The Year My Husband Stole Christmas

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Five years ago, there was no tree, no stockings, and no cheesy Christmas card. I remember the pictures we took that season. I forced every smile.

To be honest, our marriage had crumbled. Sure, every friend and family member who was happily anchored offered sound advice:

“Never go to bed angry.”

“Always say I love you.”

And my personal favorite, “You’ll always have each other.”

But a miscarriage ruined everything. I wanted to keep trying. My husband wanted to finish his PhD. And it seemed we were in pursuit of different children.

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The Ugly Years

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Just before I graduated high school, I got this amazing idea: chop off all of your hair (think Mandy Moore c. 2003). Ashamedly, I did not have Locks of Love in mind. No, I was entirely selfish.

I wanted a new start.

You see, hair has always been my calling card. I have never dyed or treated my hair and somehow – by the blessing of God – I maintained golden locks for the first three decades of my life.

My mother’s experience, however, would foreshadow my own: blonde until babies. And, right on time, I gradually lost my sun-kissed signature hair in the years following childbirth.

But it was impossible for me to predict the other changes that were simultaneously emerging – the widening hips, the spider veins, and the wrinkles.

The ugly years, without my consent, had arrived.

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The Baby Doll Effect

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You know you are the mother of a toddler when you have your first temper tantrum – that moment when you desperately want your child to do something, and they simply refuse.

Such was the scene in my son’s preschool earlier this week when each child was lovingly gifted a handmade pillow by the crafting ladies of the church. It was a beautiful gesture. Really.

Except my son didn’t want the pale blue pillow placed in his cubby. He wanted the vibrant floral one…with the obnoxious lace ruffle. His kind teachers allowed him to switch. And just when I thought I could let it go, I snapped.

I felt the need to justify his choice to every parent we encountered down the hall.

“Oh, yes, his sister will inherit this one!”

Clearly, something deep was happening. Why couldn’t I support my son’s decision?

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The Sweet Enemy

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I am a mother. I have two young children. And every birthday party I attend feels like one giant lie.

To be honest, I am one who has always prided herself on control.

I maintained two very healthy pregnancies.

I lost the baby weight.

I prioritize exercise.

But, deep within, there is a secret: I have a toxic relationship with sugar. And – when no one is watching – I binge.

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The Smoky Trail of Tears

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It was a moment I didn’t see coming.

“You are a little engine, but you go so fast.”

Right there, in the middle of a Thomas adventure, I lost it. The tears flowed, and the familiar words I can practically recite in my sleep blurred. My son lifted his head with concern to study my face. I locked eyes with my husband.

“I know,” he whispered.

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Grand Answers

Grand Answers

I’ll be the first to admit that I used to be one of those annoying pregnant women who believed that she could will herself into having a natural birth – no medicine, no struggle, no problem. That was, of course, my first pregnancy.

I once read that the pain associated with giving birth is comparable to several bones breaking in the body at once, and I would have to agree. Every sense and pulse in your body tells you that you might be dying (and, truthfully, you kind of wish you were), but the catch is that you must deliver a sweet, innocent, and vulnerable being that is, in ways both known and unknown, a part of you. This is the best motivation I can think of to persevere.

When my body collapsed from sheer exhaustion after seven hours of unmedicated labor, I realized that what I had secretly been denying for nearly nine months was actually true. I cannot do this alone.

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