17 February 2008

Gone baptizin'

Our first two babies were baptized in church the respective Sundays immediately following their respective births. It was awful. Getting the baby and my terribly sore self clean and church-ready, ensuring that the baby's belly was full at all the right times and that no one was offended during the process, standing through the lengthy rite, the crowd of well-wishers needing food and a place to go, and pretending that I wasn't about to succumb to hysterical postpartum weeping the whole time were not challenges I had any desire to revisit by the time #3 came around. Furthermore, we never liked the 45 minute drive home with our precious little unregenerate heathen and living nervously with him/her until Sunday.

So #3 was baptized in the hospital 7 hours after she was born. Her godparents were local and were able to attend, the family members we had in town came also, and I watched the whole thing from the relative comfort of my shapeless gown, unwashed hair, and the bed in which it had all gone down. Her baptismal gown was presented as part of the rite. She wore it a few weeks later when the sponsors were enrolled on a Sunday morning at our church and we took home the baptism certificate.

We did the same thing a few weeks ago. The sponsors weren't local this time, but one of them was able to join us over the phone to witness with his ears and say his part. The only family members available were our three other children, accompanied by the nice lady from church who took care of them that afternoon. I don't know when we'll enroll the sponsors this time, and the little dude may well have outgrown the beautiful gown Grandma made for him by the time we get around to it, but I wouldn't ever go back to the old way.

It's an unconventional method at this moment in history, but it is so much gentler on the people who really need it: the baby and the parents. It would probably have been a harder sell to our family on our first baby; lots of them wanted to be there for that baptism (although we wouldn't have put it off if all interested parties hadn't been able to make it). The congregation misses out on witnessing the baptism, which is too bad, but doing it this way demonstrates to them that the baptism itself is much more important than the sentimental contemporary social customs surrounding it. Anyway, the point is, there are options. Your baby's baptism doesn't have to be a horrible strain on you, which is the last thing you need in those early weeks. It's one of the best moments in a parent's life, so don't let it get ruined for you. (Maybe the Gauntlets would like to share the approach they took with their 3rd, too.)


Athritis Amazons said...

Congratulations! That word doesn't seem to capture the sincerity of that sentiment, but it's all I can come up with now. And "welcome" to your little one. That baptism sounds awesome. It beats carrying a Nalgene bottle around with you 24/7 "just in case" or almost baptizing your baby at 2 a.m. because you are certain something must be wrong because they just shouldn't be crying this much.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Sounds great to me. The only thing that it deprives is the congregation's role in saying the vows with the baby, their role in agreeing to help you in your parental role of raising the child in the faith, and giving the opportunity to be reminded of what their own baptism means.

Luther's father took him to the priest to be baptized the day after he was born, while the mother was still in bed, and returned the baby back to her saying he was christened Martin, since it was the Feast of St. Martin. The tradition of making sure the baby is baptized as soon as possible is probably much more the norm through history than the common waiting for the family and the sponsors, etc.

Congratulations on your new baby!

Reb. Mary said...

We're going this route this time. With Baby1 we waited almost 3 wks to gather family and so forth, and I think my husband still wonders whether he actually baptized the child or whether I secretly beat him to it in an act of postpartum hysteria. I'm not telling :)

Baby2 we did the Sunday after birth, and it was a blur of hormones, houseguests and frenzy ending in a literal blizzard.

I'll miss the congregational involvement at the actual event, but this just seems to make the most sense at this point.

Gauntlets said...

We chose to have baby3 baptized at church, but in a private service on a Saturday afternoon. Everyone we love was there, and it was a really nice way to go.

But still, we had to wait four days. And still, I had to get all dressed up and stand through the whole thing. And still, there was a little baby and her mother fumbling through life in none-too-private quarters.

We actually requested a hospital baptism for baby1 and were told no. So we waited (and waited and waited) for the church service and the deed got done. However, I'm still sad that it didn't get done faster, especially given that baby1 was in the ICU for her first week of life.

All this colors my opinion: hospital baptisms are one of the few perks I expect now that I'm married to a Minister. We'll present what little ones we may have to our congregation when they're older (and better immunized) and ask the people to say their part then. Everyone wins.