I have been sending out Christmas cards since the first year Ger and I were married (so that was 11 Christmases ago…) I have a large, black wire card tree that lovingly holds all of the cards we receive in return. By the end of the season, my tree is full and I feel that my heart is also full to have so many wonderful people in our lives.The past few years have been a bit of a strain. Of course I would still send out a card, but our family was not what I had pictured. The photo from our 2015 card was taken the same weekend that we went to scatter Nelle’s ashes beneath the tree in the coulee. We had skipped professional family photos that year, so it worked but I can see the pain on my face. And I look at that photo and am forever reminded of why we were in that place, on that day.
Usually our family photos are done in the Fall, but in 2016 we did August photos. Consciously or unconsciously, I was avoiding the Fall and our “usual” tradition of bundling ourselves in sweaters and colors. The photographer was new to me. I had asked her to snap a photo of our family walking away from the camera so that she could capture my tattoo, but in my haste to make sure we had that moment, I did not tell her why that tattoo was so important. I was disappointed when the pictures came back and not one had the tattoo picture. They must not have turned out. I didn’t feel a connection with the photographer so I didn’t follow up with her on it.
I know that by choosing August photos, I was also avoiding a time when I “might or might not be” pregnant again. As we headed into Fall and past the time in which the doctors had told us to wait, I knew that could be a possibility. I didn’t want to forever capture a pregnancy in our family photos that I knew could end in another loss.
Every year when I hang out new family photos, I keep the old pictures behind the new, inside the frame. I have this theory that some day, when I die, someone will go through my possessions. They will remove the current photos from the frame and find the history of past photos, like a secret surprise waiting to be discovered. Hidden treasures.
December 10th, 2016. I have a family photo from that day, from a holiday brunch that we had attended with the kids. I had found out only a day or two before that I was pregnant. I was still riding the high of elation: fear had not yet settled in (though it would shortly thereafter). We met friends for lunch, and though the friend was very dear to me and had been with me through many tears following our losses, I couldn’t tell her. At that point, it was nothing more than “pregnant” on an at-home test, and I felt like a doctor’s visit was necessary before I started sharing among those closest to me.
And now this year. A Christmas card with Autumn included. I wanted to share it with the women I have met through my support group, as they mean so much to me, but was very aware of those that I know are still struggling to have their rainbow babies. Who haven’t sent out cards yet, because they are waiting to bring babies home. It made my heart so joyful as I was able to share a family photo with Autumn, miss the past years that should have included Nelle or Iris, and hurt for other families that I know.