(This is the second half of my post about Joey’s first Christmas. It ran a little long, so I broke it up into two separate posts. Read the first part here!
Again, apologies for length. And for the abundance of photos.
Also, sorry for the lateness. This was supposed to be done a week ago. But at least I finished it? Unlike the second half of his birth story… *grumbles* Anyway, let’s move on!)
Between the weekend and Christmas Eve, I felt pulled in too many directions. I was hit with an awful chest-cold-virus-thing on Sunday morning that only got worse as the days went by. A small part of me felt excited about Christmas, but it still felt too far away…and maybe, still not real. Monday and Tuesday night, I settled myself on the living room floor and wrapped Joey’s gifts while he slept, sticking them under the tree (because he’s too young to notice at this point) as I went. I ordered a gift for my name-out-of-the-hat match for my father’s side of Christmas on Amazon Prime on Monday morning, then shopped HomeGoods and TJMaxx with my cousin for my husband’s match on Tuesday evening. Wednesday, I stayed home sick from work and miserably chased after a baby all day—though, my husband and I decided a small splurge was warranted, so we ended up ordering burgers out and picking up some sweets at a local Pinches’n’Pounds candy store while we waited.
Then Thursday came along—Christmas Eve! I spent the majority of the morning on the couch, still feeling miserable, but made it out in the afternoon to the liquor store to pick up some last minute gifts and “supplies” for myself for the holiday weekend. I hadn’t planned on buying gifts for anyone outside of the match gifts because we were tight on money, but I’d found a few inexpensive things when I was shopping Tuesday night and decided to get a few things here and there for my parents and my brother and his girlfriend—minimal money spent. My husband left for work by late afternoon, and then it was just me and Joey.
His afternoon nap was late, again, so his bedtime was late. My husband left while Joey was finishing up said late nap, and I become overwhelmed with a sense of loneliness—almost like the quietness was too eerily reminiscent of the previous years, even with the infant toys strewn across the floor and the unmistakable mama’s pouch still present. As soon as that baby woke up, though, the feeling was cured. We ended up playing for hours, just being silly and enjoying each other’s company. All at once, I felt flooded with excitement and anticipation, anxiety and gratitude. I allowed myself to start imaging what it was going to be like to wake up with my baby beside me on Christmas morning, and I felt overwhelmed. His energy lasted well into the night hours, with him finally falling asleep in my arms on the couch sometime around 10:00PM. There we sat, watching a Christmas movie by the light of the tree, until my husband came home a little early from work. Joey woke for a bottle and a snuggle from his daddy before we put him down in the pack’n’play for the night, and then he and I returned to the living room to play video games for a bit. His favorite game, World of Tanks, was hosting a holiday special edition of the game which involved toy tanks battling under a Christmas tree. It was pretty cute. I even took the opportunity to play a bit!
[I can’t help but mention again that this is how Christmas Eve ended in 2013, too. After the devastating news at the NT ultrasound, and spending the majority of the day crying in bed, I got up and drank a bottle of wine (or two) and stayed up most of the night playing video games with my husband—NASCAR, to be exact. The thought of sleeping seemed impossible, so we just didn’t bother. Yet another parallel, yet a more positive memory to place alongside a harder one to remember.]
With only twenty or so minutes to midnight, to when it would actually be Christmas, as I sat there watching my husband play his game and keeping an eye on my sleeping son via baby monitor, that feeling became real. The idea that this was actually going to happen became real. I still felt anxious, but I felt happy, too. Happy and excited. Truly, deep down, looking forward to the next 24 hours. My husband and I went to bed shortly after midnight (and after I was blown up three or four times in that game), and I remember pulling the covers up to my chin and peering down at my sleeping baby in his bed beside ours and thinking, Yeah, this is real. I have a baby on Christmas. It finally happened.
Despite an attempt to wake up earlier, the family didn’t get out of bed until 8:00AM on Christmas morning! I rolled over to my wide-eyed, awake little boy reaching out for me almost as if to say, “Wake up, Mama! It’s Christmas!” (Or as if to say, “Wake up! I’m hungry!” like he does every morning. But I’ll interpret as I want…) I had to pump, of course, so I got to it while Joey and my husband played with the holiday plush I’d accumulated over the years. As I sat, I searched OnDemand and found an hour-long Christmas instrumental program that played lyric-free, classic Christmas music and projected a crackling fireplace on the TV. I was actually able to drink a hot cup of coffee to jumpstart the day as I pumped, and then quickly joined my family on the floor of the living room to open Joey’s stocking and gifts with him.
The actual opening of the gifts was silly, sweet, surreal, and 99% emotion for me and about 1% for the baby. Mostly, he wanted to eat the wrapping paper! I opened some of his toys right away so he could play, but he was distracted by everything else going on—not to mention tired from being up so late the night before! It was quicker than I anticipated, but my expectations were not dashed; I had prepared myself for the way Joey would react from the advice of countless family and friends. This part, I enjoyed. And when it was all said and done, and Joey was playing on his own with toys new and old, and I was sitting on the couch next to my husband, I allowed myself some tears. I felt that overwhelming contentment. It didn’t last long, as John had to stop Joey from going after the tree for the thousandth time that week and my family arrived.
