Sunday, December 21, 2014

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

I've been keeping a secret.

And now, at nearly 5 a.m., sleepless as usual, four days before Christmas, I sit in our dark living room with the Christmas tree lights on and wonder... do I tell?

I feel as if Christmas has driven me into hiding. It hasn't, really– at least, not the real Christmas. Perhaps the general expectations we have of Christmas have done so, just a little. I've been too tired, and too sick, and too overwhelmed to handle much more than helping Nate decorate the tree, and arranging the nativity scene on top of the bookshelf. This Christmas will come without parties, without feasting, without baking, without decorations, with only a few small gifts– a post-Grinch-larceny, Whoville sort of Christmas indeed.

Yet just as in Whoville, where Christmas came without any of the external trappings, it will come here as well. Christ has come, and will come again, and nothing I do or don't do in the way of cookies or decorations or presents will change that. The tidings of comfort and joy are not dependent on what's in the refrigerator or underneath the tree.

So here's the secret Nate and I've been keeping: we need comfort and we have joy this Christmas. We are grieving this first Christmas without Livia and Lucy even as Advent, this season of waiting, intensifies our own period of waiting– the anticipation of our third little one, growing quietly inside me. A little brother or sister for our sweet girls– due right around their birthday next June (and this mama dreams of all three of her babies sharing the same birthday.)

The secrecy? I could just as easily not explain, and you'd probably think you knew why. After what happened with the girls, why not play it safe? Why broadcast the potential for more sorrow? At least get out of the precarious first trimester.

As in Prufrock, that is not it, at all.

We kept the secret because we wondered if people would really understand the coexistence of joy and grief. We kept the secret because I was afraid– almost sick– at the idea that someone might say, or even just think, "Oh, she's pregnant again! I'm glad they're moving on," the underlying idea being that the death of one's twin daughters is something one ought to get over, to leave behind in the past. We kept the secret because I didn't know how– still don't know how– to respond to congratulations that appear to forget the existence of Livia and Lucy. We kept the secret because it is an emotionally exhausting thing to mourn and rejoice at the same time, and few people seem to understand the necessity, the rightness and goodness, of both.


Christmas will come, though, and Lord willing, so will Baby Three, and I am tired of keeping a secret mostly out of fear. I would rather try to teach people about this space where joy and grief live side-by-side than keep silent because of what they might say. I am tired of Christmas being perceived as existing only for the rejoicing, when it is just as much for the broken-hearted, and also for those who are straddling both spaces. I am tired of pretending to be either a mourning mama or a pregnant mama, when the reality is that I am both. I am Rachel, weeping for her children, and I am Mary, in awe of the life God has placed inside me. Christmas is the story of both– the birth of our Savior must be read in light of those heartbroken mothers of Bethlehem, wailing for their murdered babies. Oh, how we still need those tidings of comfort!

It ought to go without saying, but I say it anyway: our sweet Baby Three in no way makes his/her big sisters less precious to us. This is not a replacement child, but another child– our third child. Nate and I are thankful for all three of our babies, and we love all three of them whether they are here with us or not. Whether God gives Baby Three to us for a long or a short time, we celebrate him/her as we celebrate his/her sisters.

We meet this Christmas in the messiness of grief and the hope of joy.