As a child, Christmas was always a magical time of the year. My family would go all out with get-togethers, decorations, food and gifts. We had a real tree every year, we would visit all the family and have the most amazing Christmas dinner cooked by my Nan. Yes, as an adult it’s not been quite so exciting but it has continued to be a time of year I have enjoyed.
Things took a bit of a u-turn during the Christmas of 2013 when I went into labour on Christmas Eve. His due date was Boxing day so we’d had a little joke about a Christmas baby but we just assumed I would go overdue as he was my first. He had other ideas…
The birth didn’t exactly go how I had envisaged. Having an emergency C-section instead of my Christmas lunch was a bit of a shocker, to say the least! I was obviously ecstatic he was here safe and sound but it took a while to get my head around what had happened. It all seemed so surreal at the time and returning home and seeing the tree with its presents still sat underneath made me feel as though I had been in a time warp where 3 days had just vanished; taking Christmas with it. Myself, my husband and my sister had all been at the hospital from Christmas eve until Christmas day when I finally had Jake. My poor brother in law had spent the time alone looking after my dog! In the afternoon family members began to arrive at the hospital to have a hold of the newest family member so he well and truly interrupted everyone’s Christmas day – talk about making an entrance, eh! We even had a visit from the local paper whilst in hospital because they loved the idea of a Christmas baby story.
We decided to have our ‘Christmas’ with my sister and brother in law on the 29th… but it all just felt very odd. Everybody else had celebrated theirs and here we were playing catch up! It suddenly made me realise that each year would now always be different and I wasn’t sure how it would work. I had so much to think about.
When his first birthday came around and we decided to have a big celebration the weekend before because we couldn’t do anything on the actual day. We had a large party for everybody we knew, with soft play, music, games and plenty of food. People came from all over to attend, 75 in total, which we were so grateful for as it was so close to Christmas that I was concerned we would be let down.
As the day itself drew closer the reality of his birthday being on Christmas day returned. Others, of course, still wanted their Christmas which was understandable, but how did we work it so that Jake still got his birthday? We invited some family members to ours and used the morning to open birthday presents and then did Christmas presents after lunch but the day overall for me was overwhelming. At such a young age Jake didn’t understand what was going on, we were all fussing over him and wearing him out and there were so many presents (toys!) in my house that the OCD part of me was exploding inside! He had double the presents and cards and of course each of us had presents too, you could barely move in the living room. I didn’t enjoy it. It sounds awful to say it out loud but I just didn’t. I felt guilty that I’d had him on this day, I felt bad that he had to spend the rest of his life trying to celebrate his big day on another big day and I wondered how he would feel about it all as he grew up.
Just look at the size of that gift, you can imagine what I was thinking! (note the mess in the background)
I have heard every opinion in the book on this too. Why don’t you do a half birthday? Pick 25th June and celebrate it then. Why not have his birthday party in the summer so he can enjoy it with his friends? He could have a BBQ instead of a Christmas meal. Why not celebrate it on Boxing day? Or have Christmas as his birthday and then celebrate that a few days later… None of which have helped with the way I was secretly feeling inside. In my opinion, a birthday is the biggest day of the year as it is a day for you, a day all about you and marks a very important event. I think Christmas has become far too extravagant over the years and it seems to be taking too much focus away from those people with birthdays throughout December, even November as the songs begin to play in shops at this time. It has become overly commercialised. Have you ever tried to buy a birthday card in December? They reduce this section down in most shops to make way for the huge range of Christmas cards… and don’t get me started on the queues!
I understand if you are religious and celebrate it for those reasons but, let’s be honest, there are a lot of people who only celebrate it for the time off, time with family, eating and presents. My birthday is in November, nobody tells me to celebrate it in the summer. My husbands birthday is mid-December and he has certainly never had a half-year birthday so why should I do this for my son just because he was born on the 25th? Would you want to celebrate your birthday in the opposite half of the year?!
I already had this disappointment in myself regarding my C-section and before you jump straight to the comments to slate me, let me explain. I wanted a natural birth. Of course I had it down in my notes that any measures could be taken if difficulties emerged but in my heart I wanted to have him naturally. I certainly do not class a c-section as taking the easy way out, after experiencing one I honestly believe it is the harder option and I am definitely not one of those who believes that you haven’t fulfilled your role as a mother because you had assistance. What I had the issue with was not being in control of my body, feeling complete exhaustion instead of elation, thinking one of us was going to die in theatre and not being able to hold my baby immediately. For me, personally, I wanted a straight forward normal labour and birth of my baby. Add this disappointment to the guilt of having a Christmas day baby and you have the perfect recipe for beating oneself up!
On the run up to his second birthday, I had inadvertently become very anti-Christmas. I guess it was because I just wanted a day that was only all about him and I was trying to block out all of the other festivities going on. My husbands birthday is on the 14th December so traditionally we have always waited until after this date to decorate the house and buy a tree but there was no way we could do this with Jake’s birthday too. In order to mark the occasion, I looked for something he would love to do which wasn’t all about Christmas. I was over the moon when I discovered you could still visit Peppa Pig World a few days before Christmas. I knew he would enjoy seeing his favourite programme come to life and even though it had a Christmas theme going on we could overlook that for the day and enjoy the rides. I felt that I needed to give him a day just for him.
We didn’t decorate the house or buy a tree until Christmas eve and as Jake didn’t really understand the concept of the festive season it didn’t make any difference to him. On his actual birthday we decided to keep the day to just us three to try and make it about him and not all about Christmas traditions.
This year I have had to face my issues because I knew if I continued to blame myself for his birthday being on Christmas I would begin to begrudge it all more and more each year and that certainly isn’t what I want for my son. I hadn’t even realised how negative my feelings had become. Although, it seems like this year I don’t have much to worry about as it turns out Jake has a bit of a fascination with Christmas and all that goes with it! He has talked about it for most of the year, he has been excited at the possibility of snow and everywhere we have been that has a tree up has drawn him in like a moth to a flame! I have been explaining to him that his birthday is the same day as Christmas and that it is extra special. The development of his speech, understanding and communication have most definitely helped my own personal feelings about the day and my Christmas spirit is starting to creep back in! I really do hope he will continue to love Christmas as he grows up; only time will tell.
I may one day be facing a different story. I may have a child who asks why other children get to go out on their actual birthdays and he can’t? He may begin to ask if he can celebrate it on a separate day – I will leave these types of decisions up to him. He may become upset when children say they can’t come to his birthday parties because they are already tied up with Christmas parties or away with family. And, worst of all, he may receive one present and card for both birthday and Christmas because people will find the time of year far too expensive.
For now, I will deal with the here and now and this year I will feel better about it all, this year will be a good balance between Christmas and birthday celebrations and I will learn to enjoy both.
After all, he is the best Christmas present I have ever received!