Yesterday, my Timehop app revealed something that made me pause and reflect in sadness. It was a status from six years ago that read:
“Day one of animals home with the Christmas decorations: decorations still there-check; tree still standing-check; cat trying to climb the Christmas tree-check. Oh… wait a second…”
I got a little laugh remembering our cat’s Christmas antics that usually got him locked in the basement at some point during the season, but that’s not the thing that truly stood out. It was the two words, “Day one.” It was December 21st. I had finally pulled out the Christmas decorations.
I remember well how painful the holiday season was when we were trying to have children. To me, so much of it was centered around family. If I couldn’t have one, I really did not want to celebrate it. That year, I know I was doing the best I could, but, the best I could left a lot of room for improvement. How I handled the holidays is one of the things I would change if I could go back.
To the infertile at Christmas,
I know how hard the season is. Pictures with Santa, frosting sugar cookies, so many memories of traditions you want to pass down to your children. So many unfulfilled hopes and dreams of Christmas morning. So much haunting quiet within the walls of your home. Your fireplace looks odd with only two stockings. Your tree looks bare, with so few presents beneath it. Everywhere you turn, you can’t escape the pain of infertility.
I know that you will do the best you can to navigate these couple of months. My hope is that you are able to step it up in ways that I could not find. I was so focused on the grief that I struggled to see anything else.
Find a way to experience the joy of the season. Now that I am on the other side of it all, I see what I was missing. The season is more than just children. It is a season to be grateful for all that we do have, not grief for what we do not.
Put out the decorations. Bake the cookies. Relish in the wonder of children, regardless of whether they are yours or not. There are still toys to be bought. If they cannot be given to your own children, adopt a family to give them to. You can be a Christmas miracle to another family.
Volunteer on Christmas day. There are soup kitchen to serve and I am sure dozens of other tasks that need to be accomplished. Use this time in which you are childless to help those who have children be able to stay home.
Find ways to make the season beautiful with just your spouse. Find traditions to develop with them that will extend beyond your years with children in the home. If you are eventually able to enjoy Christmas with your own children, those years are limited in ways that your marriage is not.
Celebrate those you love. Without children, there is more time to focus on extended family. There are games to play, nieces and nephews to spoil, and grandparents to dote on.
Take solace in other families who are struggling with infertility. Hug them and let them know that you understand their pain. There are few greater gifts that I have received than a shoulder of someone who has been down this road. You can be that treasure to someone else.
I know deep in your heart you do not want to be doing any of these things for the reasons that you have. I know that you desperately want a child instead to be focused on. I just do not want to see you all wake up six years from now regretting how you handled the holiday season.
Even without children, there is plenty to fill in the spaces this time of year. I know you will do your best to find a way to make it as joyful as you can. Please know that you are loved and your pain is not forgotten.