Waiting at Christmas: Keeping the Bittnerness at Bay
I'm bitter lately. The loss of not having a child in your life -- yet -- sneaks up at the oddest times. It's not ever when you expect it. I sub at a local Montessori school, and you would think, when I am there surrounded by babies, toddlers and a million young children that I would be saddened in my heart.
On the contrary, I'm usually thinking "Oh my gosh, are we sure we want kids?" or, "What time is my Starbucks break?" One child is much more likely to make me melancholy than 30 kids. 30 kids makes me relish the peace and quiet of my home.
But when that bitterness and longing come up, it's like a wave you weren't expecting. I'll never forget when we were with our beloved couple friends, waiting to be seated at a restaurant. A white couple walked in with a gorgeous Asian daughter. Now I don't want to assume anything, but I was pretty sure at first glance that this was a family made beautiful by adoption. One minute, I'm laughing with Jordan and saying, "Awww...look how cute she is!" The next minute I was bawling. I don't know what happened. It was that sudden. In SECONDS, I went from a normal person to a lunatic who cries in a Chili's. No one should cry in a Chili's unless they work there. (My sister can tell you about that.)
Jordan, stunned, asked me what was wrong and I told her and then SHE got teary eyed, and then she told her husband why we were crying and then HE got teary eyed. It was a nightmare. All of us are crying just because some woman came in with her lovely Asian daughter. It happens like that. You don't know what will trigger your rush of grief. You could talk about adoption for hours and not shed a tear, but if you see a cute owl onesie at Target, you'll be crying in seconds. Or not. It just depends on the day. I could as easily say, "Oh, that's cute," as I could, "This makes me want to crawl into a hole with a bag of semi-sweet chocolate for a few days."
The holidays are the hardest to be without a child. Last Christmas I thought, "We will for sure have a child by then!" And we didn't. Christmas morning felt a little empty. Being around relatives with young children was painful for both of us. I thought, "Thank goodness I will never have to do this again." Well, it turns out that God has other plans for us. I don't know what they are, but part of it is that we will probably, most likely, have another Christmas with no child.
Christmas is a hard time to be sad, to be bitter or angry or waiting. Everything at church during this time is about "Waiting for the Child," since it's almost Advent. Now, that's about something completely different and I feel it gives me a unique perspective on waiting for hope, just like the rest of my gentile friends. It's difficult though, to keep hearing about "waiting for the child, waiting for a child, waiting...."
There is nary a song that doesn't make me teary eyed right now. Our senior pastor just gave a wonderful message last Sunday about how sometimes the holidays can be really depressing and lonely for people who have experienced loss, trauma or death. He told a story about a widower who lost his wife around Christmas and all he could manage was to put out that first year was a bowl of some red and green M&M's. I will never look at them the same way again. It's a good reminder that there are people out there for whom the holidays are way more lonely than I could ever imagine. We might not have a child, but I still have my family. I am still blessed beyond measure with love.
On a side note, does anyone else agree that red and green M&M's are better than regular M&M's? It's a theory I have.
I'm not there yet, but I do feel, this year, a growing bitterness that has not been present before. I've always prided myself on NOT being bitter about our situation. I've tried to make sure that I am open to the joy of those that I love, and that I never let our waiting get in the way of rejoicing for others. This September, I started feeling a little less of that.
Pregnancies are announced on Facebook every day it seems, and while I am truly happy and joyous for those people, each time there is a tiny piece that breaks off of your heart, a piece that says "Someone else. Not you. Again." You think this, and then you feel instantly guilty for your thoughts and feelings. It's natural, but it's not okay.
I had a friend tell me recently that she thought she might be pregnant, right after I told her, "If you are pregnant again, I will kill myself." Yeah, I felt like a HUGE JERK for like a week. I didn't mean to diminish her joy with my bitterness! She wasn't actually pregnant, so I had a chance to redeem myself, but I felt like a tool and proceeded to lecture myself a lot.
I don't want to be that person. These bitter feelings are so foreign and damaging. You tell yourself that you are a horrible person for bemoaning someone else's blessings. You swing from bitterness and jealously to guilt and back again. It's a terrible cycle. And it happens all the time. But again, it can depend on the DAY. Some days I don't care at all. Not a bit. Lay those babies on me! Maybe it has to do with the moon or something.
Friends and family are one thing. The people you see who don't seem to appreciate their kids are quite another. I regularly see people who seem to act like having a child is the worst thing that ever happened to them. Kids whose parents act like spending time with their children is the worst possible burden on their time, or parents that didn't plan for kids and don't want kids and neglect their kids and STILL keep having them and abusing them. I want to shake them and scream, "Do you know how lucky you are??"
I have a sweet beautiful friend who had a tubal pregnancy this year. This Christmas she gets to spend her holiday with a distant relative's pregnant girlfriend, who has multiple kids from multiple dads, is a terrible Mom and has no means of supporting them; a trainwreck all around. My friend's due date was December. I can't imagine how that will feel to her. We talk about drowning our sorrows in Friday Night Lights, wine and Kleenex.
Not that I'm comparing waiting on adoption to losing a child. It's not the same, but I feel that the sorrow bubbles up from the same hungry, empty spring inside of us that lingers on those bare place a kid should be.
Keeping the bitterness at bay is a struggle for me right now. There are exciting things going on in my life, but in those quiet moments, I'm reminded that we are still waiting for that wonderful gift of being parents. I wonder if we've made the right choices, going with adoption, going with our adoption agency. Should we have adopted older children? Were we selfish to want a baby? Will we EVER get picked? Should we have done International? Round and round, the swirling doubts are always around, no matter what I'm doing.
You have to hold it back, otherwise it can take over so easily. It's these times where I am so grateful that even when my heart beats melancholy and depressing, that I find my comfort in the one who was welcomed in a manager. For that, I have to wait no more. That should be enough to keep even the biggest bitterness at bay.
Photo Credit: jessicizer.