Mariah Carey changed my life. Well, Mariah Carey’s timeless classic, All I want for Christmas is You, changed my life.
It was Christmas time when my wife and I decided we wanted to start having kids.
I’m a fair-skinned Scotch Irishman and my wife’s a beautiful shade of South Indian. Our kids were going to be gorgeous.
We wanted children just to see what they would look like.
We wanted children because my wife played an incredibly important role in raising her nephews and now wanted to use those same skills with her own kids.
We wanted children because I wanted to be the cool dad that played A Tribe Called Quest for my kids.
We wanted children because we had a lot of love to give.
We wanted children because I wanted to wake up exhausted with my heart filled, because there is a biological wiring that tells us that carrying on one’s genealogy is important.
For these reasons and more, at Christmas time, we decided that we wanted to start having kids.
My wife was not pregnant the first month. No big deal. Everyone told us it would take a couple of months. We didn’t get pregnant the second month either. By the third month my wife wondered out loud, “In my family you get sneezed on and you’re pregnant. What’s going on?”
My wife was ovulating. We’d been trying to have a child for 5 months and I had a stomach virus. I had the kind of stomach virus that left me sitting motionless, unable to breath regularly for fear of what might happen next. “C’mon! You can do this! Buck up. Gear up!” My wife gave me a pep talk but to no avail. “We wasted an entire month!” My wife was angry that I picked a time such as this to contract a stomach virus.
One day as I walked down the hallway another teacher called me over. She was older, a mentor. “When are you two going to start a family?” It stung when people asked that question. She wasn’t the first. I always answered honestly. I wanted people to be caught off guard. I wanted people to feel like they were being insensitive. I wanted them to feel stupid for asking that kind of question.
“We’re trying,” I said. “It’s been about ten months and we’re not pregnant. I’m incredibly frustrated and my wife is depressed.” My colleague tried to break the tension. “Well at least you’re having fun in the process!” I nodded and forced a smile. Sex wasn’t fun. It was equated with fear, uncertainty, failure.
A few months later we took our first trip to the doctor. My wife was poked and prodded. fluids were drawn, temperatures were checked. My wife told me that the medical instruments were really cold! I had to walk through the waiting room full of people to deliver the contents of a paper bag to the nurse on stand by. I’m pretty sure an elderly woman whispered “sinner” in my direction as I passed.
“There’s nothing wrong with either of you. You’ll have children. Be patient.” The doctor said this with an air of indifference as she looked at the chart with our temperatures and fluid levels and whatever else they found in their poking and prodding. The doctor prescribed some pills to my wife. “They’ll expedite the process but they are known to cause mood swings.”
Christmas time was coming and I picked my wife up to do some Christmas shopping. She got in the car, yelled, “Screw you and the whole world!” and then started kicking the windshield. It must’ve been the pills.
When we went shopping I saw a children’s book about the Appalachian Mountains and its people. I read the book. These were my mountains. These were my people. These were the mountains where my ancestors walked. These were the places my grandparents told me about. These were the family members that I visited. The children’s book about the Appalachian Mountains described my family, my genealogy, my roots, and I had no one I could pass these on to. I put the book down. “Screw you and the whole world!” Must’ve been the pills.
We got home and I went upstairs to put our bags away. Mariah Carey was playing. It was my wife’s Christmas music playlist.
Mariah Carey belted out, “All I want for Christmas is yooouuuu, Baby.”
When I walked back downstairs my wife was sitting on the kitchen floor crying. It seems that she took Mariah’s words literally.
“All I want for Christmas is you, Baby.”
I joined my wife on the kitchen floor. The previous year at Christmas time my wife and I decided that we wanted to start having kids.
There was no Christmas miracle. The holidays came and went. There was more poking and prodding. There were a few more pills and a couple of procedures. There were more months of crying, frustration, and failure.
There were “concerned” people who told us to stop being selfish. “God brought the two of you together to have a family. Stop thinking only of yourselves.”
“God doesn’t want that for us,” said my wife. “In fact, I’m not sure God has any part in this. I’ll never understand why we’ve had to go through this. It will never make sense.” The concerned people tried to break the tension, but it didn’t work.
And then, after plenty of frustration, watching friends and family members have their own children, procedures, and pills, we were pregnant. We sat in the same kitchen and cried a different kind of tears.
The next Christmas my wife was eight months pregnant with our daughter. We turned on our Christmas music playlist, laughed, and danced. I sang into my wife’s belly,
“All I want for Christmas is yooouuu, babyyyyy.”
A month later, our daughter was born. She was beautiful just like we thought. I played A Tribe Called Quest in the hospital room. Our daughter was almost three years in the making. Almost three years of frustration, pain, tears, growth, wisdom.
She was a gift.
This year we decorated our tree. Our oldest is six and was able to decorate our tree without breaking any ornaments. Our 5-year-old was not as lucky. We had our Christmas playlist on as I swept up shards of ornament. Mariah Carey belted out her timeless Christmas classic. I picked up one of my daughters. My wife picked up the other. We danced and spun around and laughed. We told our kids how this song, this innocuous song, changed us forever. Then our children in their best silly voices sang,
“All I want for Christmas is youuu, babyyyyy!”
Photo (Flickr CC) by Benjamin Gettinger