Last week I went with my mom to an ecumenical service called "Blue Christmas." My former colleague and friend attends a United Church, and she let me know about this service for people who were having a hard time getting into "the Christmas spirit" because of loss or hard times. My mom wanted to go, and I went with her, although I'm actually enjoying Christmas so far. But I'm very aware of the different levels of meaning it can have. My mom has talked about how sad it is to be reminded of the different things she did with my dad, such as picking out a tree, that she won't be doing this year. I try to remind her that it doesn't have to be the same, that we can miss the way things were while still appreciating what we have, etc. But obviously I don't have all the answers, and really we are making things up as we go along. It's much easier for me because I have Mr. Turtle and AJ. I have lost my dad but my daily life has not been radically changed the way my mom's has been. I have people to go home too; she goes home to an empty house most of the time. My mom, incidentally, did find a tree: a tiny live potted one. She tells AJ it's "her" tree because it is little.
The Blue Christmas service was quite well done. People were welcomed "wherever you are at" and the programme and atmosphere were designed to be accomodating to people of any religious background or more likely lack thereof. There was a very good band, and music was a constant throughout the evening, much of it non-traditional. A variety of people officiated. One of the female officiators reminded me, unfairly I'm sure, of Melisandre from Game of Thrones, because of her expressions and mannerisms and the way she kept talking about "light and darkness" in a very dramatic way. But overall I appreciated the essence of what was attempted.
There was a part near the middle which drew my thoughts away from Christmas and into the realm of infertility/subfertility. The speaker must have been in her 50s, and she told the story of losing her father to cancer this year. Obviously this hit quite close to home. She described how she sat in the hospice with her dying father, knitting a baby blanket, because her daughter in law was pregnant with their second child. She felt she was "knitting the generations together," as she watched one life fading while another was quickening.
It's a poetic image, but it sent me spinning into a different place, reminded of my darker thoughts around subfertiliy/infertility. They sum up as: I will get older, watch people around me get sick and die, and experience my own body failing, but without the compensation of seeing new life growing. Since AJ was born, this fear has faded a bit: she keeps us enthralled with everything she is learning and doing. But AJ doesn't have siblings, or so far cousins, though she has/will have cousins once removed, none of which live in the same city. Basically, when our extended family gets together, there are a lot of adults from 30s to senior, and....one child. Something about this makes me uneasy. I'm bothered by it even while I selfishly like the fact that my friends and family are not very fertile, by circumstance or choice, because my nose isn't always getting rubbed in our difficulties.
It's all very well to be comforted by the fact that babies are born while old people die, but what if babies aren't being born? What if you want to have those babies, to see the generations knit together, but they remain out of reach? I don't want to diminish the speaker's situation by making comparisons; she had an important story to tell and she told it very well. But it reminded me mostly of my infertility grief. Cancer took away the extra years my dad could have had with AJ. But subfertility took away any other grandchildren he might have known. And infertility may well take away grandchildren that my mom and other family might have known.
Of course, then we come right back to the un-quantifiable awsomeness of AJ. I would not trade her for any number of hypothetical children or a hypothetical life. Nor would anyone else. But still. Infertility shatters so many assumptions, so many human comforts that we assume everybody has access too, simply through the ability to create a family.
For the final part of the service, people were invited to light a candle in honour of someone. I have mixed feelings about candles, but I chose to participate this time. I know my mom lit hers in memory of my dad. But I lit mine to acknowledge the years of waiting for a child, and for this second child who dominates my waking thoughts, but has yet to manifest. One of the last things my dad said to me was that I should not feel too sad about his illness because "this is the way it should be," meaning old people die and the young carry on. But there are so many things that should be, and aren't. The vision of what "Should be" might get us started on the journey, but it's not where it ends.
Lighting the candle helped a little bit, I think.