Tonight I was sitting rocking Evan and I went into that kind of thinking/staring trance that can happen when you are on your 2nd straight hour of nursing a baby who is awake just enough to not let go but asleep enough to not really need any attention. As I stared at the lights outside on Sophie's tree, I was thinking about this time of year and how difficult it has become in the past 4 years and how much has changed for us. Looking back, the holidays of 2006 were so wonderful and so full of promise. Chris had just been offered a dream job in a great location, we were under contract on a perfect little house on a dead-end street, and I was happily expecting our third child. Everything we had worked for, all the sacrifices, all the moving around...it was all going to be worth it. Hope and promise surrounded our family--anyone could have felt it.
Of course Sophie's birth and death in January of 2007 changed everything for us--for Chris and I, for our girls, for our future. Everything was different after that. Not necessarily "bad" different, but different nonetheless. I won't even begin to talk about most of 2007--probably the most difficult year of our lives. So when the holidays began to roll around again, we tried again to grasp at some hope...hope that was crushed firmly in the first week of December when our next pregnancy abruptly ended. Christmas that year was a charade for our girls, and nothing more. Chris was struggling to hold me together and I was a broken, deflated shell of who I could be and who my family deserved.
The holiday season of 2008 felt different to me. We decorated Sophie's tree with brilliant, flashing lights and placed lit-up sea creatures at the base (sounds tacky, but it isn't, really--we have a seal and a lobster!) My goal in 2008 was that someone flying over our house would see her tree and know that she existed--that she was a real person, and that she was loved deeply. But that holiday was different in another way too. As I sat in the rocking chair, I could wrap my arms around my growing belly and know that there was another living being trying to enter our family. Did I dare to hope? Were the holidays made better by the promise of a new life? I'm not sure. I know both Chris and I were very guarded about the whole pregnancy (always saying "if" the baby came and not "when" the baby came) but I also know that when I sat looking at the sparkling lights of my missing baby, I felt something. Something that many people would see right away as a feeling of hope, but that I myself could not identify because it had been so long since I had felt it.
Tonight, as I sat staring at the sparkling lights and the sea creatures, the 2009 holiday season in full swing, I had my arms around a very real bundle--a very real little being who has found his way into our family and into our hearts. I thought about what Joseph Campbell once said, "We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." I thought about the life we had planned so carefully and that had (we thought) finally fallen into place back in 2006--the life that slipped from our grasp so suddenly and tragically. And yet here I am, with my arms around this little boy, watching the holidays come one more time, and I know that despite our sadness (or maybe because of it?) we are living the life we have here and now.
Holidays will always be hard because there will always be someone missing. But this year, with no regrets and trying hard to avoid the "what if" game, I will add yet another string of lights to Sophie's tree--because now, the goal is for her presence to be felt on the moon. Donations of light-up sea creatures are always welcome.