This is the third Christmas since my miscarriage. And I never really felt the loss in relation to the holiday, didn’t spend that first Christmas thinking I should be pregnant, or the second thinking I should have a baby, and I didn’t spend today thinking I should have a 20-month old toddling around the tree.
Since my pregnancy was so full of doubt from the beginning, my brain never took the next logical step and connected it with a baby. So while I do struggle with the topic of pregnancy, and with pregnant women, babies themselves are still safe for me, and in many ways – thankfully – I am able to go about my life without feeling incomplete. And because I don’t have any connection with the baby that was growing inside me, unlike many women who’ve suffered pregnancy loss, I never named it or gave it a gender; I don’t feel the presence of angel babies; I don’t feel a tangible sense of loss when I realize that, if things had worked out differently, there would have been an almost-two-year-old coming down the stairs with us at my parents’ house this morning.
Every year for as long as I can remember, Christmas morning at my mom and dad’s has gone like this: we wake each other up by jumping on each other’s beds and yelling “Cowabunga!” – although in recent years, we’ve gotten a little more polite, and now just bang on closed doors. We all wait at the top of the stairs while my dad plugs in the tree and starts an old Anne Murray album. Then, as the first song on the album, “Christmas Time’s A-Comin,'” plays, we walk down the stairs in order from youngest to oldest, and go take our seats in the living room. After announcing what year it is (“Christmas morning, 2010!”), my dad hands the camera off to Joey, or just turns it around on himself, and does a little dance to prove that he was there, too. Then we get down to the business of seeing what Santa brought.
There are at least 20 nearly identical home movies in existence now; the only things that change are how old we are, and who’s there (sometimes one of us has gone elsewhere for the holidays, or is living elsewhere, like me in Seattle; sometimes we’ve brought significant others). This year, we had more people than ever, as for the first time, Joey has a girlfriend he likes enough to share with the rest of us. And after we were done opening presents, my dad wanted to demonstrate our tradition to Joey’s girlfriend, by showing her one of the other movies. Last year’s was the easiest to find, and Dad gathered us around the computer, and hit play.
Scene: The music starts. Martin comes down the stairs with a dog treat in his hand, and Simon dutifully walks beside him. Doug is next, laughing because Simon starts to howl as he realizes he’s being teased. Then Joey, me, and my mom all follow.
“Christmas morning, 2009!” says the voice behind the camera.
Joey approaches, the screen gets shaky as the camera is turned around, and then there’s my dad, doing a little dance. The screen gets shaky again, then the camera pans the room slowly, finally landing on Simon, who is rooting around under the tree for his presents, which he will eventually find and open with his mouth. End scene.
By the end of the 90-second home video, I was openly crying. Because we must have at least 20 of these nearly identical little movies, and in 14 of them, Simon was there playing his part: running down the stairs, howling, opening his gifts. This was our first year without him, and suddenly, my sense of loss was very, very tangible.
And in a way, I’m grateful for that. Because as I’ve said before, it’s much easier to miss something that was once there, than it is to miss something that never was. And when grief is easy to channel, when it’s understandable, we can move through it more gracefully: my grieving process for Simon continues to be graceful,* while my grieving process for my pregnancy, and the baby that never was, continues to be clumsy at best.
*Dad, let’s get a puppy!