(I set up a gallery for the Christmas morning photos, hopefully they are easier to browse? Clickable? Maybe? 😀 )
The next few hours were a whirlwind of wrapping paper, spiked coffee, Christmas music, homemade cinnamon roles, laughter, and way too many toys for the first grandchild in the room. I wavered between being tense (don’t ask, I don’t know why) to overjoyed and full of love to anxious and jealous when Joey was anywhere but with me to overwhelmed…and back and forth and back and forth again. At some point, his exhaustion caught up with him and I put him down for what ended up being a short power nap. My brother and his girlfriend left to go to her mother’s house for their Christmas morning and my parents stuck around for a while to play with the baby when he woke up again feeling recharged. My dad and I cracked open the whiskey I’d bought myself the day before (Merry Christmas, self!) and had two tumblers each before he and my mom left, which made for some quite buzzed cleaning on my part as my husband and, once again, the baby napped. I sobered up, pumped, and got the diaper bags packed and loaded into the car in preparation for the rest of the day.
Dinner with my mom’s side of the family started at 2:00PM, but the boys weren’t awake until after 3:00PM—and I didn’t want to wake either of them, as my husband was tired from work the night before and I didn’t want Joey to be fussy or overtired at my aunt and uncle’s house. By the time we got there at around 4:00PM, the Yankee Swap (in which we were not participating this year) was already halfway over and dinner had been eaten. My husband and I scrounged for leftovers and found a comfy spot on the couch with my parents and my cousins. Within an hour or so, a handful of people left; another half hour later, more people left. As the room cleared, Joey opened up more. I let him loose on the floor and my cousins and aunt chased him around. My parents left. My husband went downstairs to play cards “with the guys” while the women stayed upstairs and—well, let’s be honest—talked shit about the men! Oops.
Joey napped on me for an hour or so, but was otherwise awake and playing well into the night. We left well after 10:00PM, and both Joey and I fell asleep in the back of the car as my husband drove us home. We got to the house, woke up, and the two of them cuddled while I did my final pump of the day before we all plodded to the bedroom in the wee hours of the morning.
Christmas Day, Round II
The three of us woke, groggy and sluggish, late the next morning. We took our time with the morning—I pumped, Joey played with his new toys. Because we woke up late, Joey went down for his nap late, and my husband and I cleaned for most of it. He eventually took a quick power nap toward the end while I once again packed the car. Christmas with my dad’s side of the family is always on a day other than Christmas Day because some family lives out of town, and because my dad is one of seven children.
We set off for my aunt and uncle’s house, over forty minutes away, and Joey fell asleep as I stroked his face and head. It wasn’t until we were within ten or fifteen minutes of the house that we realized we’d left the match gifts at home! We drove back, and I hopped into the driver’s seat so my husband could have a rest after driving for an hour. Back on the road we went, arriving nearly three hours late!
The rest of the evening was a blur. The holiday cocktail (a staple at this Christmas) involved tequila, and I definitely had my fair share! Joey ended up being with my husband more than anything, playing with his cousins, so I can only assume he had a good time. He even had some rib meat to eat and loved it! I was swept up in spending time with my cousins, half of which live in New Jersey. I didn’t even get any pictures of him while we were there!
We got home at midnight, and didn’t get to bed until after 1:00AM (thanks to my boobs). My cousins from NJ stayed overnight and left around noontime the next day. Next thing we knew, it was Sunday and almost time to go back to real life.
Just like that.
Joey’s first Christmas, here and gone in a flash of love, food, booze, and presents.
I have a hunch (oh come on, we know it’s more than just a hunch) that first anythings for parents after loss or infertility are hard in their own way. For those who can’t or choose not to pursue any more children, it can be hard to face the firsts knowing there won’t be another. For those who spent holidays mourning a miscarriage or baby loss, or even just childlessness, it can be tough to approach them with a baby finally in tow, so used to the pain and negative emotions they felt before. It’s natural, it’s acceptable, it’s okay.
I hid a lot of these emotions as Christmas loomed. I expressed anxiety to some, but I kept the lack of happy feelings to myself. I felt ashamed, knowing I’d finally had my take-home baby to cuddle on Christmas. Looking back now, I should’ve given myself more compassion and grace. When I was on the other side of the infertility line, I felt a different way. I couldn’t see how anyone who was finally a parent could be anything but positive and happy. Now I see that the truth is quite the opposite.
There were plenty of bumps, plenty of misfires, plenty of disappointments. But in hindsight, those aren’t the moments that matter to me. The ones I remember the clearest are the happiest. I might have felt like Christmas came and went too fast because I couldn’t get truly excited until it was knocking on the door, but I still enjoyed it while it was here. And the truth is, I can’t wait for next year. I can’t wait for him to be almost two, to be more aware, to have more fun with it!
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, whatever that means to you. ❤