Friday, December 25, 2015

A Christmas More Sweet Than Bitter

Christmas has been interesting this year -- we decorated and stayed home and cooked great meals and spent quality time together, and while we are filled with more hope than ever that we will actually meet FutureBaby sooner than later, there is still a bit of the bittersweet in celebrating yet another Christmas without a child in the house. Our 6th since it was physically possible that we could have had a baby by the holidays. At a time when everyone seems to be showcasing their miracles and waxing poetic on how special and uber-amazing Christmas is when you see through the eyes of your precious baby/child, it can open up that hollow space we try to fill up with hope and anticipation for the joys to come.

We have been making the most of our time just the two of us, though.

Yesterday we went for a hike in a nearby nature preserve, since it was in the mid-sixties (!) and sunny:

Out on the trail, I don't even need a jacket.
All throughout the woods, someone has placed ornaments. I wanted so badly to put a little light blue blanket wrapped around the base of this tree, which got a fair number of sparkles on its spindly branches.
Handsome, handsome man on the trail by the creek.
The picturesque waterfall. I can't get over how much this looks like March, not Christmas Eve.
Lone snowflake on a pine past the creek
Christmas morning, we woke up late. Because we can. Because, feasibly, next Christmas we will probably be up at 3 am and then intervals thereafter, and that probably won't change for a few years. We woke up at 9:45, which seems ridiculously late, but we had stayed up the night before watching When Harry Met Sally, which I somewhat erroneously categorize as a holiday movie because Christmas and New Year's come up more than once. Plus the hickory smoked Texas-style chili Bryce made had us up for a while because it really stuck to our ribs. (So yummy, but we still felt full this morning from it!)

We had our Christmas morning breakfast:

Strawberry-rhubarb GF pancakes, hickory-smoked bacon, and my traditional citrus salad that I thankfully made the night before because it involves peeling and sectioning clementines, Cara Cara navel oranges, navel oranges, and then cheating with pre-sectioned red grapefruit. If Vitamin C is great for anti-aging, my hands must look 20. 
We settled on the couch for leisurely present-opening, taking turns picking out a present for each of us to open one at a time. (Present-opening can take hours, not because of an obnoxious amount of gifts, but because we savor each package.)

All festive and coffee'd and ready to go! 

A few of our favorite things:

Hogwarts for Christmas! 
Every year, Bryce picks out books I've never heard of but he thinks I'll like. He carefully researches them and pays attention to what I've been reading. It just happened that every book in this year's stack featured red on the cover, which was hilarious. I am so excited for the reading time ahead of me! (And for Bryce's cheeky cameo)
A perfect picture book from Bryce. It's not about THAT kind of waiting, but rather a celebration of anticipations big and small, with beautiful minimalist art. It made me cry, just a tiny bit. In a good way.
Bryce with a signed picture book from his mom for Mystery Baby. It really captures all the things to love about Maine, and the art is spectacular. Mystery Baby figured pretty heavily into a number of presents, actually. This one will have a special place in our collection of Maine picture books that's been growing for years, before we were even married. 

 I got a little creative with gift tags this year, and as we opened presents I saved all the ones I rubber-stamped because I was a little ridiculously proud of them:

Fun fun fun, ignore the incredibly abused table

After all the present-opening, the many phone calls since all of our family was out of town (some because they live there, some because they went to visit out-of-town family), and another unseasonably warm walk around our neighborhood to walk off all some of the yummy food and wine we've been consuming, we made our Christmas dinner.

Bryce makes a duck breast that is ah-mazing, with a brown sugar orange zest cinnamon crust on the seared skin and a blueberry-port reduction sauce. It is so fun to see him at work in our lovely new kitchen. Having a gas stove really helps sear up that duck so it's a perfectly crisp and juicy crust. I made some beautiful red Swiss Chard, some of which was downright aubergine. It was so fresh and earthy and tasted great sauteed with butter, olive oil, and garlic. We had roasted potatoes with rosemary and thyme that we can still harvest from our garden at the end of December (unheard of in Western NY!). And a lovely dusty bottle of St. Joseph that we bought at Christmastime in Vermont in 2012. That was a little bittersweet, too, because that was the Christmas vacation where Bryce gave me our beautiful little bookworm Buddha statue that honored our miscarriage. It's all part of the story though, and the wine tasted gorgeous despite the grief we felt at the time we bought it.

We feel like this year is so different from the grief-filled, desolate holidays of the past, where we had just suffered a loss of one kind or another and weren't quite sure where we were headed, family-wise. Last December was particularly rough because we'd really lost hope in the process and were at that crossroads where we were trying to figure out next steps while still keeping our toes dipped in the seemingly-tainted IVF waters. But this December? There's a nursery upstairs, a feeling of hope that maybe this could be our last Christmas just the two of us (with a dose of reality that there are no guarantees and next year may be a bit more bitter than sweet if we're still waiting), and a sense of appreciation that we can have this time together in the meantime. We are sucking the marrow out of our wait, enjoying all that we can before our life changes dramatically, possibly at the drop of a hat (or a ring of the phone). We are feeling 90% celebratory and hopeful and 10% empty-baby-shaped-hole sadness. This time--our amorphous status, and the mercurial feelings of hope and fear that we cycle through--is a limited one.

So, join Bryce in a toast to the holidays and all the hope and joy and anticipation that goes with them. Merry Christmas to you if you celebrate, and joy to you regardless. May each year be ever more sweet than bitter.

Cheers to you, friends. Happy Holidays!


  1. This post made me smile. I'm so glad you had a wonderful Christmas and made it your own.

    1. Thanks, Cristy! It's been a great Christmas for sure.

  2. All those books are great! I love that the two of you put such thought into your gifts for each other!

    1. He's such a great guy for so many reasons, but the seemingly neverending pile of books is one of my favorites. It's fun to always find a way to make holidays joyful for ourselves, even when we're missing that piece we're waiting for. :)

  3. Jess, I'm so happy to hear about your lovely Christmas and hopeful spirit! I've been thinking of you and dear future baby. Sending lots of love, hope, and joy your way!

  4. This is beautiful post! Your attitude is incredibly inspiring after all you have been through! I love so much about this post...your delicious-sounding dinner and the way you describe it! Swiss Chard has never sounded so appealing!...the way Bryce picks out books for you...the pictures of the waterfall!! And how adorable you look Christmas morning in your festive colors (Esp the mismatched socks!)...the last picture of Bryce toasting...just a really feel-good post!
    I am so glad you had a wonderful Christmas.