Thursday, November 20, 2014

That Holiday Feeling

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

The second we turn our calendars to November, the holiday season invades our lives. It sneaks its way into every activity we do, preoccupies our thoughts, and spreads to every place we go until its presence cannot be ignored. I don't mean for this to sound like it's a bad thing, but I believe that "spread" is literally the single best way to describe what happens with holiday cheer. There is nothing as contagious or as prevalent. Halloween comes and goes, and then suddenly, we just feel cozy. Just think about it: bundling up in layers, walking through crisp cool air, feeling hot chocolate-soaked marshmallows melt in your mouth, smelling all of your favorite family recipes waiting for you to gobble them up (pun slightly intended).

But for me, this feeling we all get this time of year has another layer to it now. Wow. That's the only way I know how to describe it. Just wow. I'm just absolutely bewildered by how much life has changed since the 2013 holiday season. Not so much life, I suppose. My life is pretty similar. I go to work, I try to help people, I try to better my practice and advance my profession. I spend time with your daddy, we cook dinner together, we make each other laugh, we curl up with Chelsea and watch Netflix. I text with Auntie Amanda all day, I Instagram my latest DIY project/Pinterecipe/pretty cocktail, and when I'm not feeling too lazy I actually go out with friends. But I have changed. My capacity to love has changed.

This time last year, I was excited to meet you. I've spent a lot of time trying to decide what that means. "Excited." Was I excited to no longer be pregnant? Was I excited to become a mom? Perhaps it was a little of both? And what do I mean by "excited?" Was it the kind of butterflies you feel in anticipation of a new vacation or reuniting with an old friend? Or was it like looking forward to the latest Hunger Games movie? I've decided that the excitement I felt actually was most analogous to that of Jessie Spano. She was before your time, so I'll summarize briefly. Jessie was a teen character on a hit tv show from back when Mommy and Daddy were kids. In one absolutely hallmark episode, Jessie feels overwhelmed by the stresses of being a teenager in the early 90s, namely balancing her demanding geometry homework with the pressures of keeping up with her friends. She succumbs to caffeine pills as a poor coping mechanism, and is left pretty amped up, but also quite terrified of the uncertainties of her future. Fortunately, her BFF Zack Morris comes to her rescue and everything works out. I digress.

I'm a sensitive person, and I don't know whether you'll be sensitive or not. It's okay either way. But I just want to throw out that just because I'm comparing bringing you into this world to becoming addicted to barely-controlled substances, that doesn't mean that I don't love you. Or that I didn't love you. Or that I didn't want you. You were very wanted and loved before you got here, before you were even thought of. But none of those sentiments can even remotely compare to the extent of my love for you now. Today.

This time last year, I had no idea what to expect, and that was a bit scary. I consider myself to be a pretty brave person, but fortunately, I've never really had to test my courage. I'm been brave through tough situations. I've overcome adversity enough to relate to characters like Harry Potter, but I've never needed to be brave in the face of fear. My unexpectedly complicated delivery left me pretty paralyzed by fear. I wasn't quite sure how to get around that. I remember at one point, your Mimi asked me if I thought I felt like I had postpartum depression. I didn't feel depressed, just scared. Overwhelmed. So excited, but so so scared. Since I didn't fit into the box of "fine" and I didn't fit into the box of "postpartum," I didn't really reach out for help.

Daddy was really patient with me, which made me feel loved. That comforted me more than anything else at the time. Auntie Amanda was really helpful, too. They were both with me 24/7 for the first two weeks of your life. Daddy suffered through sleep-deprivation with me, while Auntie Amanda took care of Chelsea and made us breakfast every day. One of my most vivid memories (and I don't have many from those blurry first days) was watching Orange is the New Black with them. I remember that I found the haunting theme song uncomfortably relatable. I felt stuck and trapped in my new life. My life was moving so quickly, but standing still at the same time. I remember having these thoughts while staring off into our Christmas tree. It was the first time those warm lights left me feeling cold and anything but cozy, even with all of those "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments. That's another thing: the first picture I posted on Facebook after you were born was of your Christmas ornament. Why in the world didn't I post a picture of you?! The first family photo we took of the three of us was with you in your carseat on Day 3, getting ready to go home. What.

These thoughts and actions seem so illogical to me, a year later. Was it sleep deprivation? Hospital disorientation? Or this crippling fear that I might screw something up while simultaneously having an identity crisis?

Last year, I didn't host Thanksgiving. I barely bought a single Christmas gift. I don't even remember Christmas. This year, it's business as usual, but better. I'm back to my usual organized self with my Any List shopping list and my Evernote full of recipes, but what's even better is that I'm so excited to share it with you. I'm so excited to show you all of our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah traditions. I'm so excited to create new traditions of our own. I'm so excited to spend an obscene amount of money spoiling you with Christmas presents, and birthday presents too! And best of all, I'm not the least bit scared.

We're working on the second season of Orange is the New Black right now. Just like that holiday feeling, the eerie theme song sent a signal to my amygdala reminding me of these foreign emotions I felt this time last year. It's so surreal and bizarre to think about now, because now I can't ever imagine feeling that way.

I loved you when I first met you. And I loved you even more once my post-delivery fog evaporated and I was left with a clearer picture of what our new life was going to be like. But even that doesn't compare to how much I love you now. It's a different kind of love, one greater than I ever thought possible. What's more, my love for you makes me love your daddy even more. Knowing that we share you in a way that no one else gets to, seeing how amazing he is with you, it's jus the greatest. The love I feel for my new family is a new kind of cozy that I get to take with me all year long, not just during the holidays.

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