When you live with infertility, every day is difficult in its own way. There is never a day that is easy, but there are some days that are worse than others. Holidays are always among the hardest. I never thought it would be possible that I would dread going through the motions of the holiday season, but infertility has changed so many things for me and Christmas is one of them.
In general, holidays are hard for those who have lost a loved one or are grieving, but for some reason most people seem surprised that it would be the same for those with infertility. Although we have not lost a loved one in the usual sense, there is a similar void in our lives that is impossible to ignore throughout the surrounding celebrations. But instead of time ‘healing all wounds,’ this pain has cut deeper with every year that passes, and each Christmas hurts more than the last.
The holiday season is full of painful reminders that we are infertile in a fertile world. Every December Christmas cards pour into our mailboxes with photos of happy families and updates of new babies or pregnancies. We spend a few weeks each year carefully picking out, buying, and wrapping gifts for children that are not our own. Even the majority of Christmas traditions that I love so much all revolve around children. Then, at the center of all the celebrations, we focus on… the birth of a baby. The words behind nearly every seasonal hymn– or sometimes just the sight of a quiet nativity scene– feels like a punch to the stomach. Getting through the holiday season is now more an act of survival than reflection, peace, gratefulness, or enjoyment.
Our first Christmas as a married couple felt new and thrilling. We picked out a tree for our tiny apartment despite the extravagant expense and carefully arranged our handful of ornaments on the visible branches. Our Christmas letter from that year reflects our excitement. As I wrote that first letter, I never could have imagined how painful it would become in future years to have to describe our year without mentioning that we were dealing with infertility and struggling to cope on a daily basis. Still, even though we had already decided to come clean about our troubles, I labored over our letter for weeks this year trying to find the words to do justice to our pain without being too gloomy for a Christmas letter.
We passed this Christmas by being dragged through the motions by our families, while inwardly we focused on the surrogacy process in order to avoid hurting too badly. I hate that celebrating the holidays has started to feel so pointless for us, that we didn’t even buy a tree this year because simply the thought that no one else would see it was so painful. We’re hoping that this past Christmas was the last one that we’ll celebrate without having a child of our own, but this is not the first time we have held onto that hope… nor is it the second, or even the third. Christmas 2011 was meant to be our last just-the-two-of-us Christmas, and now every one that follows serves as another reminder of how incomplete our family of two feels and just how much time has passed since we first felt that way.
I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
And I don’t care about the presents
Underneath my Christmas tree
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true…
Baby, all I want for Christmas is you