I had wonderful Christmas mornings, growing up. My face would light up, as I would peer around the corner and see that stockings had been filled. My sister, who had been awake since 3 a.m. would wake me up – none too gently, at 7 a.m. Wrapping paper would fly, the dog got her own gift, we would have a special breakfast – it really was the best day of the year.
As I type this, the lights on my tree are glowing – my house is decked out with pretty things that glitter and shine. I helped host a Christmas party, last week – I am in tune with the season and enjoy the festivities and merriment.
Up and until Christmas Eve….that’s when things go south and fast. On Christmas Eve my hard working husband comes home and often nods off, in front of the the television. I haven’t been able to bring myself to go to church since that first Christmas after Thomas died. The minister locked eyes with me and realized, as I did, his whole sermon was about the miracle of pregnancy and birth – and he remembered Thomas funeral, 6 weeks earlier.
Christmas Eve we watch some specials on TV and I curse myself for not planning something, for not coming up with some kind of distracting activity or talking someone into giving me sedatives. Every. Year. It’s been 5 years of this life and still, I can’t find a way for us to not be stuck in our prison.
Christmas morning, my husband and I exchange gifts and I make a special breakfast. And it’s awful – not the breakfast, it’s delicious. Out of all the times of the year, as a Still Mother that I find the silence defending – the silence roars on Christmas morning. There are no toys, no batteries to hunt for, no wrapping paper flies – even the dogs nap by the fire. It’s sedate, controlled and horrible. It is not the Christmas morning I ever imagined having. The only gift I want, can’t be wrapped – he lies under the earth in the cemetery.
We do things to incorporate Thomas; our Christmas card is signed by Andrea, Rob & the boys – people might assume I’m referring to the dogs featured on the card, but I mean all my boys; those you can see and the one you cannot. In 2012 I bought the Hallmark baby boy Christmas ornament, the blue booties are always given a place of honour on our tree. Generally, beside them is a pretty glass angel ornament – every year. Any donation I make, I make in Thomas’ name and if I’m very organized and brave; I buy a gift suitable for the age he would be and donate it to an organization. I do this because Thomas matters. His life mattered and doing these little things, makes our crazy world a little bit better – because Thomas Manning was briefly a part of it.
In no way was this the life I pictured; but it is the life I have – and I wouldn’t trade a single moment of being Thomas’ mama. Being a Still Mother isn’t easy, it’s hard – it’s gut wrenching and more so during holidays of any kind. Please be gentle with yourselves, be kind to each other and remember it’s okay to not be okay – especially on Christmas. There is nothing we are going to “get over”, “get on with”, “move past” or whatever heartless cliche is thrown at you. But there is much to remember – every wave of love, every hope, every dream, every feature. Myself? I choose to remember and value the love, that very special love you have for your child – no matter if they lived or at what point you lost them. I try to remember the waves of maternal love and try to show myself some of that love and kindness.
I don’t know if it will be a Merry Christmas; but I wish you a loving and gentle Christmas, from my broken heart to yours.