What holidays? For many years, and many holidays, this was how we survived. Sometimes we showed up. Sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes we were there in body, but not in mind and spirit. And all of the time, we did what was best for us, not caring about what other people thought. This was one of the lessons we learned early on in our life after losses, and one I highly recommend.
For many of us, the holidays bring their own set of baggage, namely: “When we have kids, we’ll…” and “If only our kids were here, we’d…” So, of course, we didn’t want to participate. Such a huge part of us was missing. The heaviness that coincided with the most wonderful time of the year was just too much.
But what happens when you’re pregnant or parenting after loss?
Does it all go away? Does it all automatically become the idyllic Rockwell-ian world? Hardly. There’s “simply” a new layer that gets added to the complicated mix. Oftentimes pregnancy and parenting after loss feels like it needs to be an either/or endeavor where either you feel sadness, or if you do feel joy, there’s a side of guilt that comes along with it. But the truth of the matter is that these emotions can, and do, exist alongside one another. I suppose you can think of it more of the improv mantra of, “Yes, and…” Yes, we are beyond excited/proud/happy to be able to celebrate holidays with our living children, AND we are still devastated to not be able to do so with all of our children. It’s not always comfortable, but it is OK to live in both spaces. An idea I’m still getting used to.
The holidays have changed for us greatly now that our boys are here.
Neither Aaron nor I grew up religious, rather religion and holidays for us have always been about family and traditions. We have started many new traditions with the boys that bring us such happiness, and we try to keep the focus on that happiness. We love seeing the holiday experiences through their actions and reactions. And we revel in how grateful and fortunate we are that they are here.
At the same time, part of our family is missing. So, we find ways of honoring our other children and C’s birth parents. We talk about those who are not with us, and why, sharing our thoughts and feelings. Do the boys understand at such young ages? Probably not, but they will. Telling these stories now enables Aaron and me to figure out how to talk about it, so hopefully by the time the boys do understand, what we’re saying actually makes sense. And telling these stories now ensures us that our other children are mentioned and remembered.
It is also not lost on us that C coming into our lives also meant a loss for his birth parents.
There are many ways we honor, and incorporate them into our lives throughout the year. One of the most special ways is at Hanukkah. When C was born, they gave him the most beautiful menorah. It now is the first menorah we light each night, and the one we most proudly display. The light of those candles shining so bright brings such a warmth to us and a feeling of immense gratitude and connection toward our son’s other family. How appropriate since without them, the light within us would not have been turned back on.
As much as we try to focus on the positive of right here, right now, there are still moments where the heaviness of what we’ve been through rears its ugly head. During those times where the intense sadness knocks the wind out of me, I allow myself to sit with it. How can I not? It is a part of me. It’s just now I realize that it isn’t all of me.
Whether you’re celebrating Hanukkah with us right now, or gearing up for Christmas, I wish you strength and peace in the coming days.