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Christmas This Year

Christmas 2017

“Christmas is a reminder that things are far from perfect.”

I was not having a good week. My best friend was going through her second miscarriage in six months. My other friend had to say goodbye to her dad after prolonged illness right before Christmas. My infertility mentee and now dear friend was reeling from her first failed IVF cycle. And my other friend lost the second of her twins around 10 weeks after her first IVF cycle.

I know I take on others’ pain. I know it’s within my personality. In fact, while I worked as a nurse on an inpatient mental health unit, I heard the stories from my patients; stories that shook me, made me go home and cry, and stories that would haunt my dreams when I’d go to bed after a shift. I volunteered at a local women’s shelter, where I’d be on call to respond to domestic violence and rape situations. I would spend several hours holding the hand of a woman who just had her world ripped from under her, and then somehow I would need to drive home and make dinner and kiss my husband and feed the dog like nothing ever happened.

Along the way, I learned that the best way I can be there for someone is to be there, in the moment, with every fiber of my being, and then when I was done, I would get off the phone, or get in the car and I’d laugh at something on the radio, or ask Chris about his day and put it aside. And for a while it made me feel like I was being callous, but taking on too much hurt from those closest to me started to spiral me down—and I was no good to people that way.

So it was a tough week leading up to Christmas. Because these women were (and are) dealing with so much loss and it’s so easy to take on that pain for myself.

Chris and I didn’t make it to church, but we live streamed the service from our living room’s TV over coffee Christmas Eve morning. Olivia even danced around when the band was singing, but she decided sermons were WAY boring and wanted nothing more to do with it.

“Christmas is a reminder that things are far from perfect.”

That was part of the sermon Pastor Bob gave and as I held my cup of coffee, steam wisping from the cup (That’s right, Olivia sometimes does let me drink it hot), I thought of my friends.

I thought of my sweet friends still fighting from the infertility trenches, having to navigate this holiday with a smile on their face while their arms are empty.

I thought of the Christmases from 2012 to 2014 as I did treatment after treatment without a baby, but still having to endure the holidays while everyone else had their kids.

I thought of the three prior Christmases when we were trying hard the old fashioned way and laughing when people would ask us (all. the. time.) when WE were going to have kids. “School!” I said, my voice probably going too high pitched, “Oh we’re just focusing on school and graduating!” I knew my schooling for my Bachelors and Chris’s Masters was coming to an end and I would have no other excuse to offer.

The thing is, Christmas is wonderful. As a child, it was my favorite holiday. But infertility and loss tainted it badly and I’m doing so much better now, but it’s always a reminder of that empty hole I lived with for six years.

Having a two-year-old for Christmas, seeing the world through her eyes, is indescribable.

Christmas 2017

We did things a bit differently this year, spending Christmas Eve Eve celebrating with my dad’s side of the family. The cousins put in for small gifts for each of the kids and Olivia got a carrier for her baby, which she was all about.

Christmas 2017

Note messy turtleneck. Homegirl discovered cookies on the countertop and helped herself.

She loved playing with her little cousins (or are they second cousins? Something removed?) and especially loved running around the house, ordering the younger ones to follow her (My future leader, right there).

Christmas Eve was a day for just the three of us, and it was so much fun. Chris and Olivia made our traditional Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls in the morning and we watched the live stream of our church service in the living room over coffee. We opened our presents that afternoon after her nap (and after I made Blueberry Cheesecake Bars for the party the next day, and prepped our dinner of Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas). Chris had got a deal on a little TV for my office, so that was already up and running, but I got him a personalized growler and Olivia—well, Olivia loved everything we got her (though she seemed a bit indifferent about the Curious George book.

Christmas 2017

I had found this Frozen scooter for $7 at a consignment sale and she loved it. She loves to play with the one at Tot Time by me pushing her around while she stands on it, so having her own in the basement pretty much blew her baby mind.

Christmas 2017

I also got her very first bathrobe at the same consignment sale and she wore it out later that evening when we drove around looking at lights. The county fairgrounds nearby had left their Christmas lights up after some sort of winter festival and we could drive through there looking at them. We stuck Olivia on my lap and drove (slowly!) through the little streetways and she was enamored. She sat quietly on my lap, blanket wrapped around her and just stared from side to side at all the lights.

