birth of the 4 youngest. (I was prime baby-sitting age.) 💝 Such vivid language…you took us there.

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed my story and could relate to it. I am the middle of seven siblings and was the prime baby sitter for Blaine and our youngest brother JL. Your castor oil anecdote made me smile. It’s good to hear from you.

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  4. Great story. Great reflection. Sorry that the experience made you so scared and anxious at such a young age. May I ask how old your mother was? I’m pregnant, and my youngest is 6. She’ll be 7 by the time baby is born. This pregnancy was a bit of a shock. I know I’m not too old (though getting there), but I sure feel old and tired sometimes. 🙂

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    • Mom was 39 when Blaine was born and had another son eighteen months later. I don’t remember how she felt with that pregnancy, though she said in later years she and dad thought they had to have another baby the way we were all spoiling Blaine.The two little boys, as we called them brought joy and happiness into our family. I think it’s wonderful that you are having another baby.I hope to read about him or her on your blog in the months to come.

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      • Wow. 18 months later! I can only imagine, 9 months after Blaine was born, getting pregnant again. I wonder how she felt that time!! I would’ve been freaking out. I’m 37. I sort of feel like I ought to have another after this one, especially if it’s a boy, because my three girls will be so much older. I was thinking for companion sake, but the spoiling thing is another good reason too. (But then, being pregnant is so hard!)

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      • I really don’t know how Mom felt when she got pregnant with Blaine. i don’t remember any conversation about it, but I do remember it as a happy time when all us were looking forward to another baby, and this time I understood what was happening and what it would mean to all of us.In addition to keeping Blaine from being spoiled, the two boys became best buddies. Long after they had their own beds, they would sneak in with one another during the night. From reading your blog, I know that you are a good mother and I believe you will make good decisions for your family.

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  5. Hi Aunt Beulah
    I felt the knot in my tummy reading this story, just as if I was that nine year old girl that you were, trying to grasp mentally the shift in your Mumma’s being. I was the type of child Aunt Beulah that when I ran into the house after arriving home from school and my Mumma wouldn’t answer as I called ‘ I’m home Mumma’ , eagerly awaiting the biggest hug and smoochy kiss I would ever love in my life. If no answer came I panicked, my Mum wasn’t a well woman, I was myself the comeback kid, Mum was 42 when I came out of her womb already talking till I was blue in the face.
    ( nothing much has changed hehe!!).
    At 9 years of age I too sensed my Mumma’s fragility and it really did make me anxious, I didn’t understand the anxiety but I felt it for sure.
    Aunt Beulah you just take me back to places and memories of a lifetime every time I read your stories.
    This is just the most beautiful story to read, I sighed with such huge relief at the outcome because I was on the verge of the flood gates opening had this not went well.
    I am always inspired by your writing, but I am always completely and utterly living your stories Aunt Beulah.
    The Festive Season, sharing joy with our extended families is the most special time of year, more stories are made at this time every year. Another child is born somewhere in the world, THE GIFT OF A CHILD, is the most precious of all gifts.
    Sending loving warm wishes for a very budiful Christmas with your family Aunt Beulah
    Hugs warm and fuzzy across the oceans are headed your way from
    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊 💜 🎄

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    • I think you are still the comeback kid, dear Annie, with what you’ve been through this last year. I’ll bet your Mumma love, love, loved you and smiled when you talked a blue streak. It is amazing isn’t it, the way children pick up on it when things are askew in the adult world and become anxious. I agree with all my heart that The Gift of a Child is the most precious gift of all, Annie, and I hope as we celebrate Christmas we all remember that gift as we share presents, food, and love with those dear to us. Merry Christmas, my friend, and festive hugs from me to you across mountain passes and oceans deep.

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  6. Oh, Janet – when I got down to the bit about your fear of your mum possibly dying, I felt for you so much… and still do. I think the child that we were then still lives inside us – your little Janet is still inside you and despite your having come to terms with it, I believe that you wrote that part of it with her still inside. Does that make sense?

