When I was pregnant with my first, I would dream about all the things that were ahead of us as a young family: going for walks along the lake together, feeding the ducks, introducing him to the smell of a lilac in bloom, reading stories and singing songs from my own childhood, and the magic of Christmas. There wasn’t one specific thing that I looked forward to with Christmas, but it was the entirety of the Christmas experience! Singing him carols to sleep, watching his eyes glow in wonderment at our Christmas tree, taking him to the Christmas markets and explaining all of the wonderful things that he sees, hears and smells, reading him The Night Before Christmas before bed on Christmas Eve, and then all the excitement of Christmas Day. I wasn’t really even aware that I held these expectations until I was right there in the thick of it (“it” being… well, you’ll see…), realising that the reality was not exactly matching my vision.
The Dream: We take the train to the city to watch the turning on of the Christmas lights, meet friends for mulled wine, coo at the cute baby’s Christmas outfit, watch a choir sing a few carols and head home, rosy-cheeked, with a baby sleeping in the pram.
Reality: This baby wouldn’t go into a pram for almost a year. So scrap that. Daddy helpfully gets him dressed, but not in my dream Christmas outfit… I’m torn to an inappropriate degree: do I change his clothes to fulfil my superficial ideals? But doing this would signal to my husband that he should never ever again try to help with dressing our baby, right? Or do we just go with him dressed like that, with me internalising my disappointment at my baby-Christmas dream being shattered? (I did mention that my reaction was inappropriate, right?) I decide to swallow my pride and bring our baby in Daddy’s outfit, but in the end it doesn’t matter, because he does a huge poo-nami within 100 metres of our front door, and both he and I need a full wardrobe change anyhow. There’s poo all over the baby carrier too, and did I mention he doesn’t go in a pram? We end up staying home and ordering a second baby carrier.
The Dream: We sit under the sparkling, picture-perfect Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. I read him The Night Before Christmas while he sits in my lap and sing “Silent Night” as he slowly closes his eyes. I watch the snow falling outside and tears well up at the magic of the season. My husband would probably come over and give me a kiss and tell me what a wonderful mother I am.
Reality: Our Christmas tree is in the corner of the room at an unnatural angle, as it is now tied up to the window-handle after a near-collapse on our baby earlier that day. The bottom half is naked of ornaments and the top has only tacky plastic ones and fake candles. I sit with him under the tree and try to not cringe as he decides that ripping and eating the pages of my beloved The Night Before Christmas book is much more entertaining than listening to me read it. My husband brings me wine.
The Dream: This little boy of mine would have toys that contribute to his development, encourage his curiosity and creativity through open-ended play, and that are gender neutral. He would have a lot of books and eco-friendly wooden toys in muted, neutral colours to avoid our house looking like a daycare centre.
Reality: Well, really, we all know how this one goes. The wooden blocks and abacus don’t receive a second glance, and all (problematic) naps for that day and the following weeks involve him holding tightly onto the gifted pretend iPhone with all the noise and flashing lights. I manage to tape over the little speaker to reduce the volume a bit, and then stress that somehow he will manage to remove this and find a way to choke on it. My blood pressure rises just a tiny bit with each and every vehicle that he unwraps, and a week later I rush to the shops to buy him a pink doll to neutralise things (which, of course, he never touches).
The Dream: The grandparents from Australia come to visit laden with presents, and we laugh, as my little boy is more interested in the paper and boxes than the presents themselves. They give him cuddles while I make Christmas-spice tea and gingerbread.
Reality: My little boy starts randomly vomiting five minutes before the arrival of said grandparents and the accompanying mountain of presents. Presents are still given immediately with the expectation of childhood joy, each one punctuated by his barf and their incredulity at his nonchalance. My baby doesn’t move a centimetre off my body for three days, but that’s okay – the grandparents didn’t really come to visit in hopes of getting to wash vomit out of their hair. The pre-made gingerbread dough never gets rolled out.
The Dream: Christmas morning would involve being woken very early by an excited child. My husband, our little baby, and I would spend the morning together listening to Bing Crosby, quietly marveling at all the presents and at the falling snow lit by the street-lamps outside the window. My husband and I would be smiling nostalgically at each other over the baby’s little bald head as we helped him open his presents and pretend to be surprised at the contents.
Reality: Well, this one is all true. That’s exactly how it was, except that we were the excited ones and our baby had no idea what all the fuss was about. But all that love and wonderment? It was there, and our baby simply amplified it.
Enjoy every single one of the crazy memories you will make with your baby this Christmas…and remember that the moments that feel as if they’ll tip you over the edge will surely make for a great story one day!
By Johanna Sargeant
Originally from Australia, Johanna and her husband unexpectedly made Zurich their home in 2010, when it was simply too beautiful to leave. Fuelled by her own tumultuous experiences of motherhood with her two young boys, this former English teacher, writer and musician retrained as a breastfeeding consultant. She runs fortnightly breastfeeding support meetings, teaches prenatal breastfeeding classes and remains very busy providing online and in-person support for mothers throughout Switzerland – while continuing to follow her love of writing and music. Follow her Milk and Motherhood blog and Facebook page.
Illustration by Lemady Rochard
Lemady is an artist who also runs Storycraft classes for children aged one-and-a-half to eight years in Ruschlikon, ZH. She is currently studying for a master’s in fine arts and also has a background in theatre arts and children’s literature. Lemady lives in Thalwil with her two young children. Contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org