Thursday, December 1, 2011

A New Beginning

After brainstorming ideas for a Christmas story that would do justice to the 2011 kick-off blog tour, I’ve decided not to write a “story” at all. Instead, I’d like to share with you a real story of a Christmas I will never forget. This was the year that I learned how much I valued being a mother.
I was teaching elementary school at the time and I was fortunate enough to get two weeks off for Christmas and New Year. I was looking forward to the time off to be home with my husband and son whom I had adopted only six months earlier. I wanted our first Christmas as a family to be special. Let me take you back there.

My son’s birthday is in December and we have a huge party for him. There are so many toys in my living room that I can barely walk. Everyone wants to hold and play with him, which is great even if I barely get a chance to be with him that day as I run around making sure everyone is eating, drinking, and having a good time.
At the end of the day, I’m worn out. So is the baby. He falls asleep early and wakes up later that night crying. I figure he’s just been over stimulated and I calm him down. But by morning I begin to suspect he has a little cold.

For the next couple of days I give him medicine and endure his cranky mood, hoping he’ll feel better soon. He seems to get better, then worse. He coughs and gets frustrated when he can’t breathe due to congestion. Then his fever starts.
I decide to take him to the doctor since the over the counter medication isn’t working. He’s given antibiotics and I’m told not to worry about the fever.
“It means the body is fighting the illness,” I’m told. “Continue to give him Advil.” Then I’m encouraged to give him his one-year-old vaccinations, which to me seems like a crazy time when he’s so miserable already, but I figure the doctor knows all and I know nothing, so I agree.

On Christmas Eve as we’re preparing to have company, I hear the baby wake up from his nap screaming at the top of his lungs and crying.

I put down the wrapping paper in my hands and hurry up the stairs where I hear a lot of movement coming from his crib. When I turn on the light, my stomach does a flip when I see the baby having convulsions.

I immediately call my husband who comes running into the room, takes one look, and runs back out to call the paramedics. Then the baby stops moving and I pick him up. I don’t even realize I’m crying until my husband runs back in to wipe my eyes and tell me it’s going to be okay.

But I’m not sure. My son is staring straight ahead at the ceiling. I can tell he’s alive but he’s not reacting. Between sobs I talk to him and try to get him to look at me. But there is no response.

I hear sirens and a few minutes later two paramedics are taking the baby out of my arms. They ask questions about him. I answer, but I can’t remember what they asked or what I said. They advise that we take him to the emergency room and we do.
By now, my son is beginning to come out of wherever he is, but he acts like he’s extremely tired. We wait in a hospital room as nurses walk in and out. A woman from a charity group pauses at the door and offers me a gift for the baby. She tells me that they spend every Christmas Eve passing out gifts to sick children. I take what she gives me, but it makes me cry to think that my son is spending his first Christmas in a hospital.

They run many tests on him. He might have meningitis they tell me. I don’t know what this is, but they ask if they can do a spinal tap to check. I don’t know what this is either, but they explain that they extract some spinal fluid to determine why he had a seizure. It could be a tumor, inflammation, an infection – all possible causes.

“The procedure will take five to ten minutes,” the doctor explains.

They make us sign a form with all the risks. I’m scared to death. After the procedure he has to lay flat on his back and not move. I start to feel nauseous. I’m picturing the worst case scenario and just the thought of a needle being inserted into my perfect little baby’s back fills me with a crazy kind of panic.

When they begin the procedure, I’m supposed to be holding the baby on his side.
“What if you do something wrong and he’s paralyzed for life?” I ask.

They reassure me that it can’t happen. My husband and I hold my son and I close my eyes for a second, then focus on his tired face noticing that he seems to have little reaction to a needle being inserted between his vertebrae.

Afterward, he has to lie on his back for thirty minutes. I sit beside him and rub his chest and talk to him. Eventually he falls asleep and the nurse tells my husband and me that they will keep him overnight, but that we’re welcome to go home and come back in the morning.

“I’m not leaving,” I say.

“You’re welcome to stay,” she says and leaves.

My husband tries to convince me to go home.

“You go.” I remember that we were supposed to have company over for Christmas Eve. “You need to call everyone and let them know--.”

“Your mom already did all that.”

I nod. My husband kisses the top of my head and tells me he’s going to go home and pick up the diaper bag, a change of clothes and he’ll be back in a few hours.

I spend the night staring at my baby, watching him sleep. I can’t remember all the thoughts I had that night, but I do remember thinking of Margaret, our social worker and her words to me when I first got a picture of my son. “This is the child God wanted you to have.” At the time, I felt it was over dramatic and I smiled, because she was being kind and I thought it was her job to say things adoptive parents wanted to hear. But I no longer think it was a crazy thing to say. I believe her.

That night, as the two of us spent the night together, he sleeping and me watching him, I knew he was my child and I knew I was meant to be his mother. I’d worked hard to become a teacher, but being a teacher no longer mattered. Being a best-selling author someday was irrelevant. Anything I might have thought was important in the past, paled in comparison to this little baby that needed me and that I loved. He was the only one in the world I wanted to spend Christmas Eve with, and when he opened his eyes on Christmas morning, looking normal and healthy and called me mommy, I knew I’d been given the best gift ever.

Thank you for making the first stop on the tour. Please leave your comments below to be entered into a drawing to win your choice of EVENINGS AT THE ARGENTINE CLUB or SAY YOU'LL BE MINE.

The tour contines on December 3rd at Radames Ortiz


See you there!



  1. Wow, sad story...but with a happy ending.

    Will all the writers be sharing XMAS stories on this tour?

  2. Thankfully, it did have a happy ending. My "baby" will be turning 13 this December and he's now as tall a I am. Every Christmas, though, I look at him and think of how lucky I am that he's strong and healthy, because I could have easily turned out differently that night.
    All the authors on this tour will share holiday stories - not all Christmas, however.

  3. Thank you for sharing!

    My stop is December 5th @

  4. What a beautiful, heartwarming story, Julia. Thanks for sharing it. it is a beautiful way to start the blog tour. I bet your son is very proud of you and happy to have una mama escritora! Does he like to write too?
    Abrazos from Taos,

  5. He's a great writer, but he doesn't like to write much unfortunately. My daughter is the writer : )

  6. A beautiful story! Thank you so much for sharing. We get all caught up with gifts and things, we forget that the best gifts are often right beside us. Un fuerte abrazo, amiga.

  7. Great story. It was a treat to read it early this morning. Be sure to check out my stop tomorrow, December 3d @

  8. Thanks for sharing this story. So beautiful! What a wonderful Christmas gift.

  9. I spent all Friday and Saturday at Legoland where. the boy in this story competed in a robotics competion with his team. They didn't move on to the next level, but they had a lot of fun. So, I'm a day behind in awarding the prize. I did it the old fashioned way and placed numbers in a coffee cup. I pulled out #8 which is was Deborah!! So, Deborah, please email me at and let me know which book you'd like and I'll put it in the mail.

  10. Julia, this is so heart-warming, heart-wrenching, and inspirational. Thanks for sharing this. Our children are always #1!