What Works Best for Us at Christmas

What Works Best for Us at Christmas

I want to tell you all about our Christmas experience, but tomorrow we have another family get together. By the time we finish all of our Christmas-ing, January will feel well on its way. That’s how it is, I suppose.

Right now, our main focus falls on letting our sons enjoy their Christmas Day at home. No rushing through present opening. No making them get dressed before two o’clock in the afternoon. No splitting the day between various households. No four hours in the car. They wake up at o’dark o’clock, open presents, and spend the rest of the day eating delicious foods while playing with said presents.

It’s wonderful.

And it’s awful.

I love taking the slow approach to Christmas. I really appreciate telling the boys that I’m not even starting to make my labor-intensive Christmas Waffles until 9:30, and then, when I nearly catch the waffle iron on fire, there’s no big rush to get everything finished so we can get out the door. I like snacking sometime midday. In bed. I enjoy multiple mimosas. I really like staying in my super-cute Christmas Pajamas until four o’clock, at which point I put on leggings and a top.

But I miss our family members.

We’ve invited them to spend the day with us for the past three Christmases, thus being the ones we’ve decided to stay home and let the boys do their thing. No one has taken us up on the offer. We’ve extended the invite to all people who may be hosted by those other individuals as well, as we want everyone to be cared for and fed on such a holiday. Last year, Gramps and Mamaw came over for our Christmas meal and we dearly appreciated their presence.

My mother once told me she didn’t get to host Christmas Day until she was well into her 40s. I’m 35, going on 36, and so far, no go. I predict when the boys are a little bit older and their Christmas presents all travel with them, we can start traveling on Christmas Day again. But when LittleBrother wants nothing more than to start building his 10 bag LEGO fire station set on Christmas Day, I feel like staying home remains the appropriate choice for now.

I’m so excited to spend the day with my family tomorrow (or, as it’s past midnight because insomnia, today). I can’t wait to watch our nephews open their presents, to spend time with my parents, to joke with my brother and sister-in-law, to create memories with extended family members. All of that may not happen on Christmas Day, but it still happens. I’m okay with that.

In fact, it’s what works best for us right now.

Merry Christmas.

What Works Best for Us at Christmas


13 Years In Seems As Good A Time As Any To Look At Trauma, Right?


Today my daughter turned 13.

I’ve been struggling in the past week and a half leading up to this day. When she left after a visit last week, I felt depleted, empty, and overwhelmingly anxious. I did finally schedule a therapy appointment for this coming Friday, but not before suffering through a nearly all day panic attack.

The flashbacks are the worst during this time frame. I’ll just be sitting or standing or walking, watching TV or working or cooking, and suddenly I’m in a hospital room. Or I’m driving away from New Jersey. Or I’m in the clinic office. Or I’m alone, on Level III bed rest, in my basement apartment. Or I’m in the ambulance. I can hear the words that others say, what the doctors are saying over my head as I fight for my life yet again. I can feel the cold, damp air. I can smell the antiseptic smells of the hospital.

I have a strong, photographic memory about most things. I can remember what I wore on the first day of school every year of my life. But this is a very different experience. When I want to recall something in my past, I willingly go there and rifle through memories and pick out the one I’m looking for at the time. When it comes to the flashbacks, they come uninvited, unprompted. They take my breath away, quite literally. They’ve actually gotten stronger over the past few years.

A friend of mine used the word trauma to describe what I experience, and I immediately shut down.

I recognize there’s a lot of trauma in adoption, especially for adoptees. So why did I balk?

I have the best case scenario. I have a positive, on-going relationship with my daughter. I’m great friends with my daughter’s mom. We have nearly-monthly visits, save for occasional misses due to life. My sons not only know their sister but they love her. I am surrounded by loving, compassionate friends who show up at my house when I need them, who check on me, who want to be present with me in the good times and the bad.

I’m a mental health advocate. I have helped mothers who suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders understand that PTSD is a real, treatable illness. I assure them that PTSD isn’t just reserved for our Veterans, that their trauma is real.

But me?

I chose this, right? That’s what some of my haters and trolls have reminded me of over the years. I chose this. I could have parented. I could have done a million things differently. Right?

Yes, I could have.

But I’m working really hard on understanding that I did the best I could at the time with the information and resources available to me at that time. I swear I’m working on believing it, internalizing it. It’s really, really hard.

Today, a beloved woman I am so lucky to know and call a friend shared this as part of her 24 days of poetry.

Forgive yourself.
For something you’ve been carrying around.
Say it out loud
into the air.

I laughed out loud when I read it. Today, of all days. My daughter’s 13th birthday on the 13th of December; her golden birthday. I’d love to forgive myself. People keep telling me to forgive myself, asking me to forgive myself, pushing me to forgive myself.

I just don’t even know how. It’s been my goal in therapy for years. I’m maybe like two steps closer to figuring it out, but barely. I don’t know what forgiving myself looks like, let alone how to get there.

Maybe that’s because there’s more trauma involved than I think. I don’t know yet.

But I do know this: 13 years ago I gave birth to my daughter. I loved her from the very moment I knew she existed and I have spent every moment since loving her all the more. If I had to relive all of this—every single moment of sadness and depression and anxiety and fear and loneliness and emptiness—I would. Would I change things, if I could? Yes. But if I had to relive it all just to have what I have with her now, I’d do it. I would do anything to have my daughter in my life. And I have.

I’m the mother of a teenager. I’m figuring it out as I go, the same as we all do. I am lucky to have her, and I hope she feels lucky to have me.