Christmas this year is looming over me like a dark cloud. With each week that passes I feel more and more suffocated, almost trapped. I feel like I want to get out, to escape. I have a deep yearning to hide away from the rest of the world and only reappear once all the festivities are over. Watching others celebrate and anticipate the holidays with such eagerness breaks my heart. It makes me feel physically ill. For me there is no celebration, no joy, just another very stark reminder of what is missing in my life.
This Christmas we were supposed to be travelling back to Dublin for the first time with our 8-month-old son. It was supposed to be the most joyous of occasions introducing him to everyone for the first time. I had imagined how happy it would be celebrating our first Christmas with him. Dressing him up like a little elf and pretending Santa was coming even though he would be much too young to have any idea. I was excited about going back to Europe for 6 weeks. We had planned to visit friends in Scandinavia and in France. For the first time in years we would have time to enjoy with friends and family. It was going to be perfect. This is just what you do when you are pregnant…you imagine and you plan. You plan every little detail of what your new life will look like. You romanticise about this new life as you teeter on the edge of something so new and exciting. No one ever imagines what plan B will look like.
For us plan B is staying at home in Perth for Christmas. It is retreating to the sanctuary of the home we so lovingly prepared for Benjamin’s arrival. It is a place where we feel calm and we feel safe. It is a place where we feel close to Benjamin. The thought of taking that same trip back to Ireland without him feels torturous and cruel. I know that this disappoints our families who want to wrap us up and protect us at a time when we are at our most vulnerable. But the expectation is just too much. I need time and space to get through this “first” in my own way. I might wake up on Christmas morning and feel great. I might be humming Christmas songs and skipping down the road, eager to celebrate. But it is more likely that I will wake with a heavy heart, eager instead for the day to be over.
The run up to Christmas has been hard, much more so than I had expected. It started a few weeks ago when I heard my first Christmas song…All I want for Christmas. I was driving along in the car and it just hit me out of left field. Before I knew it I had tears streaming down my face. Before losing Benjamin I had never really listened to the words of songs but now no matter how much I wanted to ignore them, those words kept ringing in my ears. The only thing in the whole world that I wanted so desperately but yet could never have, my son.
Things haven’t improved as the weeks have passed. I can barely even do the shopping now. Every shopping centre and supermarket has Christmas songs blasting on repeat. Pregnant women and children seem to have multiplied at this time of year. Everyone seems to be happy but me. Check out tellers intently enquire as to my Christmas planning and how well progressed I am. It takes everything in me not to say, “I don’t care about Christmas and turkeys and presents. My baby is dead. There is nothing to celebrate”. I almost had to run out of our local shopping centre the other day. It all felt so overwhelming, it overpowered me. My eyes welled with tears as I pushed past the happy shoppers to the exit. Once outside I felt like I could breath again…and cry.
Writing this makes me feel like the Christmas Grinch. At times I try to “stay positive” but it just feels impossible right now. I hope in the Christmases to come we will once again have happiness in our home but for now Christmas represents everything that I don’t have. Hope and joy feel elusive. All I have are shattered dreams and a broken heart. For me Christmas this year is not merry, it is not happy, it just is.