A Special kind of Christmas
Three women explain why their celebrations this year will feel unique ‘I never thought I’d have a family of my own’
Alexandra Heminsley, 41, had two rounds of IVF and a miscarriage before giving birth to baby Linus. This will be her first Christmas as a mom. She is an author and lives with her partner.
“For most of my thirties I chose to opt out of Christmas: it’s a time for families, and if you don’t have one of your own, the festive season can leave you emotionally raw by the time the last of the mince pies has gone. Even if your loved ones are the kindest of folk (as mine are), Christmas needs kids – and if you have somehow neglected to finish the year with spouse or infant in tow, it can be brutal.
Rather than mooch around feeling sorry for myself, for years I chose to do charity work over the holidays. Doing something for others helped me cope with the season’s oppressive jolliness, and it was a hasty reminder of how many of us struggle at this time of year. Sometimes, it’s far easier to be genuinely happy among strangers than to feel lonely among those you love the most. Within a year of marriage, my partner agreed – we were, by that stage, embroiled in fertility treatment – and doing volunteer work felt like an essential Christmas survival mechanism.
‘I’ll wear two party hats and make up for lost time’
I don’t really remember the Christmas before last. After two unsuccessful rounds of IVF and utterly broken by a miscarriage only weeks earlier, we chose a numbingly boozy, friend-filled day, me pretending that a family might not be that important after all. A year later I was pregnant, but having had some scary test results, was terrified to tell anyone but close family and friends. Having our baby with us still seemed impossibly far away. We barely did anything, staying at home and shunning Christmas parties.
This year we’re about to embark on the Christmas I never thought we’d have, the first with our ruddy-cheeked, giggly baby. We can love him, squish him and treat him without too much eort at all. I’ll splash out on some crackly wrapping paper, which will no doubt fascinate him for hours, and I am giddily looking forward to dressing him up in a reindeer Babygro. Yet the thought of reintegrating ourselves back into a straightforward Christmas makes me slightly uneasy.
It isn’t because we won’t be happy, of course we will, never happier! Perhaps I just can’t forget how cruel the season can be to those who don’t fit in: those without the family, the support network, or the grit to get through the enforced fun unscathed. So this year, we’re back to the shelter at our church, juggling the baby and volunteering in shifts.
The rest of the time I’ll be throwing myself into Christmas, making up for lost time. I’ll be wearing two party hats at every meal, one for this year and one for a time I couldn’t face it. I’ll eat whatever I want, throw sleeping regimes to the wind, and relish the sight of my nephews squabbling over who gets to hold the baby. Because even when I couldn’t express it through the murky sludge of sadness, I love my extended family and friends as much as I do my new family. I’d never have made it to this dream Christmas without them.”
New mom Alexandra with baby Linus
Alexandra’s Leap In: A Woman, Some Waves and the Will To Swim (Cornerstone) is available from Exclusive Books.