Mary-Margaret came into the world with much commotion. There were two crash
teams in the room: one for me and a neonatal intensive care team for her.
Despite the drama of her arrival, she was a healthy and happy baby.
Unlike her older sister Mary-Margaret slept in her crib contentedly, happily
ate, and thrived. As her first Christmas approached she was a healthy cherub
like six-month old. She looked like the perfect doll: porcelain skin, pink
cheeks, dark curly hair, and blue eyes.
Christmas was going to be amazing for her father and I. After years of being
barren like Elizabeth and Zachary, we miraculously welcomed Mary-Margaret’s
older sister Kathleen into the world three years before. There was no way we
had ever thought that we would be blessed twice; and yet now we had two
A week before Christmas Kathleen was sick with what appeared to be
bronchitis. Since she had been exposed to pertussis we had to treat her for
the disease. Babies born prematurely are at risk of serious lung infections
during their first year of life. Given Mary-Margaret’s preterm status we
were told she too needed to be treated for pertussis.
As Kathleen got better and waited anxiously for Christmas, Mary-Margaret got
worse. Her cough was horrible, she couldn’t keep her feedings down, and her
fever slowly crept up. By 2 a.m. on Christmas Eve she no longer cried tears
– a sign of dehydration in a baby.
The emergency room nurse completed her triage evaluation and we immediately
were placed in a room. For the first time ever I didn’t have to produce
insurance cards or talk about money – this was serious.
My poor baby was hooked up to an IV and oxygen.
A few hours of IV fluid, a new antibiotic, and a nebulizer improved her
dramatically. We would not be spending Christmas in a hospital.
That evening Kathleen and her father went to celebrate with family.
Mary-Margaret and I stayed home. The Christmas tree was our only light and
she slept peacefully in my arms.
I thought about how fortunate I was to have given birth to Mary-Margaret in
a hospital with resources to help a newborn in need; to live in a time of
medicine to help sick children; to have heat to keep my baby comfortable. I
reflected on what it must have been like for the Blessed Mother to live in a
time without these things. I prayed the Rosary in thanksgiving for my
daughter’s improving health.
That Christmas Eve was a quiet retreat for me. I have no memory of the
presents any of us received that Christmas. I will always remember how
connected I felt to the nativity scene and the gratitude I felt for the gift