This holiday season, I'd like to welcome you to celebrate my IF Christmas. I know what you're thinking (beyond "what is an IF Christmas?")--what is a nice Jewish girl like me doing talking about tinsel and stockings and a little baby angel at the top of the tree? Oh...no no no...you're thinking about Real Christmas. No, that's not my holiday. I celebrate IF Christmas.
A few years ago, out of nowhere since I had never had any desire to celebrate Christmas, I found myself listening to holiday music. And singing along once I learned the words. And searching for new routes home that took me past the most houses that were decorated with coloured lights. And I started talking about bringing a tree into the house. And I started talking about collecting ornaments. And my husband--my nice Jewish boy husband--almost had a heart attack.
My infertility therapist asked why I had become obsessed with Christmas. And once I started telling her all about how I pictured Christmas, she informed me that my imagination was much more beautiful than anything most people experienced Christmas-wise in the real world. Somehow, never having celebrated Christmas for real, I had imagined that the pain of infertility went away during the holiday. That you just became consumed with baking cookies and laughing with your sisters and decorating the tree. And no one cried about the fact they were barren.
And I need to explain at this point that the topic of barrenness seems to play a role in many Jewish holidays. On Rosh HaShanah, you talk about infertile Sarah. And at Pesach, we're told about the barren women of Jerusalem during the seder. And at Purim, I once had a miscarriage, so that holiday is ruined for me. But Christmas? Christmas isn't about infertility--it's about HYPERfertility. Mary was so fertile that she could get pregnant without even having sex. And yes yes yes I know the whole story because I've read the New Testament many times by now, but when I was creating my IF Christmas, I was only seeing the fact that there was a newborn and a fertile woman.
Little did I know that at Real Christmas, infertile women feel like crap. And they watch their parents coo over their sibling's children. And they eat too many cookies because they're trying to keep their mouth full so they won't have to answer, "so when are you guys going to start trying?" And they mourn that yet another year has gone by without any progress on the baby front.
So drop your Christmas and come celebrate my IF Christmas. My IF Christmas is best described in a series on montages, with the common thread being that you are finally pregnant.
Scene One: You're walking with your husband in the snow on the way to take home a tree (oh--and it's not from a crowded tree lot. In my IF Christmas, apparently, people collect their trees one at a time from this gorgeous guy who is cutting down trees for people at the edge of the wood) and you fall over on your backs, laughing hysterically. Your husband pauses from making snow-angels to touch your sweater-covered belly (it's still flat since you're only a few weeks along) and say, "I love you."
Scene Two: They're passing around cups of eggnog and when your mother brings the tray by you, you look at your husband and you both smile. Then you look at your mother and touch your stomach while saying, "I don't think I should drink any alcohol this year." Your mother drops the eggnog on the floor while she's crying tears of joy and shaking. And everyone jokes for the rest of the evening about the fallen eggnog. But no one minds that she has wasted all the alcohol because YOU ARE KNOCKED UP and your family is psyched to hell.
Scene Three: You're hanging an ornament on the tree and you're wearing a gorgeous cashmere cream-coloured maternity sweater that shows off your seven month baby bump. Your husband comes up behind you and wraps his arms around you so that his hands rest on your belly and you both laugh when the baby kicks while he's nuzzling your neck. He tells you, "next year, we'll be decorating the tree with our baby."
Scene Four: You're in the kitchen, baking cookies and laughing with your sisters. And everyone is trading pregnancy and labour stories. Your sisters see how worried you look and they laugh and promise you that they'll be out there in the waiting room the second you go into labour.
Scene Five: The snow is falling and you're walking on the sidewalk with your husband, smiling secretly at each other because you just found out that you're pregnant and no one else knows yet. Christmas music plays in the background and all around you, the trees are covered with twinkling lights.
See--there are no tears (except from the mom--and those are happy tears) in my IF Christmas. When I finished telling my therapist how I envisioned Christmas to be and why I was so jealous of Christian women who got to celebrate this holiday, I realized that I wasn't jealous about Real Christmas per se. I was jealous of the women who really got to celebrate Christmas that way. The ones who weren't infertile and were pregnant. So I decided to just pretend that winter. I would hold my belly and smile while I baked cookies. And I listened to Christmas music, pretending that I was walking down the street with my husband after seeing a positive pregnancy test. And I was happy just pretending. Just for a month. And then going back into the real world when the Christmas lights came down in January.
And that is my totally neurotic, made-up, fantasy Christmas that I celebrate every year. It's my IF Christmas where all of us are pregnant and so happy. And it doesn't matter if the other 11 months of the year, I'm a nice Jewish girl who bakes a challah every Friday. Once the Christmas songs start playing on the radio until the end of Boxing Day, it's open season for my IF Christmas. And I start dreaming of my white Christmas and walking in that winter wonderland--hand on belly and my heart singing.
Come join me. It's sort of like drinking. It's sad if you celebrate IF Christmas alone, but it's socially acceptable if everyone else engages in unhealthy magical thinking alongside you. And you have a built-in excuse not to drink any nasty eggnog since you're knocked up for the month. And I even grant you permission to wear that maternity shirt you purchased during your second month of trying to conceive when you thought motherhood was right around the corner.
I'll get to writing about the other side of Christmas later...