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    • Your thought makes perfect sense to me, Val. I believe little Janet is still part of me and that sometimes when I begin to write, she helps me remember the strength with which I felt and loved as a child. thank you for your insightful comment.

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  7. I was also nine years old when my Mom had my little sister. I remember seeing a pile of baby clothes and blankets on the ironing board.
    “What’s all that stuff doing there?” I asked.
    “You’re going to have a new baby sister or brother,” she said.
    My Mom was also considered old at the time—35—but I was very excited.
    And then when she came home with a baby girl, well, it was like I had a brand new doll to play with!
    That baby girl is now the Mom to those three beloved nephews I’m always talking about.

    Your heartwarming story brought that memory back to me, Janet.
    Thanks! And Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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    • I’m glad my story motivated the memory you shared with me in your comment, Rita. I enjoyed reading about you as a little girl. I never had children of my own, though marrying Joel brought three wonderful children and seven beloved grandchildren into my life. So I can relate to how much you love your nephews. I feel the same way about my nieces and nephews, though I don’t get to see them often enough. Merry Christmas to you and Tim. Travel safely.

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    • Thanks, Rob. I worked hard on the little bits of description in this piece like the one you mention. Thanks for noticing. I also had to work hard on my dialogue with my mother; I remembered the gist of it, but had to try to express each of our comments the way I think we would have really said them. All in all, I feel good about this one.

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  8. I’m marveling at how insular our lives are as kids–and how little the adults tend to know (when busy or distracted) about what is going on in our little heads. I’m so glad it turned out the way it did for your family:).

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    • Little heads fascinate me, Kay. As a teacher, I spent a lot of time trying to understand what they were thinking, or not, and how to get them to trust me enough to tell me. I experienced varying degrees of success. It’s much easier to remember what went on in my head, as I did for this story.

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      • Oh, I love that you did that as a teacher! I have met too many teachers that don’t. And when you find one that does, and it works for your child, it is like liquid gold. How did I know you would be one of those teachers? 🙂

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  9. Love is precarious,and as a child I vowed if i ever had one I’d never let them lie awake in fear. Back then, it is how things were.This is a wonderful story beautifully told,thank you dear Janet.

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    • I agree. Love is precarious and fear can be irrational. I like the comment of Dan above. He wrote “Childhood fears are so hard to describe. Emotions, mixed with misunderstanding and a fear for others and ourselves, all tangled up.” which perfectly describes the state I was in. I didn’t confide my fears to anyone. I don’t know why not; perhaps I feared being called a bawl baby by my older siblings, a description of me they used from time to time. I’m glad you liked my story, Sheila. Merry Christmas to you, my dear friend.

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  10. Janet, you have captured this situation so succinctly. What a perfect piece to read this Christmas. It is interesting today, to see and to hear, children seem to be far more aware. My last brother was ten years younger than me and I didn’t really comprehend or want to understand the implications of how babies came about.
    My father would have spoken as yours did. What memories!!
    Have a wonderful Christmas Janet!

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    • I sometimes look at my grandchildren, Barbara, and marvel at how much more worldly that seem than I remember being at their ages. But I tell myself I don’t know what worries and concerns and misinformation they carry inside.I’m glad you liked my Christmas story, and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas as well.

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    • He did read it, Shelley, after one of his daughters read it and sent it to everyone in his family. They all seemed to enjoy hearing the story of his birth from his sister’s point of view.

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  11. What a beautiful ending, a new brother and a healthy family, thank you for sharing. I don’t remember my mother being pregnant with my sister or brothers, but I remember a few days after my brother was born, Mum brought him to school when she picked us up and I was super excited to show him off to the other children. I also do remember Dad taking us to the hospital the day after my youngest brother was born because he didn’t know how to do our hair and being more occupied by that than having another new brother!

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