A blog about babies: the babies I lost, the babies I never had, the baby who made me a Mama.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Ghosts; or, Two Is the Loneliest Number

As everyone in America with eyes, ears, and/or a brain has by now realized, Christmas is coming. I know I don't need to tell you how overwhelming and even depressing it can all be: the commericals filled with beaming babies, the orderly rows of children in the holiday cards on the mantle, the emptiness between the two stockings hanging over the fireplace. The trials of holidays for the barren are familiar and well-documented, and I'm not sure what I can add to the story.

Other than my observations of the differences between this year and last year. Last year was awful. I had miscarried only a few weeks before and was still dealing with crashing hormones for all of December and most of January (it took nine weeks for me to get a normal period after the d&c). Lawyer Guy and I were fighting, both so on edge with grief. I cried most mornings before I got out of bed and every morning in the shower. I cried most afternoons, too. During that winter break, LG would come home from work to find me huddled in a ball on the couch, my face red and swollen from tears and a permanent groove etched in the cushions from my refusal to move for hours at a time.

And yet, in some ways, this year is worse. My emotions are more settled, but less intense. I'm not aching with grief, but I'm also not buoyed by hope. Even though I was sunk in misery a year ago, I was also acutely aware of how beautiful Christmas was and how much I needed it. I took such pleasure in decorating my tree and listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas album on repeat and drinking hot cocoa in front of the fire and walking through the freshly fallen Brooklyn snow on New Year's Eve, listening to church bells ringing in the quiet and telling myself that a new year was coming with the promise of something better, that if I could just survive the awful pain I was in I would soon be rewarded.

At the end of 2010, I know that isn't true, and I'm terribly afraid that a new year signifies nothing except new ways to be disappointed. I force myself to go through the motions: pulling out my decorations, lighting Chanukah candles, trimming my tree, picking out gifts, and designing a holiday card. But it lacks the joyfulness I have always felt in the past at this time of year, that extra sparkle that gives life its special glint.

For example, the past three years, I have insisted we send out cards with our pictures, to show that we're a family just as much as anyone else. Last year I sent out a card with THREE pictures, taken on our vacations in Rome and London (my little "Fuck you, I get to go to Europe whenever I want" to everyone with babies). And this year, I just don't have the heart to pretend anymore. I can't find a single picture that I like-- I look fat in all of them, or sad. But that's not even the real problem, which boils down to the fact that every picture of the two of us is missing someone and looking at them reminds me of the fact. And every ornament I hang on the tree isn't one that I picked out for my baby. And every Christmas song I play on the iPod isn't one that I'm introducing to my child for the first time.

I guess right now I'd prefer grief to gloom because even in the depths of misery we know that it has to end, but lethargy and discontent can go on forever.

And yet I do have some hope, however flickering, a little candle's worth, that maybe saying the magic words "This time next year" will work. And I do like the card we're sending out, picture-free and everything: two little birds in a tree, all alone except for each other.


  1. Hi there. Just found you on the blog list. I can't pretend to imagine what you went through, but I like your year-end outlook. Hit "refresh" in 2011 an don't look back!

  2. Oh, Sloper, I do feel your pain. This line simply made me sob: "And every ornament I hang on the tree isn't one that I picked out for my baby." The first Christmas after we started TTC (so 6 months in), I saw this Hall.mark ornament that said "One Cute Cookie" with space for a photo. It didn't have a year, and I thought it was so sweet, so I bought it, figuring we'd be able to use it soon. And then it stayed stashed in my closet for 3 years, until last year when I could finally, finally add a photo of our little boy and hang it on the tree. Believe me, I know how hard it is right now.

    Also, we so did the world traveler Christmas cards, for years! The year before Bonsai, our card was pix of us all over Europe; the year before that, us in Japan. I still think those cards were great, and at the time I didn't even think of them in relation to the kid-photo cards that others were starting to send. But I think your card selection this year sounds just perfect.

    Also one idea--hang a stocking for your puppy so you have three on the hearth :) Our cats & dog all have stockings, plus we always hang a spare for whatever random in-laws are living with us and/or celebrating with us that year.

    I hope you & Lawyer Guy are able to enjoy the holidays this year, and here's to your dream come true before the holidays roll around again next year!

  3. I did the same thing last year. And I feel the same way this year.

    I hope you guys survive the holidays, and the inevitable focus on the procreative in-laws.

  4. Your card sounds sweet. And heartbreaking. In a way I am glad that we don't do cards around here -- in general I think it's a lovely idea, but right now it would be so painful.
    Thinking of you.

