Three years ago, on Christmas Eve 2007, I first learned that I was pregnant with Peyton. Ecstatic, I came bounding up the stairs, test in hand, to show hubs the result, and had shaken the thing so violently in my excitement that it had cleared the screen. "Look" I screamed, shoving the stick into his face. Hubs, not yet ready to greet the day, peered with one eye at what I was holding and said, "What am I looking at? It's blank." I ran back downstairs, chugged a glass of water, and tested again, this time tip toeing my way back up to him. This test had confirmed what the first had told me - our life was about to change - we were going to have a baby. We announced our pregnancy with Peyton to my family that night, while seated at Christmas Eve dinner.
Two years ago, on Christmas Eve 2008, we spent the holiday grieving our daughter. Peyton had passed less than two months prior, and most things about that year are a blur. I remember not wanting to remember. I remember staring at the tree, and the gifts, and feeling miserable. My family, not really knowing what to do with us that Christmas, did their best to help us get through it. We poured some strong drinks to forget, and sang a lot of terrible karaoke. We have never sang karaoke on Christmas before - my family is more the traditional read out of the bible and sing Christmas Carols type. At certain points during the night I escaped up the stairs to a bedroom or a bathroom and I cried and cried because my child was dead. My body, still swollen from carrying her, was a reminder of all that was missing that Christmas. It felt impossible to survive. We went to mass that night and sat in the front row. People all around me sang "Joy to the World," and praised the birth of Jesus. I sat, hovered over the pew, and sobbed. I couldn't care who saw me that Christmas. I couldn't care if my tears on this joyous occasion were hard for them. My daughter was dead and I was in a service proclaiming and celebrating the birth of a child. That Christmas I fell to depths that didn't feel possible to break free of.
Last year on Christmas Eve 2009, hubs and I again spent the holiday with my family. We had been trying since July/August for another baby without success. My OB kept telling me my infertility was my own fault - that the depth of my grief made conceiving impossible. We attended an earlier mass last year, a children's mass. If you are having trouble TTC and grieving the loss of your child, attending the children's mass at Christmas is about as joyful as sticking a poker into your eye. My nephew Dylan, just a month old at the time (and already old enough to have outlived his cousin) was swaddled across my sister's chest. I remember leaning into hub's ear at that mass, pointing to Dylan and saying, "by this time next year let's have one of those. Let's really do this." I believed that since my doctor told me that our infertility was my fault, there had to be a way for me to fix it. I believed that I could give this beautiful gift of a child to my husband. Hubs smiled, and squeezed my hand three times, the way he always does to say "I love you," and a glimmer of hope returned to our hearts. Four days later, as I lay alone on a cold steel table in the hospital, a doctor told me that my tubes had been destroyed by my c-section and I would never again conceive on my own. That pledge that I had made "to have one of those by this time next year," was no longer a possibility. We were devastated.
Christmas Eve 2010 is fast approaching. I have spent much of this month sort of ignorant to how quickly it would be upon us. Bed rest makes that easy. I don't have a TV in my room so I haven't seen the Christmas movies and Holiday Special lineup that usually take over this time of year. Outside we have a slight layer of snow, but nothing that screams "It's the end of December. Get ready!" We haven't even put up a tree. It seemed a terrible waste of time, since no one would be downstairs to enjoy it. Our shopping is done, but has been for some time now, since I started doing it online the first month of my rest. I am not even sure that I will be allowed to attend mass this year. Nothing about this Christmas feels familiar, and maybe that is a good thing, because to feel familiar would mean it would be reminiscent of the last three Christmases, and those are days I would like to put out of my mind altogether.
I am hoping that this year I feel at peace, and can feel Peyton's presence with me. She is mentioned to us less and less, even by those that we know love and miss her, and I hate that. Sometimes I think people think that in mentioning her to us they are reminding us of something, but what they don't get is that we always miss her, and always will. Not mentioning Peyton just makes us feel more alone in that. Her absence makes her no less our child. Just as these Snowflakes are so loved and so wanted, so our first sweet daughter always will be.
I guess this is the start of a different kind of Christmas. One that I never could have expected for myself, or planned on. This is the start of walking the line. I feel such joy and gratitude at the impending births of these little ones, and at the same time feel such sadness at what can never be with Peyton, and I think it will just always be like that. Time can pass. Our lives can experience many blessings. The holidays can be joyous once again, but the fact of the matter is that she will always be gone, and we will always miss her. I think if I spend my life waiting to feel better about that, or others spend theirs waiting for us to "move on," there will just be a lot of disappointment.
Life without all of your children present is what it is.
I have been thinking about how different this Christmas would feel, were Peyton here to experience it. I imagine how excited she would be, because this year she would really "get it" for the first time. I go down that road sometimes, because it is so easy to get caught up in the "what could have been," but I have come to realize that to survive this, we have to shift our focus to "what is."
For me, "what is" is my belief that Peyton's soul did not cease existing the day she passed. I don't know how it could have with all the messages and signs of comfort that she has brought to us and those we love since she left this world.
For me, "what is" is a belief in the possibility that just as I am imagining what Peyton would be doing were she alive - twirling and playing in the snow, looking up in awe at the lights and the tree, she is somewhere, some place far beyond my realm of human understanding doing just these things.
For me, "what is" is a belief that just as I feel the warmth and reassurance of Peyton's love ever present within me, she too is warmed by the love of a mother and father who have never let her wander far from their thoughts or their hearts, and never will.
For me, "what is" is a belief that though we have been met with heartache after heartache in our quest to have a child, there is a possibility, and a very good one at that, that our little Snowflakes will be here in a few months time, healthy and happy.
For me, this Christmas has to be about "what is," because it is only in accepting "what is" that I can find some peace with it.
This song is for you my sweet little Peyton.
(be sure to pause the player in the right toolbar before hitting play on this video)