I'm going to be honest here: I'm struggling with Christmas. I used to love everything about Christmas: The stockings, the tree, the nativity scenes, carols at church, snow, evening church services, coloured lights, pretty much everything except eggnog. Even when I was working in Ottawa and had to drive to Toronto at noon on the 24th, I would do so with joy because it was Christmas. The last few years, though, I find myself wishing away I could fall asleep in November and wake up in January. This isn't just wanting to get past my exams without writing them (though that would be nice). It is more a factor of the constant pain of infertility, which tends to feel more overwhelming during the holidays.
In the first place, Christmas is a time when we talk about families. I get bombarded by cards with pictures of everyone's beautiful children, often with one more child this year than last. I hear ads on the radio talking about what to get my kids for Christmas, or even what to get my husband to show him that he's a great dad. (I had to change the channel for that last one as I burst into tears on the highway.) Next to Mother's Day, I find that Christmas is the time of year when I am most reminded that I am not a mother, that I don't have a family, and that I don't fit in.
Christmas is also a time when we talk about baby Jesus. A lot. I mean, yes, Christmas is increasingly secularized, and you can get through it with minimal exposure to a manger scene, but you get what I mean. Yes, I know, the original Christmas story is about two people who were shocked and not ready to be parents and who had to start their family in terrible circumstances. Yes, I know it's Jesus and not some random baby. It's still images of babies, here and there and everywhere. There are still days when I see that nativity picture, with Mary lovingly bent over the infant Jesus, and my heart aches for the child I wanted to have, the baby whose crib I would lean over to sing lullabies, the one that I will never have. It still hurts.
Mostly though, Christmas marks the passing of time, and the whole holiday season is a chance to take stock in the year. This year sucked. Sorry, but it did. I lost a dear friend. I lost others in my life. In our family, we had serious illness, marriage separation, and conflict. In the world, we had some pretty bad things as well. I find it hard to look ahead and say that maybe 2016 will be better when I remember that in 2012, and 2013, and 2014, I went into the holidays thinking it might be my last Christmas without a baby on the way, that the coming year would bring life and joy when in fact it has brought increasing sadness. I feel like infertility has taken my ability to look ahead. I used to be one of those people who would hear about Jesus coming back and think, "Not yet. I have so much left to do." Now I understand why people yearn for His coming, because I find it so hard to find the joy in this life and it doesn't sound like such a raw deal to leave it behind.
I usually try to end posts like this on some kind of inspiring note, like, "Here's how I'm holding on to hope" or "God is still good". I don't know how to do this. I haven't given up on life and faith, but I don't have it in me to pretend that I'm not drowning each and every day. Pray for me this Christmas. More than that, pray for those around you who are lonely. Invite the childless into your home, and those without families. Remember that for many people, the holidays are hard. Love your neighbour. Share your joy.