The Holiday season is well underway and for many of us who are still waiting to grow our families, this time of year is a bitter reminder of empty spaces in our hearts and homes where we planned that “by this time next year” we would have a baby.
Personally, this is my fourth “last Christmas without a baby.”
The first was in 2013 when we first started trying and assumed I would quickly become pregnant. A year later I was on clomid in December and quite certain that it would be the magic bullet we needed to have a baby. The next year I was on birth control in preparation of our first IVF cycle. And that brings us to Christmas 2016- I just received my medical protocol calendar and I’m prepping for a third IVF cycle. Here we go again.
Two years ago Christmas was extremely painful for me. We were just beginning treatments and didn’t know where the path was going to lead. Last year it was Thanksgiving that was hard- I cried a lot. We were preparing for IVF and that ache in my heart to be a mom brought me to tears many times.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet and a beautiful community of women online who are willing to share their experiences, I know I’m not the only one who dreads facing this milestone time of year. And yet, this year doesn’t feel the same. I’m not approaching the holidays with the trepidation I have become accustomed to the past few years. This year feels different somehow.
I almost hesitate to talk about feeling excited for the holidays in a forum focussing on infertility. For one, I know that many, many women around the world are not looking forward to this holiday season. And it’s not because they are grumpy old scrooges who can’t be happy for other people, but because this season brings about a unique pain for those of us who long to be a family. Women have gone through failed treatment cycles this year, they have lost pregnancies and babies, they have seen their dreams dissipate before their very eyes. There women who just 11 months ago declared so boldly “2016 is MY year!” who have not yet seen their miracle come to pass. Secondly, one purpose I have in this blog is to build understanding for those going through infertility. I want to encourage compassion for those who are walking this path, and to declare that everything is just hunky-dory with me seems counter-productive to that goal.
But, if I am going to be really honest about the journey of infertility, it’s that this road has more than it’s fair share of downs but it also has it’s ups as well. This holiday season, I am more grateful than ever to be living in an UP.
I actually wasn’t anticipating feeling so good about this holiday season. Last year I told Andrew that if we weren’t pregnant by December that I was going to cancel Christmas. (I was half-joking… ok 25% joking… ok maybe 10% joking… ok I really did want to cancel Christmas.) This plan however, proved to be very impractical so I decided to embrace the holiday instead.
Please know, that I’m not advocating everyone in my boat jump straight into Christmas head-first. I don’t know what you’ve been through this year or where you are in your heart’s journey. You might be in a season of grief and need to give yourself a bit of a break this year. That’s ok! Really! You can be someone who loves her friends and family, who is grateful for everything this season represents without running yourself ragged spreading Christmas cheer. If you need a break this year, it’s ok! Take a break. Protect your heart. Let yourself do what is best for you right now in this season.
I’ve been there- taking a break, avoiding holiday crowds, taking the long way around the mall to avoid all the families lined up to see Santa’s workshop, silently crying when the church brings a kids choir to sing Away in a Manger. I get it.
And yet, that’s not how this Christmas season has been for me. Perhaps it’s because I’ve had more time to grieve and prepare myself for the end of the year. When my summer IVF cycle failed, I grieved heavily. When I found out we wouldn’t be able to jump straight into an early winter IVF cycle, I grieved again. I grieved knowing that Christmas was coming, knowing there would be no new baby or surprise pregnancy announcement by the light of the tree. And I’ve made my peace with that. That’s not to say there won’t be more tears, (I’ve shed a few today already) but I do believe I’ve done the bulk of my grieving for the year and can move on to accepting (and even looking forward to) this holiday season!
So let’s talk about the Ups of this season for me!
One Up is that I am readying myself to embark on yet another cycle of IVF, only this time I feel so much more confident in my doctor, his expertise, and the clinic I’ll be working with. I mentioned this on my instagram account a few days ago, but I had the opportunity to finally meet the doctor in person after having only Skype calls with him before. The feeling that I have with this clinic is SO much better than any of my previous doctors. It’s hard when you first start infertility treatments because you don’t really know what to expect or what to look for in the clinic that you choose. All I can say is that this place feels significantly different than any place else we’ve been and I couldn’t be happier that we are going to have the opportunity to grow our family with this doctor.
Another Up is that we found a church that we love. Guys, this one makes such a difference. As you know we’ve moved quite a bit and settling into a church home has been a challenge for us. Plugging into a church where we really trust the pastors and the teaching is truly soothing to my soul.
Finally, there are just so many things that I have intentionally been looking forward to this season! Putting up the Christmas tree, checking out the Christmas decorations at the mall, driving around to see light displays, making holiday foods, listening to Christmas music non-stop. (Michael Buble, anyone?) The triggers that have made me sad in the past are the things I am choosing to look forward to this year. If I can’t cancel Christmas then I might as well enjoy my favorite parts.
Christmas shopping is another thing I am thrilled about this year! I feel generous and excited about giving Christmas gifts to my favorite people. I’ve been racking my brain for gift ideas, hitting the malls, and doing more than my fair share of online shopping. I’m excited to bless people this year, see their faces when they open their gifts and spread some good ole Christmas cheer!
Speaking of Christmas shopping and blessing people- I’ve been so blessed browsing through the Growing Funds for Growing Families Small Shop Directory. You guys, these ladies are working so hard to pay for their fertility treatments, adoption fees, and raise funds to grow their own and other’s families. If you’re having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit or if Christmas shopping is feeling dry or overwhelming- please check out these shops! This is the kind of thing that gets me excited about the holidays. I know that every order these ladies get bring them one step closer to their precious babes.
My heart has been overflowing with warm-fuzzy, Christmas feels as I browse through these shops. Online shopping + Helping Families Grow = My Heart Ready to Burst.
Being in an Up season during the holidays feels like a rare blessing in the infertility world, so I want to make sure I am paying forward as much joy and love as possible during the next few weeks! Two shops in particular I want to make sure you check out are owned by my sweet friend Hilary. She owns Olive and Wren and Woodland Wren and makes the cutest little clothing and accessories for the littles. Hilary has a little girl from infertility treatments and is fighting hard to make her a big sister. She is starting IVF soon and all her sales help support her treatment fund. Even in the midst of saving for IVF, she is continuing to spread Christmas cheer with a special coupon code just for you. You can use the code GROWMYFAMILY at check out for a special discount on your order, isn’t that sweet!?
If you’re reading this today as someone who is fighting infertility for your family, I truly hope that you experience some ups this holiday season. But more than anything, I hope you know that you are so loved in this season- whether you are feeling the Ups or Downs of the holidays- you are loved beyond your wild dreams. That is what this season is all about, right? The fact that a miracle baby was born on earth, who would be Emmanuel- God with Us. Because of His birth, His death, His Resurrection and His Sending of the Holy Spirit- we have, in this season- and in every season- our God who is with us in our Ups and our Downs. I pray that no matter how high up or how low down you feel this holiday season- you would experience the presence of the Living God who came to earth to be with you every step of the way.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.