The holidays are upon us. In the past I have loved every moment of the family focused season from decorating the house to tons of gatherings with family and friends. This year it feels a bit different. I’m still excited for most things but as this is the first year that we will be experiencing the holidays as a waiting adoptive family, I’m already feeling an aching of sorts in my heart.
My husband and I experience things differently and so he isn’t worried about how to survive the holidays this year like I am. And that’s ok. I feel guilty many times when I confront this deep feeling inside. It’s the holidays, I should be happy. Someday I will get to experience them as a Mom. But honestly those thoughts don’t stop my feelings of sadness or anxiety. We have been waiting in the books for close to a year and while I know people who have been waiting much longer and also those who got picked just a few months after going in the books, it’s very personal for me. I experienced a similar feeling this past summer when I attended a dear friend’s baby shower. They were so excited and she was glowing and while I was I was absolutely thrilled for her and her husband, I was so sad for myself.
That’s when it really hit me that for many, there is a duality in most big events. For those who have lost family members, the holidays can be extremely hard. For women who have chosen adoption, Mother’s Day as well as many other holidays can be really rough. It’s not that there must be only one or the other. Both happiness and sadness can live in the same moment.
So, I made my very own survival guide for this year:
Counting my blessings in a unique way
I have come up with a list of things that I can do easily this holiday season that would be harder to do if I had a little one. For example, I can join my other crazy friends who will be waiting outside Best Buy at 3am this year to snag that really awesome gift I’m going to surprising my husband with. Another thing on my list is all the traveling we do for a few days right before and after Christmas. While driving from my in-laws house to my parents, we take a 2 hour detour to hit up a town saturated with antique shops. I’m not sure I’ll want to be on the road as much once we have a little one joining our road trips. It may seem silly to some but celebrating these little things as if they could be my last have eased some of my anxiety. I also add one thing I’m glad not to have to do yet – that darn Elf on the Shelf. I see parents posting bloopers about times they forgot to move the elf and the excuses they gave their children for it being in the same place. It’s something I’d like to do when I have a child who might have fun with the idea but for now I’m happy only have to remember to lock the door and shut off the lights before going to bed.
Knowing My Triggers & Being Honest about My Feelings
As the invites to special gatherings pour in, I’m choosing to be honest with myself about my triggers and what may or may not be good to commit too. I don’t want to bring anyone else down but I do want to protect myself in some ways. This year, I’m choosing to decline a friend’s invite for a party the weekend after Thanksgiving to welcome home their newborn son. I just know that it might be too hard for me this year as many of the strangers will be asking how I know my friend and if my husband and I have children as well. However, I have already made plans to stop by their house myself earlier in the week with food to greet their newest addition. The point is not to have a woe-is-me attitude but to identify things that might really be painful this year and navigate around them.
Find Support in Other Waiting Families
Throughout the adoption process, I have become close to a few other couples and singles who are pursing adoption. I reached out to them with a simple two-line email letting them know that I’m not sure if they are dreading the holidays in the same way I am but that I’d love to come together in support with anyone who is. I immediately got a response from two of them and the three of us have created a text thread so when we are feeling blah, we send each other a message.
The other day I got an email about an event our church was hosting for new families during the holidays. I texted my friends with a screen shot of the flyer followed by Bah Humbug. One of the women replied with humor reminding me that being Scrooge isn’t all bad as he often spent his nights swimming in a pool of gold. The other friend said that unlike the millionaire duck, her money would only fill a baby pool and so it’s a good thing she is only 5’2”. The joke continued for most of the day easing my original feelings of sadness and later that night we actually met at the YMCA to go for a “support swim.” Of course, I don’t feel down all the time. It just hits me sometimes but I’ve found humor is a great way to get the feelings out while also connecting with those who truly “get” it.
Seeing the Future Joy of Celebrating the Holidays Together as a Family
Ultimately, I’m choosing to look into the future with excitement. There will be a Thanksgiving in the future when I’m holding a little one in my arms while trying to devour turkey and stuffing while it’s still warm. Someday I will have a third stocking added to our mantel on Christmas Eve. When I am finally a mother, I will love seeing my child play with their cousins at my parent’s house. I know there is so much in store for our future and when the time is right it will happen. Until then I have bundled up for the cold and have prepared as best I can for the highs and lows this year may bring.
My ultimate wish for all those having a tough time during the holidays – whether it’s a birthparent who is missing their child, someone who has lost a loved or family members who are estranged – is for peace, love, and laughter even if it’s when we are laughing at ourselves.