For the past 3 years, I've either been pregnant or had a new baby during Christmastime. I love the feel of the advent season while I'm expecting a baby of my own. It feels close. These last few years, I've felt a new wonder at what it must have been like for Mary to be pregnant with Jesus. It's a season of expectation, and I love expecting the birth of a savior when I'm also expecting the birth of my own baby.
That makes this year so so hard. There are constant reminders that I'm not pregnant anymore. Like every once in awhile when someone comments on me looking like I've lost some of the baby weight. On the outside I smile and say thanks, but all I can think is that I'm not supposed to be smaller than I was seven weeks ago. I'm supposed to be bigger. Or, a handful of times in the last 7 weeks when I've felt a gas bubble, or something in my belly that feels like a little baby moving. For a split second, I feel utter relief. I feel, for a moment, like I was desperately waiting for Harper to move, and she did. But the good feeling goes away in a fraction of a second when I remember that I'm not pregnant anymore, and whatever I felt wasn't Harper moving. Or, whenever I talk to Londyn about baby Jesus and she brings up baby Harper. For some reason she equates the two, and it's always a cold slap of reality when I have to explain to her again that Harper isn't coming home.
There's so much "sweet" this Christmas. This holiday with two kids is magical. It is so fun to experience Christmas through the eyes of an almost-3 year old. Nothing could be sweeter. Our little Burkey just started walking, and this season of his life is oh so sweet. He's such a fun little guy, and I'm so excited to start building his lifetime of Christmas memories.
I absolutely love this time of year with my family. But even with all of the "sweet", my heart feels so heavy with the "bitter". This is not the way that my Christmas was supposed to look this year, and I'm constantly reminded of that.
I could easily be overcome by that "bitter" this year. But, I know that the birth of my savior means the gift of HOPE. I'm filled with THANKFULNESS, and I'm realizing in a new way this Christmas how completely RELIANT upon that little baby Jesus I am to make it through every day.
I'm learning to live a new way. I'm learning to have joy in the midst of sadness. I'm learning that it's ok to one moment be laughing and playing with my kids, and the next moment be overcome with sadness that my Harper isn't coming home. Grief is a funny thing. I'm slowly learning that life won't go back to the way it was, but that I'll learn to live with a new normal. I'll be happy again. I'll have hope again. But, for the rest of my life I'll always wonder what it would have been like to have sweet Harper grow up in our home. I'll always wonder what she would have looked like, and what she would have loved to do. What would have made her mad, and what would have made her happy. There is so much in my life right now that makes me happy. But, there is also so much that makes me sad. And that's ok. Both are ok.
And so, this Christmas, I'm completely embracing both. I'm excited to see my kids' faces when they see presents under the tree Christmas morning, but I also know that I'm going to be devastated every time I look at the empty stocking hanger that we were going to hang Harper's stocking on. And I'm excited to go to our Christmas Eve church service, but I also know I'll feel so empty every time I put my hands on my belly and then remember that there's no baby inside.
I'm embracing the joy in my life, but I'm also embracing the pain. And I know that Jesus is there. In both.