Two or three years ago, decorating the Christmas tree was a fraught, though still beloved affair. The absence of a child’s homemade ornaments was sharp, and painful. I’d done everything I could to make peace with the fact that it seemed I would not become a mother: therapy, writing, running, mourning.
Still, I had moments where the longing – for a child I’d been certain I would someday have – took my breath away. And that Christmas, so recent but also a lifetime ago, was one of them. I sat down, and I looked at the tree, its blinking lights so jolly, and I cried.
This year, I cried again.
On my tree, right now, are two ornaments that I’ll pack away the most carefully. One, near the very top, is my baby’s handprint, decorated with red paint and green glitter. The other, a little further down but still safe from small people and medium-sized dogs, is a picture of that child, held in a glittered, homemade frame. They mean more to me than I can say.
My life before I had a child was wonderful. Friends, dogs, love, travel, home, career, family: I was able to see how lucky I was, even though this one thing escaped me. Still, I understood what people meant when they talked about feeling a hole in their lives. Though I was actively trying to make peace with childlessness, though I was very conscious of the many delightful parts of my life, I ached for my little one. I ached for the ornaments on the tree, and the disrupted sleep, and the tired arms, and the uncertainty and the failures and the joy and the celebration and the overwhelm that would come with parenthood.
I think there are some things we know we need, some things we allow ourselves to deeply want. In my life, I have felt that way about certain things: living in California, finding love, becoming a writer, moving to Paris. But nothing has ever come close to the level of desire I felt about having a child; it lived in my bones, coursed through my veins.
This holiday season, I haven’t done everything I thought I would. The ingredients for a new cookie recipe are still on my counter, untouched; I forgot to put sugar in a batch I did make; I burned yet another. I haven’t wrapped everything; I never put up my ‘Joyeux Noel’ banner, or the lights around my windows. I forgot to buy a wreath. I didn’t finish a writing project, and I won’t have time to edit this post.
But in the next few minutes, I’ll hear my child waking up. The dogs and I will go into his room, and I’ll pick him up and unzip his little sleepy sack, and walk into the living room with him still in his holiday pajamas. We’ll look at the tree together, the blinking lights so jolly. I’ll do my best not to cry.
This year, I say to you: whatever it is that your heart most craves, whatever it is that perhaps you fear voicing to the world out of a shyness at wanting something so badly: I hope it comes to you. I hope, a year or two or three from now, you find yourself waking up as I did this morning, not missing a single thing.
Merry everything, friends. Good tidings. And comfort. And joy!