As per usual, M and I are in different countries during this holiday. He is in Canada visiting his family and friends, and I am in Central California, doing the same.
I'm staying with my friend Nettie again this Christmas, outside Santa Barbara. I've known her since she was in the womb. I literally laid hands on her mother when she was in labor and prayed for Jesus to take the pain away. I was 4 and a half at the time, and I was already in the flower of my grandparent's evangelism :)
We've lost contact intermittently over the years, Nettie and me. I moved back East after high school while she got married and made babies. We didn't see each other again for 14 years, and that was for my grandmother's funeral. I had every intention of remaining in contact, but at the time I was involved with a very possessive woman, and in the couple of years after Grandmother passed I also lost my mother, my mentor/mother-figure, and a good friend. With each death I withdrew more and more, and about a year after the last death I realized that my coping mechanisms weren't working for me, so I started grief-counseling and therapy. I was really starting to live life again when my sister took ill, died 2 years later, and then my family was hit with a series of cancer diagnoses and deaths. Yeah, that ugly.
Anyway, I found Nettie again through that wonder of social networking, the big FB, and in the past 2 years we've gotten very close. Close like sisters. She had been close to my sister Tammy, the one who died, so I find that I can share the grief of her loss in the company of someone who isn't going to make a drama or tragedy of it. It is what it is. What happened, happened and we miss her.
And boy do I miss her during Christmas. It was her favorite holiday. She tended to go all-out with hosting and entertaining, cooking, decorating, gift-giving. She loved a good party, Tammy did. And Nettie is a lot like Tammy that way. She is unfazed by the presence of 30 or 40 people in her house all talking and carrying on. She's got that Portuguese family thing going on -- the more the merrier.
But even with all the people mobbing the house she still found time to talk to me about the pregnancy, to reassure me with regards to some of my fears, and to offer to be there for me in the delivery room, if I wanted. I feel very touched by that offer. M has surprised me with his fortitude regarding hospitals and home health care, etc, after my battle with septicemia but I'm not sure he's up to being my full-time partner in the delivery room. He's just too empathetic. Even if my sister Terri wasn't, well, indisposed, I probably wouldn't want her there. As an RN she can be particularly nasty when her nursing standards aren't being met. I've seen (and heard) her in action and it is not pleasant.
Even though I've only been here for a couple of days, I've spent some time with my mother's brother, another friend of the family, and saw my parents and step-sisters and nieces and nephew. I noticed that spending time with my family still feels awkward at times. I never really bonded with my step-sisters (twins are a unit sufficient unto themselves) and my father and I had such an abusive, tumultuous relationship that the truce we worked on just before hell broke lose still feels fragile. I know he's wary around me, like he expects me to behave like my sister Terri does, but we're world's apart, temperment-wise. On the plus side, my step-mother and I are finally comfortable together, which is a blessing. Despite my mild discomfort it was a good Christmas. Everyone was full of holiday cheer and excitement for the baby, and I collected a lot of recommendations and advice.
Given that I worked very hard this year to slim down, one of my fears is of gaining the weight back during my pregnancy. My doctor and nutritionist have been working with me on a 0 - 10 lbs plan, but hearing about the 50, 60, and 70 pounds that my sisters and friends gained during theirs really freaked me out. It doesn't matter that most of it came off during breastfeeding, etc. With my PCOS-related hormone issues weight reduction is nightmarishly difficult and with my luck, breastfeeding would not cause the weightloss they experienced. So my goal is 0 - 10 lbs net gained. So far I'm at 3.
M still hasn't told his parents about the baby. He doesn't want the news to get out to the extended family until we're sure of the status, so he's waiting until after Xmas. That, and he's certain his mother is going to react poorly to the news, which makes him even more reluctant. She's one of those... hmm... glass half-empty types, with some over-protective tendencies. In other words, she's a fairly typical mother ;)
Ah, the Holidays. Such a love-hate relationship most of us have with this Season. To quote my father: "Smile goddammit, it's Christmas!"