holidays · infertility

Surviving the Holidays

First, a shout out to my mommy! I finally braved up and gave her my blog address. Now, here’s to hoping I don’t make her too angry with my transparency on the internet 🙂

Second, Mel at Stirrup Queens wrote this post already. It’s excellent. But I felt the need to write my own! I hope she doesn’t think I’m copying, because I’m not at all the writer she is!

Okay, so here goes…

This is the first year since roughly 2006 that I’ve put Christmas CDs into the player. Today is the day before Thanksgiving, and as is my assignment every year, I’ve got pies baking in the oven. For the past four years, today marked the beginning of a dreadful dreadful time of year for me and Keith.

The holidays.

Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve was just one long exercise in torture for us. There’s family events practically every weekend; people are glowing with pregnancy announcements and new babies. For crying out loud, the whole Christmas reason centers around a baby.

No thank you very much.

Today is, obviously, much different. While my pies are baking, I have a toddler destroying my kitchen (well, currently, the cat dish). And I put on Christmas music because, dang it, I’m happy for the holidays this year. We get to start new family traditions (I just started one by giving Little Man a bit of cinnamon-sugar dusted from-scratch pie crust). Plus Little Man loves music, so I chose five fave Christmas albums of years gone by, and off we go.

But the feelings I had the past four years aren’t entirely gone. In fact, I’ve been way emotional the past week or so, and I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why. Until today.

While I’m certain this year will be so much better, in terms of celebrating the holidays, I still have those phantom feelings of holidays past. I remember very well what it was like to dread these next few weeks. So, in order to honor those feelings (because I honestly don’t ever want to forget what I felt, because it makes me SO much more grateful today), here are ways we survived the holidays the past few years:

* Avoid family gatherings. Let’s be honest – do you really need to go to your third cousin’s son’s second wedding? Probably not. Do you need to go to that distant relative’s Christmas party/baby shower? Nope. Schedule a date with your husband or your best girlfriend, and you can honestly claim conflicting events. Now, in the spirit of truth, Keith and I have been blessed with understanding mothers. They got that we needed to not be somewhere.

* Go away. One year, we simply left town over Christmas. We drove a few hours south and stayed at a state park inn. They’re open on the holidays for meals; we hid away, drank some, played a lot of cards, watched a lot of bad cable, swam in the icy pool, and avoided the holiday altogether.

* Skip church. I know, I know. I hear people sucking in their computer screens they’re so aghast I would mention this. But seriously – Christmas Eve was the worst church service for me all year. Tons of families in their cute matching outfits just showing off. Er, I mean, worshiping. Who needs it? Find a smaller church that is less likely to have families. Go to midnight mass where there might be children, but probably not babies. Or just don’t go. I couldn’t handle the Baby Jesuses on stage, in the manger scenes, on the background slides. So we skipped it.

* Do something for yourself when you need to. Get a manicure, a pedicure, new running shoes, a massage, a night away with your favorite person. I needed mass amounts of dark chocolate and iced green tea during these weeks. I was frequently at the Bucks getting a cookie and green tea either on my way to or from an unavoidable event (and sometimes, both ways).

* Be honest. With those that you can be, anyway. As I said, our mothers are wonderful women who got that we were struggling. They didn’t pressure us to do anything, but we were very honest with them. We said we couldn’t do it (whatever the it was at the moment). We didn’t go to parties where there would be pregnant women and/or babies. Our small group, especially, understood this and loved us anyway.

* Drink. Beer, wine, pop – whatever helps. Or eat chocolate. Or pie. Or the fancy oranges from the fruit bowl that are really for decoration but taste really good. Whatever helps you feel better. Now, I’m not advocating drunkenness or overeating, but sometimes a properly timed need for a refill or a bite in your mouth helps you avoid answering the inevitable dumbass question, “So, when are you going to have kids?”

* Avoid the stores when there will be oodles of children. I tended to shop early on weekend mornings. Being a teacher, I usually had a few days “off” where I could go late at night (because I didn’t have to get up in the morning) or early in the morning. And I would take my iPod loaded with my favorite hard rock so I didn’t have to hear the holly jolly Christmas music.

* Be honest with your spouse or your best friend – whoever it is that is most likely to support you. We had code words to leave events, we had “emergencies” that needed tending to. Strangely, Keith and I were never desperately upset at the same time. We took turns, which was handy. We were also each other’s excuses for things, as in, “I’m sorry, but my husband/wife can’t/wont’ be able to attend, so I won’t either.” It was wonderful.

* Cherish your spouse. Don’t let this season push you apart. Cling to one another and celebrate your love. I know that sounds really cheesy, but being with Keith – having fun with him, crying with him, it made all the difference in the world.

* Finally, know that you aren’t alone. I, for one, am praying for women everywhere this year who are suffering through yet another holiday season with empty arms. I know so deeply what it’s like to reach another milestone holiday season, having thought “this will be the year,” when it isn’t. I will be praying for you, and I am here if you need a pep talk, or someone to cry to. I understand, and I won’t ever forget.

I hope you have a blessed holiday season, even if you are just surviving again this year.

4 thoughts on “Surviving the Holidays

  1. Great post, Rachel. I think it is awesome that you were able to be so honest with your family about your struggles. We tried that, but they were never very understanding at all. My husband is one that just wants to make everyone happy, so he always just wanted to grin and bear it. I'm not really built that way.

    Happy Thanksgiving! I know it will be your best one ever!


  2. Great post! Our last year we both, without even talking about it, splurged WAY too much on each other for Christmas. But it got us through the holiday season because we still didn't have that little one to spoil. That was the best thing we could have done.
    And you are so very blessed (as I know you already know) to have mothers that get it. My mom never did and our families doubted we would ever adopt. Not much support there.

    So glad you're making new holiday traditions this year.


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