Christmas. House to clean, gifts to buy, and as always you need to bake and cook and entertain guests. Only this year all that happens with a baby in your arms. With the tired you hurrying to do everything between feedings.
Christmas. Remind me - what exactly are we celebrating? Isn’t the holiday a commemoration of birth? A day when a Mother gave birth to a Son, and then gazed with love at His little hands, soft curls, tiny nose like a drop of milk? Maybe she smelled his head, made sure his breath was even, hugged to protect from cold. She knew it was the time in her life for simple love and closeness. And she realized that it was not going to repeat, not like that.
Initially, this entry was supposed to explain how you can prepare Christmas with an infant around, because they tend to be demanding and complicate pre-holiday preparations and shopping. Before I started writing, I took a look at the photos of my daughters, taken during their first Christmas. I remember those days very well... Bustling around the house with H. in a sling, because she didn’t want to be alone. Or M. trying to get ginger cookies hanging from the Christmas tree. And her laughter, because she’d just learned to laugh out loud, presenting new shiny white incisors. The following Christmas, when she could walk and talk a little, and I said it was time to decorate the Christmas tree. My daughter nodded happily, ran to her desk, selected crayons, stickers, paint and brushes, and ran back to “decorate” the tree.
I remember how H. for 2 hours straight listened to one carol, marching around the table set for Christmas dinner, her beloved teddy bear pulled behind by his paw.
Or the moment when grandpa took the girls into his arms and went to a dark room to search for the first star. Then, I would open windows on the other side of the flat, ring a glass bell, make tracks on the snow on the balcony and shout: “He’s just been here!”
I remember one more thing. The Christmas before they were born. The amazing feeling that someone I loved the most in the world was so close to me, all the time, day and night - kicking me, pushing and shoving in my belly, but they were there and would always be a part of me. And even though I was unable to share food at the table, or give them gifts, I did share everything else with them, every breath and drop of blood.
Rush-less and record-less Christmas
What was I about... Right! How you can prepare Christmas with a baby in your arms. After all, the tradition wants certain dishes on the Christmas table (pudding and turkey come to mind), floors must be spotless, tablecloth - white like snow, gingerbread soft enough. Gifts to buy, seating to be arranged to avoid arguments at the table. Decorations, preparations, plans...
By the way - I wonder why it is usually women who think about such things. Seriously - do you know men who, despite exhaustion, continuous availability and the lack of time, would wonder whether Uncle Bob prefers a new scarf or tie? Or: is it better to make a side dish at home, or buy it from a friend’s friend who supposedly cooks great? We do it all the time. We set our goals so high that even a Supergirl wouldn’t reach it. Especially with a baby in her arms...
Less stuff, more joy
But I digress, again. Let’s get ready for Christmas! I’ll be brief and to the point. What would I tell myself if I were a mother of a newborn now and wanted to prepare the best Christmas ever?
1. If Christmas mood and atmosphere are important to you, if you want to follow tradition and if - for Christmas magic to work - you need certain symbols, make a list of things that are indispensable for a perfect Christmas holiday. Put it away and read the following day, striking out entries you can do without. Look at the results, count the points left. Add another entry: “thinking what should be done and when”; it’s very important and time-consuming. Done? Now split the tasks between all the adults who are going to spend the holiday with you. Leave 1 or 2 for yourself.
2. Talk to family members about preparations. Give everyone a chance to talk. Remind them that you are a mother now and you need to be available for the child 24/7. You don’t have a lot of spare time. You can do this and this, but not that.
3. If in your family Christmas food and decorations are always home-made, try to adopt a different perspective. Think about Christmas as an opportunity to give. For example, you can give other people a chance to earn money when they do things instead of you.
4. Make a list of people you want to give gifts. One present per person is enough. Find the gifts in internet shops. It would be best to find a shared interest or hobby and buy gifts for family in the same place, which also lowers shipping costs and you get everything delivered together. Maybe all of you like sports and everyone can get a gadget for their favourite sport? Or maybe you love cooking? Reading? Music?
5. If you follow the principles of minimalism and Zero Waste Life (ecological approach to life, not buying unnecessary things) - think about valuable immaterial gifts. Theatre or concert tickets? A gift card? Pre-paid club membership? A beauty treatment?
6. Adapt Christmas decoration to the conditions. If you have a crawling baby, buy a smaller tree this year and put it outside their reach. Choose light and shatterproof decorations (paper, wool, wood, plastic). Be careful with the tablecloth and cutlery. A curious baby may reach for the tablecloth hanging from the table and pull sharp things or hot liquids onto their head.
7. For adults, Christmas is that special time of the year, but for a little baby it’s just another day. Try not to change the daily routine too much, because the baby will grow restless. A walk, feeding, napping - all should occur at the usual time. You can forgo a bath, unless that’s what helps your baby to calm down and fall asleep.
8. The well-being of the child is the most important, right? Right, so use it as an excuse to wriggle out of visiting those relatives you really don’t like. If you don’t feel like meeting someone, if Christmas makes you exhausted, annoyed or depressed - avoid things that make you feel worse. Little children absorb emotions like a sponge. When they sense their parents’ anxiety, they get anxious themselves. Maybe we should spare them that?
9. Don’t forget what’s the most important here. Christmas is a time of peace, love, of cherishing the new life that came into this world. If you are a religious person, immerse yourself in faith, find strength in prayer. If you have another ideal to follow in your life, not necessarily faith-based, focus on that. Think about things that make you feel gratitude, hope, joy and happiness.
It’s not long till Silent Night comes. May it bring peace. To you and to your baby.