This time of year is all about keeping watch, isn’t it? It starts in elementary school, when you paste together strips of green and red construction paper to make a chain – tearing off one link after each day until Christmas is finally here. And then there’s the impatient wait until those timeless stop-motion holiday cartoons are shown on TV. You know, Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen… For Christians, the current Advent season is about keeping watch for the coming of the Christ child. Those of the Jewish faith observe Hanukkah over eight nights, watching one candle being lit each night. And I believe many Muslims will observe Mawlid, the birth of the Prophet, this time of year with either fasts or communal feasts. So it doesn’t seem like an exaggeration to say that the whole world is keeping watch for something this time of year.
Even at much more mundane levels, it’s still all about keeping watch: anxiously checking various roasts, baked goods, and sundry dishes to make sure that nothing is ruined. My husband and his mother insist on consulting each of their half-dozen cookbooks to calculate cooking times, talking over each other in excited tones as they find contradicting instructions.
“No, no, no! Joy of Cooking says…”
“Betty Crocker always overcooks the meat…”
“¡Mira! [An expression my WASP mother-in-law always inexplicably uses.] Better Homes says…”
They’ve had the same spirited argument negotiating cooking times every holiday I’ve spent with them over the past eleven years. And even though they agree every year that at least two of their cookbooks are always wrong, they will still consult those same incorrect cookbooks next year. Just in case. Oddly, it doesn’t seem like a holiday to me until I hear this same comical, almost scripted debate.
This year, of course, my husband and I aren’t only waiting for the Christ child. (Yes, we’re Christian. And gay. Go figure.) Our surrogate is carrying twins, gestational age 9w2d (seven weeks after transfer). We know, intellectually, that there should be little chance of miscarriage at this point because our egg donor was young and healthy and our surrogate has a healthy biological child of her own. Plus our twins are continuing to thrive in utero, growing rapidly with strong heartbeats. But the old Grinch (also known as Fear) starts gnawing at me when I come across heartbreaking stories of how others have lost their children either before or shortly after birth. And you know from my previous blog posts that we’ve run into and across a huge number obstacles trying to build our family – so we’re a little nervous and fearful. Not sure when he or I will completely get over that, honestly.
My husband and I included letters in our Christmas cards to let family and friends know that we’re pregnant, even though we won’t be out of the first trimester until the week before Christmas (if you count three months out of nine: it’s Christmas Day if you divide 40 weeks by three). We felt that Christmas cards were a practical way to let everyone know. The thing about being practical is that it can have a snowball effect. We had been, for example, fairly measured in preparing the nursery (after the first week when we found out that we were pregnant and immediately spent over $1,200). But then Black Friday happened. Damn them! And not just Black Friday, but super nifty early-bird online access to Black Friday offers – you know, just for “loyal and special customers” – starting on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Double damn. Long story short, we ordered all of the rest of the nursery furniture we wanted – because when else would we get to save practically hundreds of dollars? Damn my practical nature. The first piece just arrived today.
Just as I start to worry that we may have gotten carried away and jinxed the pregnancy, it occurs to me that the axioms and proverbs on premature actions or planning too far ahead (“Don’t count your chickens…”, “Eat, drink and be merry…”, etc.) are less about superstition and more about trying to guard against disappointment becoming too bitter a pill to swallow. And as I sit writing this, I realize that dreaming big has always been an integral part of who I am. There’s no other way a former homeless teen would have dared to have looked for love and hoped for a family and built a career to boot. Yes, I’m humbled by and grateful for my blessings – but I also have a decidedly un-Calvinistic belief that I’ll continue to receive blessings in this life as well as the next. So please, God, continue to keep watch over my children; bless them and make them strong and healthy. Amen.