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Holiday Traditions for the Baby I Never Thought I'd Have

We had been trying for just over a year when I saw it: hanging from a hook next to plush reindeer antler headbands and abominable snowman stuffed animals, a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer-brand rattle with a soft, circular grip that sprouted the fuzzy head of Rudolph himself.

I thought immediately of Christmases growing up, my butt parked on the couch in the rec room, a blanket—shared with my little brother—pulled up to my chin, watching the claymation film whose appearance on TV marked the start of the holiday season.

I looked at my husband. Would it be crazy if I ... ?

He allowed me to place it in our cart amidst the outdoor icicle lights and the over-the-door wreath hook and the rolls of wrapping paper.

We weren't pregnant yet. But someday.

The next year, I pulled it out of a trunk filled with animatronic Santas and snowmen and burst into tears. It was like a punch to the gut. Another year gone. A year during which, this time, we'd worked with a fertility center, getting multiple tests done, going through rounds of IUI that hadn't worked. I was slowly sliding into hopelessness, mostly because it hurt less than hope.

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Still, I tried to lose myself in my favorite season, and did all the things I do every year: watch my favorite holiday movies; hang the advent calendar on the fridge, reading aloud the newly revealed poem every day; bake five varieties of Christmas cookies with my mom and my brother over the course of several days; decorate the tree with my husband, my playlist of Christmas carols playing in the background; decorate my parents' tree with my brother, 24-hour Christmas carols playing in the background.

My husband and I also exchanged an ornament every year. And every year, I was newly amazed that we actually managed to fit all our ornaments on the tree.

This time, when I pulled that Rudolph rattle out of our trunk of ornaments, it was different. I felt a leap inside of me. It said: almost. It said: next time.

These were all traditions passed down from my family, down to the nitpicking and bickering over which ornaments were placed where on the tree (because god forbid you placed a large ornament on one of the tiny branches at the top of the tree). They were all things I couldn't live without because, otherwise, it just wouldn't feel like Christmas.

My husband and I had created our own tradition as well. We would pick up hot beverages from Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts and then drive around, picking a different neighborhood every time we went out, looking at the Christmas lights as we sipped gingerbread- or eggnog-flavored lattes. It felt good to create something new with my husband. Something just for us.

It was almost another full year before we found out I was pregnant.

And I almost didn't believe it, as we'd actually been waiting to start another round of IUI, and I no longer believed it could happen naturally.

This time, when I pulled that Rudolph rattle out of our trunk of ornaments, it was different. I felt a leap inside of me. It said: almost. It said: next time.

That Christmas Day, we made the announcement to our extended family.

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This year will be Em's first Christmas. And I'm already giddy with excitement over the thought of parking her in her Rock 'n' Play in the living room while we decorate the tree. Having her in the kitchen while we bake cookies, dancing around to "Jingle Bell Rock" and "All I Want for Christmas Is You." Watching the usual holiday films. Driving around with her, pointing out the Christmas lights. Taking her to our favorite holiday shop to pick out her very first ornament.

The Rudolph rattle will be wrapped and placed under the tree, her very first Christmas gift.

And then, when she's a little bit older, when she can understand these things a little bit more, when she can appreciate them ...

Maybe then, we'll create a new tradition just for the three of us.

Image via Thinkstock

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