by Bella Rum

I’m one of those people who gets a little blue around the holidays. It’s inevitable. Our strongest and often most joyful memories are about this time of year. This year has been better for me. I told H a few days ago that I wasn’t feeling my usual shade of blue this year.

We decided not to exchange gifts among the adults this year. I got Dad and the grandchildren a couple of gifts. I did get a few stocking stuffers for my son and DIL. I’ll bake a few things for friends and family, and I’ll give a few tins of incredibly delicious Virginia nuts to a few lucky folks, but that’s it. Nothing else will come from a store. We decorated but I kept it to a soft roar: the mantel, a small tree, a few wreaths outside. Not too much. It was all good…. then…

I was looking forward to actually spending Christmas with the grandchildren this year. Something has happened every year to prevent it, but this year was looking good. We just learned yesterday that they can’t make it. Something about a project at work. My son can’t get away. I went to my yoga class this morning with a heavy heart.

Our yoga instructor is also a doula. Doulas give non-medical support during labor and birth. I imagine she is wonderful in this capacity. She’s a strong woman with a kind, calming and wise way about her. She helps with one birth a month. Sometimes she shares a little about the joy and humor of “her” latest baby with our class (never divulging names).

This birth was different from previous births.

I was already in a tender place because I knew the holiday joy I’d anticipated was not going to unfold just the way I had hoped when someone asked her about her latest birth. It happened last Friday night.

She started by saying that life can change quickly and without warning. She said that the labor and birth had been beautiful and smooth. Everything went according to plan until the doctor realized the cord was wrapped several times around the baby’s neck. He had to keep the baby’s head and shoulders inside as he unwrapped the cord. He deftly did so and it was over, but the baby was blue from oxygen deprivation. The doctor and nurse worked together to revive the baby and were successful. In all the confusion and struggle and frustration, they realized the baby had down syndrome.

It was a surprise. The mother was in her late thirties and had opted not to get the prenatal test that detects down syndrome. Our instructor told us that she’d given birth at 39 and did not get tested. She didn’t want to know. She wasn’t sure how this mother came to her decision. Perhaps she didn’t want to be faced with the choice or maybe she had decided that knowledge wouldn’t impact her choice. Whatever the case, this family is embarking on a new path, a new and unexpected journey. Change has arrived.

This thing called life happens to us. We spend a lot of time convincing ourselves that we’re in control. It makes us feel safer to believe we decide our own destiny. I believe the best we can do is influence our paths. I do believe in doing all that we can to get where we want to go. After that, it’s a crap shoot. Sometimes we experience some awful hurt or disappointment that comes to us unbidden, unexpectedly, and through no fault of our own.  Our only control lies in how we handle it.

I’ve thought a lot about surrender lately. I’ve never been one to put much stock in it. I’ve always thought of that word as giving up, but perhaps there’s some freedom in the act of surrendering. I told a friend today that the understanding of this lesson has come slowly to me. It has taken many years and I’m still not there. I still wonder about certain things. Could I have done something another way? Would everything have turned out better if I’d only made a different choice?

Maybe half the trick is in recognizing when we actually have a choice in the way things will play out and when we need to simply accept what is – the inevitable. Surrender. Maybe there’s some peace in that.

I wish peace to this family and courage for the road ahead.