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‘Christmas I Remember Best’: The light came back to my heart

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The Nativity story is told on the grass at Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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By Shannan Hoffman

This is the fourth of 10 winners in the Deseret News annual Christmas writing contest, “Christmas I Remember Best.”

The year was 2009. My husband and I had recently welcomed our second baby girl, a little girl born with blond hair and big beautiful eyes.

This holiday season felt different than any other I had experienced. While a time of celebration, I was struggling with some postpartum depression. Putting up the tree and lights was a chore. I didn’t have the energy or desire to celebrate or feel joy.

This was not your normal postpartum depression, however. A few months after our sweet baby daughter was born, I began to notice that she was not meeting the normal milestones that her older sister had, and her vision seemed to be severely impaired. After a few months of concern, I decided to go see a specialist based on mother’s intuition. The specialist had suggested a brain MRI.

We had the MRI, and the results were devastating. At some point in my pregnancy my precious baby girl’s brain had stopped developing. We were told that she would have a permanent vision disability and that the majority of her functions would be limited.

As the holidays approached, my heart was struggling to feel peace and find joy in the season. The thought of my daughter not being able to recognize the beauty of the lights and scenes around us was almost too much to bear. The thought of buying gifts for her was difficult as I had no idea what to expect for her future.

So much of the holiday season is about light, and it felt like the light had gone out for me and my daughter.

One thing we learned early was that my daughter”s lack of vision seemed to be overcompensated by her hearing. While she may not mentally recognize what she was seeing, sounds and music brought her joy, and she would burst into smiles, especially with the Christmas music.

One evening we decided to take our two little daughters to Temple Square. We bundled them up in coats and blankets and braved the cold. As we walked around downtown surrounded by colorful lights, my heart was silently hurting that my daughter was missing them by not being able to see them.

We approached the Nativity and the song “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” came on the speaker. I picked up my baby and cuddled her.

As the music got louder my beautiful daughter started to sing along, in her own sweet little coos, with joy. My heart was touched and I was moved to tears.

The music seemed familiar to her, as though she recognized it from being there. Peace filled my heart and I was so thankful for the miracle of the birth of Christ, and the birth of my daughter. This moment helped me have faith that we could tackle any challenges we may face.

The light began to come back to my heart.

To this day, when I hear that beautiful song, I am brought back to that sweet night watching the Nativity, when I was comforted by the spirit of the Savior and Christmas.

Shannan Hoffman lives in Heber City.