I love Christmas. I love the Christmas carols, and the warm, cozy feeling the season is meant to invoke. I love Christmas trees and wrapping presents and fireplaces and family. But this year the season is bittersweet. I feel sadness as a I continue to grapple the loss of our second pregnancy. And I feel sad that I feel sad during this time of year.
I remember sitting on a bench in the middle of the Santa Monica promenade, my husband and I taking a break from Christmas shopping to enjoy our favorite treat, self-serve frozen yogurt. I had smushed together a combination of peppermint bark, cake batter, and cookies and cream and was delightfully taking in the mashup of flavors, occasionally sampling my husband’s double chocolate and snicker doodle treat. From our bench we could see a handful of street performers, a soulful singer delivering jazzy renditions of Christmas songs, a trio of guys with an impressive popping and locking dance routine. As the California sun beat down on us, I turned to my husband with tears in my eyes. “How can things be so wonderful, and so terrible at the same time?” I asked him. It was a dramatic overstatement, but in that moment I felt a tangled paradox of emotions. Life was so beautiful, but my heart was still so broken.
We were spending Christmas with my in-laws this year, in their big, beautiful home, with my husband’s loving and hilarious siblings. When I first learned that I was pregnant I had smiled to myself, thinking of how Christmas would feel so special this year. Christmas day would mark our entry into the 2nd trimester, a club I was desperate to get into. But we had lost our baby two weeks prior. We were still picking ourselves up, still figuring out how to remain optimistic, positive, and hopeful. I had spent the few days before our departure to Boston relatively happy, feeling the lift that comes from surviving a trauma and realizing you could still figure out how to smile. But when we arrived at LAX the morning of December 22nd I burst into tears. Our Christmas holiday was starting, and we didn’t have our baby to be.
This feeling amplified because of the juxtaposed position my brother and sister-in-law were in. She was days away from hitting 12 weeks in her pregnancy, and she and my brother were on their way to her childhood home in Ohio to make their big announcement. They were debuting their wedding video for her family and wanted to include a surprise message at the end. WE’RE PREGNANT! I wanted nothing less for them, and it warmed my heart. But it made our loss that much more raw.
Bittersweet. I remember learning the meaning of that word while studying Romeo and Juliet in 9th grade English, as we discussed what was meant by “sweet sorrow”. But now I had lived the meaning of the word. It was the paradox. The wonderful with the terrible. The happiness for others with the pain for yourself. The warmth of the sun with the tears in your eyes.
The joy of the season with the wound in your heart.