There was a movie a few years back called Twin Falls Idaho about a set of twins who worked in show business and survived--albeit poorly--on a diet of circus food: popcorn, corn dogs, and cotton candy. That's sort of how I think about my own relationship with Christmas.
It's a beautiful holiday--a true holy day--that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. And I have boiled it down to music, candy, and sparkle lights. It's a diet thin on meaning as well as nutrition.
Christmas is a very difficult time emotionally for Christians going through infertility. The holiday not only centers on a baby and a birth, but families celebrate the holiday revolving the festivities around its children. Unlike a holiday like Rosh Hashanah which is celebrated by adults with children fitting their activities around the established rituals practiced by adults, Christmas and Easter, from what I understand based on reading blogs, listening to friends, and watching Love Actually, is about children. Adults may drink their eggnog and kiss under the mistletoe, but most people celebrate the holiday outside of the church service with the focus being that Santa brings presents for children. It's not that adults don't receive presents as well, but presents for adults are a different phenomenon. It's nice when I receive a gift, but it really is the thought more than the item that touches me. I am an adult and I can work and buy myself things. I'm not a child anymore, dependent on adults (or Santa) to bring the things I want into my life.
Posts started cropping up months ago. The fears of a referral not arriving in time for Christmas, the anxiety about Christmas dinner with a pregnant (and bitchy) SIL, the sadness of having another year pass. And it's hard for me to completely relate because I don't have an equivalent. My holidays aren't celebrated by the mainstream, therefore images and reminders are not constantly being shoved down my throat when I go to the food store or collect my mail. If I choose not to celebrate Pesach one year, I can do so without having to hole myself up in my house. Literally, all I have to do is not walk by the Kosher aisle in the food store or open any mail from my shul. There. Done. Holiday passed over.
I think Christmas is ten times more difficult because it is not only a holiday that revolves around children and by default, the parents of children, but because it is a holiday impossible to escape. You literally can't drive outside without the constant reminders. You can't enter a store or go by your mailbox or speak to another person without one reminder after another. Last year, I spoke about this as the reason why Christmas makes me feel like an outsider. But this year, it is with a deeper understanding of just how difficult it can be and why it takes so long to steel oneself for the onslaught of Christmas reminders when you want so badly the vision of Christmas that has existed in your head for years--the family photo in Santa hats, the emotional midnight Mass holding a sleeping baby, the search for gift hiding places as the children get older. I've been sitting long and hard with all of the posts I'm reading, trying to see the holiday as a 33-year-old Christian woman (perhaps not a long stretch seeing that I already have the 33 down pat) and, perhaps an admittance of my dimness, but the enormity is just beginning to dawn on me.
For me, I never could see the burn of Christmas. My Christmas is music, candy, and sparkle lights--the three things from the season that I find enjoyable. I couldn't really see until I looked harder why everyone couldn't put those other parts of Christmas on hold and enjoy a good piece of toffee or peppermint bark while listening to "Jingle Bells." And I'm sorry. My vision of Christmas, as naive as this sounds, is an infertility-free holiday. I mean, it made sense for years in my Jewish mind. It's the one day of the year they won't schedule procedures at some clinics. Everyone seems to have children when you're looking through Christmas catalogs. As someone who has never celebrated the holiday, I have co-opted it in the last few years to be my infertility-free zone. It is my happy place. My only-good-things-can-happen space. I listen to the music and I really feel like this alternate universe exists where no one is infertile and everyone is eternally happy and filled with good cheer. Naive, right? But if you've never celebrated the holiday before, you could see how one could come up with this vision.
Though my Infertile Christmas is nothing like your Real Christmas. Christmas for an infertile person is like having your face rubbed against a pregnant belly for a full three months. I would imagine it gets pretty difficult to breathe by the second day of having your nose pressed up against a Mimi's Maternity clad bump.
And if you're Christian and grew up with Christmas, I'm fairly certainly that you can't join me in my Christmas as much as I would love to bring you over here while you're hurting. Because you know Real Christmas and it's sort of like celebrating a poor translation with missing pages rather than reading the original text. Cotton candy and popcorn taste great in small quantities, but if you've grown up eating from the four food groups, you'd probably feel like shit after eating only crap for days. My holiday in comparison to what reality can be even if you're not there now is like a corn dog diet. Even I get sick of my Christmas by mid-December.
Ellen at Miss E's Musings is taking back the Christmas. In fact, she is putting the sex back in XXX-mas. She writes in Making Merry: "I used to daydream about what the holidays would be like when I had a house and husband of my own. I would walk in a winter wonderland, meet friends for holiday drinks and hors d'oeuvres, decorate entirely with lush velvets, maybe do a 'Santa Baby' striptease for my husband, make love by the lights of the Christmas tree, enjoy champagne toasts, etc." She's pulling out the dirty Mrs. Claus costume AND she's getting together with friends to watch Christmas movies (but not at the same time). She isn't waiting for kids to enjoy Christmas--she is going to enjoy it. A lot. Right now. She is making "a list of both naughty and nice holiday hjinks." Go over and help her. She will compile the list and become a trading post of all things naughty...and also nice. It's apples for oranges rather than apples for junk food. Okay, you can have a little junk food. But not an entire season of it or you'll turn out all Christmas-delusional like me.