Monday, January 2, 2017

A White (And Blue) Christmas

It took a few days, but we're finally back in California and fairly decompressed.  The travel to Chicago and Michigan was largely amazing (beautiful snow!), but exhausting all the same.

We had the opportunity to spend time with loved ones who we rarely see in person, and that is always good for our souls.  This year in addition to the usual suspects, we visited with rainbow babies, PAL mamas, and loss families.  Seeing these people interact with Everett is very special.  Talking with these same people about Oberon is also extremely comforting.  We saw it somewhere in reference to the loss community - "You meet the best people for the worst reason."  We certainly feel that way.

Like seemingly everything these days, the whole month of December was bittersweet, including our holidays.  Watching Everett play with his cousins and friends was heartwarming, followed by stinging tears from seeing yet another experience Oberon never had.  Finding the balance is a daily struggle, but we did our best.

Meeting Santa for the second time (Henry Ford Museum) - December 21, 2016

Rocking his new Woody hat from Grandma & Grandpa F - December 23, 2016

This was our first quasi-normal Christmas since 2013.  In 2014, Oberon was here.  Our families visited on and around Christmas, but it certainly wasn't traditional and we did not see extended family in person (but we did see them on screen).  Last year, Elizabeth was 8.5 months pregnant, so there was no flying.  Again we did video-chatting and mailing gifts, but there were no meals or hours-long visits.

Things have changed since 2013.  Chris's parents are no longer in Michigan during the holidays.  Chris's grandfather and Elizabeth's grandmother passed away.  There are new babies, new houses, and new spouses.

We agree that the holiday traditions were easier on us than we feared, but we also agree that having the "year off" in 2015 was beneficial to us.  We missed Oberon fiercely this year, but we had Everett to focus on.  We watched Evie play, had to make sure he was fed and comfortable, all those little (and large) parenting duties.  The thought of being in those rooms, in those groups, doing the holiday things without a little beastie of our own's intensely dark.  We had the excuses of being far away and unable to travel, but even if those weren't true we may not have participated in the holidays last year - at least not in the normal way.

Everyone is different, and finds different things healing vs. triggering, helpful vs. hurtful.  For us, sitting with loved ones watching them parent, watching their children run amok while we had empty arms would've been more bad than good.  We know that now.  It's a common theme in grief support groups to tell each other to take care of your heart, and if opting out is what you need - do it.  It's easy to say, but harder to do.  There are so many expectations around the holidays.  From people to visit and parties to attend to which moods are acceptable and what topics are allowed.  While it is wonderful when families can get together and celebrate in love, it is also important to acknowledge when those we love need something else.  Maybe it's a walk to get away for a minute, maybe it's not to attend at all.  

The holiday downsides weren't all grief-related.  Everyone got sick in one form or another, and Everett legit vomited for the first time.  Spit up, this was not.  Beet juice everywhere and chunks of food, this was.  Chris, Elizabeth, and Grandma F got varying degrees of disgusting and Evie got a couple of sink baths.  He was a trooper and after long naps seemed good as new.  We will, however, be cautious with beets going forward.

Christmas morning, 2016 - pre-beet explosion.

Because of all the sickness, we didn't let Evie play in the snow like we had planned.  It sure was beautiful, but not worth making any lingering illness worse.  Everett did get some time in the cold nippy air in beautiful Ann Arbor earlier in the week (you may recall, this was a promise), so that will have to suffice for now.

Don't worry guys, he didn't step on the M.  December 21, 2016

After traveling back home to California, we are catching up on some rest and trying to shake the last coughs and sniffles.  We made it through the anniversary of Obie's death (it sucked).  And we started a tradition for our little family - presents on New Year's Eve.  Since we will most likely be traveling for Christmas most years, it makes sense for us to have our gift exchange after we get back and are simply enjoying time together as a family.  Bonus, Everett finally seems to be getting the hang of opening gifts!

Opening New Year's Eve gifts, 2016

And now, we prepare to go back to daily life.  Embark on a new year.  Who knows what's in store?  Probably a mix of good things and bad, probably surprisingly wonderful parenting moments and unexpected triggers.  We know we can't control everything, but we're hoping for more good than bad.

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