Christmas 2017

Christmas morning we got up and showed Olivia that Santa had come overnight. I had to rein it in the night before because every time I would say, “Santa’s coming tonight to bring you presents!” she’d screw up her eyes and wail, “Noooo!” To which it then occurred to me that I was probably scaring the crap out of her after our Santa meeting fail and she probably was terrified he was going to come into her room, jump out at her and make her sit on his lap.

Scary Santa or not, she still was pretty shocked that presents were waiting for her again downstairs.

Christmas 2017

It was when we were sitting at the kitchen table using her Frozen activity set that I realized we completely forgot to give her the Frozen personalized sign that I bought at the state fair this summer. I was supposed to give this to her for her birthday first and forgot about it, and apparently, it slipped my mind again. Good thing we’ve perfected the surprised faces and a toddler who doesn’t know the difference.

Christmas 2017

We spent the morning at my parent’s with my sisters opening presents. Olivia got a doctor kit, vacuum, and microwave from my sisters and these Frozen dolls that look like Barbies from her grandparents. And a plethora of other things that I now need to make room for in my house.

After a quick (note: shitty) nap, we zipped to my aunt’s for Christmas on my mom’s side. Since we still had yet to get a decent picture of our family, I attempted to get one just me and the Baybee and she. was. not. having it.

Christmas 2017

Welcome to every single photo of Olivia and her mama.

Luckily, she kind of cooperated for a few seconds.

Christmas 2017

“Christmas is a reminder that things are far from perfect.”

It’s trying not to cry on Christmas morning because there are no toys under the tree.

It’s grieving the babies gone too soon and putting on a happy face for the parties.

It’s holding your newborn in your arms after years of heartbreak.

It’s simultaneously feeling overjoyed at watching your toddler open her presents and yet still being reminded that you almost didn’t have this.

It’s blurry family photos because your toddler is fighting to get down from your arms and all you can do is laugh while feeling a tiny bit pissed off because you wanted that perfect shot to share with everyone.

It’s driving around looking at Christmas lights while your toddler shrieks from the back seat, “Wight!!! Wiiiiights!”

Yes, Christmas can be imperfect. It can be messy, and for some, it can plain suck.

To me, it’s the tiny details. It’s finding the joy among the sadness and seeing the miracles in the dark.

For so many years, Christmas was so hard. Now, it’s getting better. And it makes me appreciate more the friends and family in our lives, messiness and all.

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Jane Allen
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Jane Allen

I feel a bit of survivor’s guilt on Christmas (As well as Mother’s Day ) as I recall how hard this day was for me pre-Kate. For every happy moment, I can’t help to think about someone else’s pain. It just never goes away

Beth
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Beth

Yes. Yes to all of this. I had possibly the happiest Christmas morning of my adult life this year and yet those feelings still creep in when I let my guard down – I remember all the hurt, the sadness, the breathlessness when I had to act like it was just fine that we were still childless. But the happiness, the joy – there is so much to go around and it is ok for us to revel in that a bit, just relax and enjoy the love we worked so hard to create. So glad you had so much… Read more »

Amie
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Amie

ok this is hilarious because Bowen spent the entire time telling everyone to sit down and where he wanted them to sit down. We did manage to get a photo together and luckily he loves saying ‘cheese’ just usually it’s before we can get the picture! ugh A scooter is such a great idea!! She looks so cute in her jammies and robe!! I know Christmas is hard for many and while we are thinking of them I am also glad you have your sweet Olivia to enjoy it with now 🙂

Cristy
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Right there with you lady. This year in particular was so sweet because the Beats were so into Christmas (lights, Santa, tree and presents). To see all we hoped and fought for here and present, it’s hard to keep the sadness at bay. And honestly, after 5 years I really don’t think it will ever entirely go away. I use to think this was a bad thing as I wasn’t healing. But given the world today, I’m beginning to think this level of empathy is actually what is needed most. Can you imagine a world where more people are willing… Read more »

Amber
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Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and I have now learned how much more special it is with kids! There is nothing quite like experiencing how magical it truly is, through their eyes. It makes my heart hurt for all of those still waiting in the trenches.