Christmas cards seem like the easiest part of Christmas. Sending a message of love to those who mean a lot to you. What could symbolise the spirit of Christmas more? Cards have always been important to me. I love receiving cards and I write them a lot, or used to.
However, for many years now, they have been exceedingly symbolic to my perceived place, or lack of place in society. They have embodied a lot of my feelings. As my friends married, I would write the cards to Mr and Mrs ‘same surname’. Meanwhile, I still got cards addressed to Miss. I mean the obsession with using Miss for any unmarried woman is a particular bugbear of mine. In France, unless you are very clearly still a young girl, you are called Madame, not mademoiselle. Your marital status has no bearing. My inner feminist hates that a woman’s status is symbolised so blatantly, I stopped early on declaring any kind of status on my cards and simply wrote names, no Miss; Mrs (or Mr!). I felt strongly about it, but I pretended to ignore it.
Then, I was single. For years. Not only were cards addressed to Miss, but I could only sign off with my own name. The significance of that, when I was still struggling to come back from the loss of my soulmate, my heart was shattered, it stung. I was now down to just the one name, but seemed to be adding more names to the cards I was writing. The lowly Christmas card was ensuring I was fully aware of my place in society. Unmarried, unattached, progressively feeling more and more unlovable and also childless. Year after year. But I ignored it.
I’ve said before how spinster and barren are two words so shrouded in shame but also blame. There is a reason you are still single, there is a reason you are childless. People will deny they think this and yet this underlying thought is felt with every well-meaning, ‘helpful’ suggestion. The “why don’t you try online dating?”; “why are you so picky?”; “why don’t you give him another chance?” Even more personal remarks, which I was genuinely told “don’t sound too clever on the first date”; “don’t get all political”, making a loud and clear judgement that somehow I was the one to blame for my singleness. Similar to the ensuing, “‘it’ll happen when you stop thinking about it” or “why don’t you try eating this”, when trying to get pregnant. The well-meaning advice is given, because the reason you are single and childless is because you are doing something wrong. If you had done things correctly, like everyone else had, you wouldn’t be here, therefore their ‘helpful’ advice is coming from a place of experience and knowledge. I acknowledge that these comments come from a place of trying to help. It is very probably that in my vulnerable state of hurt I took comments to heart which I shouldn’t have. So works heartache. But from the outside, I smiled through and never said a word. I tried to ignore it.
I’ve digressed! Back to the Christmas cards. After the hurt of having to sign my solitary name after the heartache of losing my little family unit, I eventually met Soulmate #2. But then things get weirder! I was pregnant over Christmas. I was a mum, albeit an invisible one. The dream, a mum for Christmas. I wrote my cards with two names, glowing in the pride and knowledge next Christmas I would have another name to write. I lost that baby, but the following month I was pregnant again. Still going to have another name in the card. Except next Christmas came and there was no baby, no name, just a screaming hole where the names should have been. Receiving cards also, with no name, my babies’ names were missing in every one. My babies which hadn’t existed to anyone but me. But I ignored it.
The following years followed the same pattern. I was pregnant through another two Christmases after that, but still no additional name to write or receive. A huge elephant in the room, in my life, but Christmas cards were exchanged once more with no acknowledgement of my babies, or my loss in general. Everyone ignored it. I ignored it.
This year, I have not written cards. I cannot really explain why, when for so many years I ignored my emotions around them. This year I am closer to having my family than ever, we have been approved for adoption. And yet this year I cannot bring myself to put pen to paper. This year I’ve really struggled. Not with acute, gut-wrenching fresh grief, but with longer-standing milder grief as it is now, as part of my acceptance of my infertility. And yet this grief feels more determined somehow.
I have worked so hard to heal, perhaps my grief is telling me this is as far as my healing can go? Maybe I finally feel my emotions are valid and therefore deserve to be protected? Perhaps its simply that lockdown has made me more reflective, or perhaps because it has shaken every single one of my normal habits and customs, then why not one more? Why this year when, I am so close to being a mum do I chose to not send cards?
There are only two cards I want to write this year. One to my lost babies, whom I like to think of as stars. I don’t believe in any deity and therefore, no afterlife and no angels, but I do know that we are part of a huge universe and as such, poetically made of star dust. I say poetically, since this is my layman’s, romanticised view of astrophysics, of which I cannot claim any decent knowledge of.
The second card would be for my yet to be found babies, the ones who will make me a legitimate mum.
To my lost babies,
My darlings, I wish we could spend Christmas together. The time of year which always meant the most to me, which made me want to be a mum above anything else. I want you to know how loved you were, for every single second of your life. You were so loved, so wanted. Losing you broke me. I felt my soul being severed from my body at the same time as you were. Although my heart beats on, its different. I am different. You made me shine from the inside. You made me feel like I was finally home, that the searching could stop. You made me feel whole.
I want you to know that I will always think of you and love who we were together. I loved being your mum for the shortest time. I feel so conflicted being excited to meet my adopted children. They will be my all. They will make me a mum, as you once did. As you should have done. I believe that we will find the perfect children for our little family. Its difficult to accept that had I not lost you, I wouldn’t now be finding my children. I don’t believe in destiny, had you lived, you would have been my perfect children. No one will ever replace you or take away your special place in my heart.
Merry Christmas my little stars.
Forever your mummy x
To my beautiful children,
I had hoped we would be together this Christmas, but due to the year we’ve had, everything got delayed, including our approval. It makes Christmas feel better to know you are out there, that I will meet you very soon. I cannot wait to share this very special time of my year with you. I really hope I can make it special for you too.
Being your mum will be the best thing I do in my life, but I am truly sorry that you need it. I am sorry that your lives have known so much separation and hurt when you are still so small. I’m sorry this is all happening to you right now and as your mum, I’m not able to protect you from it. My darlings, you will complete me, I will finally be the person I feel I truly am. The best me. I hope that I will be worthy of that feeling and can help you be the best you.
We won’t look alike. We won’t share any DNA. I won’t have carried you for 9 months, but I have carried my love for you for decades. You won’t have grown in my tummy, but my excitement at meeting you grows daily. I won’t know so much about your story. I may not know which side of your birth families you look most like. I may not know what your name meant to the person who chose it. We won’t have started out in the same house or with the same family name, but I truly believe that our little family will just fit. Some days will be really tough. Others will be perfect. And most will be somewhere in the middle, but we will be together, we will find our way.
I wish we could have started our forever family in time for this Christmas, but I will make do with knowing that each day I am one day closer to being with you. I hope you are safe and being cared for this Christmas.
Merry Christmas my brave little darlings, until you come home.
Your forever mummy x
I don’t really know the aim of this blog. Just some thoughts I’ve had and I thought perhaps others may be able to relate or share these same feelings. I guess if you take anything away from this, its to think about the impact of cards to people. What may not feel significant to you (the lack of a name either in the ‘To’ or the ‘From’) can be someone’s entire existence and experience. It may feel like just another Christmas tradition. A job on the Christmas list, tick ✔
But for some, writing and receiving cards is so symbolic of where they are and perhaps more so, where they are not. The simple act of letting someone know you are thinking of them, can also show that although you are thinking of them, you do not really understand where they are at all. Loneliness is not only about being alone. It can be being surrounded by people who just don’t/can’t truly hear or see you.
Next year I will write cards again, because I want to. Regardless of what will have happened. I will fight this card aversion I feel just now, because that's not the me I want to be.