  5. Totally understandable feelings - it's an emotionally loaded time of year for you, esp. dealing with memories of last year, combined with everyone else's holiday happiness. Messy... December's a weird month for me - we started TTC in December 2007, and it's the close of another year baby-less, and the start of another year of.... More of the same nothingness?

    Hopefully good things will come our way, even just a step forward for now.

  6. I wish I could trade Christmases with you-- I'm here in southern California where it's HOT (I was in a tank top yesterday), and I will be spending the actual holiday with a cantankerous 93 year old who is not only unpleasant in personality, but is also oozing death-vibes these days (like if she's asleep in her chair-- is she dead???).

    It won't be the magical holiday that you describe at all, and to be honest, I don't think I could handle that right now either. I feel so close and yet still so far-- of course it's different, I have lots of reason for hope, but that makes this all even more scary. I can't even let myself imagine something along the lines of 'baby's first christmas'.

    Anyways, I understand why you don't feel hopeful at the moment, but I think that next year, your card will feature either a baby or at the very least, a very pregnant you, perhaps in a tacky santa suit :).

  7. I wish that this was the year that you added a little turtledove, but I'm so proud of the strength you and LG have shown this year. Your card this year sounds lovely.

  8. Sloper, this post hurts my heart. I'm so sorry for all the heartache you've experience this past year. I hope you can cling to hope and I know that your picture will be complete soon enough.

  9. I just keep not sending cards. I can't handle it. Every year I picture what will be and then I feel so empty again. I can't seem to get over it and recall how great my life really is after all this stuff.

    I tremble every time I open a new one from friends who we haven't been in touch with for a while wondering what surprises might be in store. Last year we were totally blindsided by pictures of a 5 month old baby. We came to find out that the friends had struggled for a year and had conceived the child through IVF a few months after coming cross country to our wedding. Made me feel a little better, but still, that initial shock was so painful.

  10. I hear you. I feel so down and depressed this year. It's like all of my hope for the last year is most like (beta on sunday) coming to a crashing bout of nothingness. I want to be able to do all the fun holiday baby things.. Wah.. I feel like such a baby feeling sad and lonely but hey- I think I'm failing IVF #3. I'm allowing myself to be a grinch.

  11. Sloper, we are WAY too much alike! Seriously, the past few years we've taken a ton of press trips to places that my friends with kids could NEVER afford to go to. It was my little piece of satisfaction--that we were childless and could go on amazing Caribbean getaways and vacation carefree and then I could post the photos on Facebook for all of those friends w/kids to see. Your holiday card is my Facebook :).

    And I've felt the exact same way about Christmas this year. Something's missing. The joy I've always gotten out of Christmas is missing ... and it hurts.

    Hang in there, C. You'll get through these next 3 weeks and then IUI #3 is your golden ticket :). xo

  12. Christmas is hard. I face the same thing with the card - this year our pup features prominently. It's very hard to be forced to take stock when so little has changed, that absence you describe is the same. But I do think you should guard that candle of hope. Sit down and have a few drinks this Christmas. It may be the last Christmas that you can, for awhile.

  13. thinking of you....
    this totally makes sense to me. At first, I felt things intensely and there were lots of highs and lows. Now, things are calmer but somehow sadder and more quiet.
    hoping you find some simple joys during this holiday season.

  14. Popping in via a few blog friends we have in common..

    Christmas IS a hard time. I never feel more awkward and out of place than I do around this time of the year. I agree that it does loose it's shine and ultimately I end up feeling either like a fraud who is pretending to be in the spirit of festiveness, or the miserable grinch who is bitter and twisted.

    The photo thing gets me too. In fact this whole post feels very personal and close to my heart, I think you've spoken on behalf of a lot of us who are still waiting for that miracle.

    Like cgd said above, I hope you get to enjoy some simple pleasures over this time.

  15. Popping by through friends of friends, and I wanted to say this post really touched me. I can really relate- Christmas just brings up all of the hurt and sadness we feel all year. In fact, this year, my husband and i are going away for the holiday.

    Hoping you find some peace this holiday...

  16. I couldn't pretend to be festive last year and I refused to mail out cards or photos because it all felt like a lie and a huge reminder of our barrenness. So, I understand where you're coming from in this post and my heart aches. I remember that hope and extreme sadness from last year - of thinking SURELY this will be our last Christmas just the two of us...and of course, it wasn't.

    I do have so much hope that 2011 is going to bring you and LG much better luck ~ and your card next year will include a little one or a very pregnant you.