With Wildflower having turned 8 this past Christmas Eve and her little brother, born on Boxing Day, now 1, (talk about timing), Christmas feels like being pregnant to me. For three out of the last 8 Christmases, I have been with child, and two of those babies were ushered into the world amidst the traditional, seasonal flourish. So it seems fair to say that this time of year leaves me feeling a bit nostalgic about the babes and their time ‘in the oven’, so to speak.
Pregnancy has never been an easy journey for me. Of course, there are many women who are willing to boast about the beauty of their experiences, how ‘great’ they felt, and all that jazz, but I can openly admit that I didn’t feel that way. The photos encapsulated in this post are merely a blip of the most wonderful, carefully selected moments, and are not at all reflective of the actual experience. There it is…my disclaimer.
Not long after those two little lines turn pink, I begin to feel nauseous, unable to tolerate most smells including, but not limited to shampoos and body washes, coffee (for realz), cast iron pans, and food of any sort. Also, there’s the extreme exhaustion. That combined with the 24/7 sickness and the broken blood vessels in my face from being so violently ill, often lead to mounting anxiety. I start to wonder if there could be something wrong. After all, if it was this difficult for everyone, why would people go through with it more than once?
Oh yes. That’s why.
So, after the stretching skin, the itchiness, the avoidance of small spaces with lack of moving air for fear of fainting, comes the point where my pubic bone is in so much pain that I can’t lift one leg to put my pants on without sitting. By the 8th month, my face is so puffy that I barely recognize myself, and all of this happens before I’ve even pushed the baby from my body. Naturally, you’d think I wouldn’t be up for doing this more than once, yet after 3 planned pregnancies and births, here I am, 1 year postpartum, and I can’t help but yearn for those days when nothing else mattered. Those days when I had completed all things Christmas, weeks before, and in my snowflake sweats, I climbed into my bed at 3pm on a Tuesday to have a nap because I had very important work ahead of me.
Most of all, I miss the feeling of growing a small human inside of me, and I hear that this is a feeling I should get used to. To give a new person a name feels like the greatest honour. To give birth is the greatest high I’ve ever experienced. Perhaps that’s just it. I’ve met my addiction and now, with the coming and going of Christmas, I’m handling the side effects of withdrawal. Speaking with women who have witnessed the passing of their baby-making days helps me to understand that I’ll probably always feel this way. I’ll probably always melt when I feel a warm little body close to my chest, and a kiss on the top of a little baby brow will ignite my senses and my ovaries. I think I’m just always going to feel this want…
This Christmas had its quirks. It wasn’t an unsuccessful year, by far. I mean, we have full bellies, possibly the fullest they’ve ever been, and we were blessed with an abundance of gifts. I guess where it fell short, was only on my measuring stick. Yes, there was magic and squealing, and joyous moments that I’ll always remember.
Here is the ‘but’.
Previously, the season for giving has meant that I’d stay awake, until the wee hours of the morning, sewing, painting, and cursing, until my vision was blurry with exhaustion, and I tumbled into bed with snippets of thread still stuck to my fleece Christmas jammies. The work was tiresome, but the rewards were meaningful.
For two years in a row, with either having a young baby or waiting for the arrival of one, I’ve put handmade gifts on the back burner, knowing that I really can’t do everything. In the past, I wouldn’t have had the option to buy all of the gifts, but with Papa Bear’s perseverance and our combined cleverness, our finances are moving in the right direction. So, rather than work my fingers to the bone, I just clickety-click-clicked my way through our holiday shopping this year, and without leaving my home, I accomplished the list. Of course, the gifts in our home are never excessive. We’ve always tried to keep the focus on choosing meaningful treasures that will be enjoyed longer than a few hours after they are opened. Together as a family, including grandparents, we often focus only on one gift with combined resources. Sometimes it’s a subscription or an experience. Sometimes it’s a toy. This year unrolled differently for a variety of reasons. I’ve learned, that although our children were grateful for their presents, it’s me who doesn’t feel the same joy that I do when I’ve really poured my heart into something. Now I understand how Christmas can turn into an incredible burden whether or not the stress is financial. There’s something about the pressure of having to choose a gift, not because it’s special or because it took time to find or because it was a gift born out of creativity, but simply because the clock is ticking and there is pressure. Many of our gifts were purchased out of necessity, and not the true kind of necessity, but a kind that has been made up by the expectations of ‘Christmas’… which kind of takes away the meaning of the gift in the first place. Giving should feel good!I can see how easily Christmas became a commercial season, every year, people buying gifts on a timeline with a one-click-buy attitude. One doesn’t quite feel like enough, so more are purchased, and before we know it, Christmas is no longer focused on the spirit of giving, the time spent together, enjoying the gifts that we have to share. It becomes about trying to fill the emptiness that comes from obligatory ‘gift’ giving. This isn’t to say that we all have to make our gifts to fill ourselves with the spirit. Of course, with careful thought, the right gifts can absolutely be purchased. As the old adage goes, “it’s the thought that counts”.
The strange thing is, I find myself feeling a bit sad for those who have never had to use their resources to the best of their abilities, roll up their sleeves, and make something from nothing. When I think back to the best reactions from our kids, it wasn’t from the toys that we bought. It was the toy kitchen that we didn’t spend a penny on, the one we repurposed from an entertainment unit, the year we used every last dime to purchase our house. There was the doll I made for Wildflower who to this day, has been so well-loved that she’s turned a funny greyish colour from all of her adventures in the woods.
There are other ways to give meaningful gifts. There’s nothing like the romance of a handcrafted Christmas market where homemade jams and pies can be selected for someone who may not have the time to dedicated to such endeavours. A gift given to someone after listening closely to their hopes and dreams, is special when it’s supportive of those goals, though least expected.
And finally, sometimes a special gift isn’t something we can hold in our hands. About 20 years ago, my grandfather hand wrote a letter to my brother to accompany the present he gave him for Christmas. To this day, he still has that gift, 7 years after my grandfather has been gone. I’m certain he doesn’t remember the present.
So my plan for next year, that I’ve already put into place, is all wrapped up in a letter to myself. All of the things that went well about this season, including the areas that need improvement, have been jotted into a Christmas notebook and folded into the decoration boxes…hopefully I read it!
I hope your holiday was abundant.