I once rejected the idea of putting up the Christmas tree and decorations before December 1st. That was until I met a group of ladies in an IVF support group twelve years ago. We went through it all, from pregnancy loss, and losing much-loved babies to enduring cycle after cycle with no result. Christmas felt like a mockery, a sneering group event that we weren’t invited to, and we dreaded the lead-in to the festive season. Somebody suggested emblazoning our environments early (starting in October), as a way of cheering ourselves and also to state that we were all still here, surviving. To ensure we did as promised, we sent pictures to the group. The joy was contagious, and a tradition was born. Through the ensuing years, some have had a bub, others have adopted and some have reimagined their lives, bringing new dreams forth. We still all put our trees up early. My daughter loves hearing about my friends, and how we supported one another. She also loves this tradition! Hey, the earlier we start celebrating the better to a kid! Each decoration is symbolic of a time and place. Some baubles were made for us, and hold a special place in our hearts. We played Christmas carols and did karaoke. As we switched on the lights, it felt like Christmas had really begun. The frenetic energy of shopping centres and the demands and exhaustion (only adults feel), was replaced with the truth that life is to be celebrated, here and now. No matter what my friend’s endured, they made sure those trees were up, and the house wrapped in tinsel and fairy lights. I think of each and every one as we fulfil this tradition, and I still post photos as evidence that we are celebrating early.
Throughout the years of infertility, Christmas had been a lonely time. I made the best of it, putting on a coat threaded with stoicism. However, when I was decorating the house, wrapping gifts or shopping, there was an acute sense that someone was missing. I couldn’t bear to see children posing with Santa at the shops, and the Christmas music seemed intent on mocking my friends and I. I joined an IVF support group online, and we talked of how confronting Christmas was, and how we were dreading all the reminders. “Bugger it,” said one lady, “let’s get our trees up early!” She demanded to see photographic evidence, and we dutifully complied. There was magic in the way this act lifted our spirits; we were showing that we were still holding on, to both our sanity and dreams. Some of the ladies tragically lost babies, and others didn’t end up conceiving. Still, we all held faithful to our tradition.
Late October, my daughter discovered the decorations in the garage and pleaded to be let loose with them. I held her off until November the 1st. Bless her, she counted down the days, and on the first of the month, she ran in, reminding me that it was time.
We played Christmas carols as we unpacked the tree and decorations. As I looked around at the assembled baubles, a lump gathered in my throat. Each represented a time and place, a year or a particular person. We talked of what each piece meant to us as we worked. ” I need to put all the Christmas things up early, like you did when you were pregnant with me,” my daughter laughed. Oh darling, it started way before I was pregnant, at a time when a precious group of ladies met on the internet to give comfort to each other. We still provide a photograph each year, to assure the others that our job is done.
We need sparkle to lift us up. We need to get out the china and silver, the candles and bling. We need to create beauty. It is akin to standing on a mountain top and shouting that you are here. The more personal strife befalls, the more we need to decorate. It was worth all the work to see this little girl beam with excitement. The season of hope is starting.