We’re just a few days away from summer in Australia.
I love summer. I love heat and humidity.
I love Christmas on a hot, sticky day. Everyone sits around on the verandah, because it’s too hot to be inside. Maybe there will be a roast meat like chicken or turkey on the lunch table, but it’s never as important as the cold glazed ham, salads and selection of chilled seafood. For me Christmas Day means shelling prawns and bugs, then dipping my fingers into a bowl of water to clean them off. After lunch the kids excitedly jump in the pool while the adults nap or graze on party food. In the late afternoon there’s usually a thunder storm to cool everything down before the sun sets below the horizon and a chorus of cicadas gently lull everyone into a contented stupour.
Christmas in Australia is different to other parts of the world. It’s our big holiday time. Usually we finish work at midday on Christmas eve, and most people don’t go back to work until January 2nd of the following year. As for the children, they’re off school for summer vacation as of mid-December and don’t go back to class until early February, when they have all moved up a grade. At Christmas time their holidays are still just beginning, so they’re all very hyperstimulated and frenetically excited.
December 26th, Boxing Day, is almost as important as Christmas Day. It’s the day you throw out all the Christmas wrap, the kids play with their new toys, family gathers together once more and most importantly it’s the first day of the Boxing Day Test. Cricket is a quintissential part of every Aussie summer, but no match is more important than the Boxing Day Test. Particularly when we’re playing for the Ashes, and this year we are. All around Australia on Boxing Day, television sets are switched onto Channel 9 so that everyone can keep up to date with the cricket score.
The Ashes is a series of cricket games played between Australia and England. Australia have won more games than England since the series began in it’s current format, but both sides have won the Ashes 31 times. This series is even more important than usual because England have won the last three series in a row. Australia is in a rare form slump.
It’s currently our turn to host the series. When the Ashes is played in Australia (each series alternates between the two countries) our streets become a sea of green and gold, intrinsically mixed with a sea of white and red. It’s Aussies versus Poms as the Barmy Army moves into town. Flags and banners go up in pubs and shop windows, declaring their support for one team or the other. And you start to hear chants of the Barmy Army’s genius war cry, which goes a little something like this: “Barmy Army! Barmy Army! Barmy Army!” (Yes, impressive isn’t it. At least we added an “oi oi oi” after “Aussie Aussie Aussie” in our war cry!)
Have I painted an idyllic picture for you all? Usually the Christmas break is what I look forward to most each year. It’s 10 days where I can just let go of everything, float in the pool, catch up with friends and family, keep up with the cricket score, relax on the beach, sleep in late, go shopping for bargains (our Boxing Day sales are the same as America’s Black Friday sales) and eat copious amounts of food. It’s…bliss.
But this year I know everything will be different.
For starters, we are leaving on 27 December for Malaysia and returning in the second week of January. We won’t be around for most of the activity that takes place after Christmas, or for New Years Eve celebrations.
Our trip to Malaysia was almost perfectly timed. I was going to be almost bang on 12 weeks pregnant as the ball dropped on New Years Eve, so I planned to upload to Facebook a photo of Doug and I on the beach in Penang and accompany it with something cute like “Happy New Year, all the way from Malaysia! May your 2014 be as amazing as ours will be. Love from the three of us!” and then I imagined receiving hundreds of comments from our friends and family all congratulating us and wishing us well. It was finally going to be our turn, and what a way to announce it!
But instead I won’t be uploading anything to Facebook, because my miraculous July baby disappeared when they injected me with methotrexate two weeks ago. And also because I deactivated my Facebook account a month ago, after I broke down and couldn’t stand hearing about everyone eles’s pregnancies and babies anymore.
More importantly, even if I was still using the site I certainly wouldn’t be uploading any beach photos because I’ve put on so much damn weight I can’t stand to look at myself in photos. No matter how much I try to lose the weight I can’t even shift a friggen gram, let alone a kilogram or the twelve kilograms I’ve put on this year. And it’s all well and good hearing doctors tell me “some women put on weight during IVF and some women don’t” but it doesn’t make it any easier for me to bear. If the weight gain guaranteed a pregnancy, or that I could become a mother then I wouldn’t mind. But chances are this dreadful weight gain is all for nought.
And Christmas Day itself is going to be painful this year because I will no longer be able to avoid my sister-in-law and her perfect new baby. Her constant Facebook updates and photos were a big part of my decision to close my account. I’m not too proud to admit that I have been intensely jealous of my sister-in-law, and also unclear on why life and motherhood has all been so easy for her but not for me. All of my other family, including my husband, has made the 10 hour journey west to visit the baby but I have stayed well away.
It’s not just about the baby and my fear that I will completely break down when I see her tiny fingers and toes, and smell her sweet baby smell, it’s not even really about the fact that we were both pregnant at the same time and I should be preparing to have my own bundle of joy at the moment, it’s the fact that my sister-in-law has been so insensitive to me and I don’t know how to act around her anymore.
Do you know when I lost my last pregnancy she didn’t even bother to text me and ask me if I was okay. Doug came home from work and mentioned how nice it was that his sister had sent him a text message letting him know she was thinking of him. He asked what thoughtful message I had received, simply assuming she had contacted us both. But no. I received nothing. Not a single word to let me know she was sorry, or sad for us, or wanted to help me through my dark time.
When I became extremely upset, realising someone who I was previously so close to suddenly had no concern for me at all, Doug tried to calm me down by justifying her actions. He suggested that maybe she was simply too scared to talk to me, unsure what to say and worried she would become emotional. But that’s just bullshit, and also a cop out that I’m not willing to give her.
Do you all remember the story of when my sister-in-law’s baby was born? You can read it here if you don’t. I was absolutely devastated for myself, but I still sent her a congratulatory message, asked after her health and requested to see pictures of the baby. Then I spent hours shopping for gifts to send out to her. Do you think that was easy for me? Do you think that was something I wanted to do? No. No it was not. But I did it anyway, because I respect and care for my family. In stark contrast, my sister-in-law was completely unable to see past herself and her perfect life to support me in my time of need. Why would I want to spend my Christmas with someone like that? Someone who I feel like I can’t relate to at all anymore.
But I have a plan. On Christmas Day I’ve decided I will smile and laugh and coo over the baby and pretend everything is super peachy. Then I will cry the whole way home in the car. But when I arrive at my own front door I will pack my suitcase and jet off to Malaysia where I will sit on the beach, enjoy massages, drink cocktails, go shopping, have sex with my husband whenever I want to and do lots of other things people with children can’t do. I will ring in the new year in style.
And 2014 will be a better year for me. I just know it will. It has to be. I mean hey, it can’t be worse than 2013. Right?