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Blog: Baby’s First Christmas (Let’s be honest)

Your baby’s first Christmas is an event that is met with much anticipation, for us, for 10 months.

Will they understand presents? (no) Will they do some cute and memorable things with the wrapping paper, bows and ribbons? (probably) Will they be the centre of attention at every family gathering? (definitely)

All of those things happened for us on our daughter’s first Christmas. Walking her out to the tree on Christmas morning was pretty much the cutest thing ever. The flood of gifts from family members was crazy, and excessive, but such a clear indication of the excitement of everyone to enjoy her first Christmas together and the love that exists for her.

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She was also OBSESSED with the Christmas tree, from the time it went up, she would sit and stare, point and say “oooooh”. It also became the source of her first real word, one that is truly ridiculous, and pretty sums up this exceptional girl. “Pretty”. Ya, that’s right, her first word was PRETTY. Forget this one syllable nonsense, she’s going right to the 2 syllable words. Her second word, which was actually 2, was “dropped it”, see video below for evidence, I swear I’m not making this up.

So with the pretty tree as our backdrop and the excitement of our daughter’s first Christmas we were off. I was lucky that at the time I was working at a company that closed our office over Christmas, and Kristen was on mat leave, so we had an extended time together to enjoy the experience.

The highlights were a new baby doll, which she didn’t connect with right away, but is now her favorite, a sled from Kristen’s parents (which didn’t get a lot of use last year, but hopefully we actually have SNOW this winter!), and a drum and little piano from my parents, which she freaked out about and has been slamming out tunes on ever since.

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But as excited as we were, and as excited as our family was, it can’t possibly live up to all the hype and pressure to have a “perfect first Christmas”.

In a recent post I mentioned I would tell the story of our journey through the post-partum mood disorder that my wife wrestled with, and continues to wrestle with, and that story really reaches its head at Christmas of 2015. Kristen has always been the planner, the one who brings people together. But for a number of months leading up to Christmas of last year, something was off. Increased anxiety, downright panic before leaving for events. Not wanting to leave the house, the anticipation of the unknown was affecting her in some serious ways. Not able to eat, losing weight, it was a worry that was weighing on us.

As Christmas day approached, I could see her anxiety rising. We had a Christmas Eve get together at our house, and she was ok for that, and Christmas morning was lovely, but when it came time to leave the house and venture out to our parent’s places for Christmas day festivities, something broke. She couldn’t move, it was all the things she had been trying to “tough out” and “suck it up” through, all the things that we were trying to get through on our own, and it just became too much. She worried she was ruining our daughter’s first Christmas (not true) and that simply exacerbated things.

We got through those couple of days of family dinners and travel, then essentially hunkered down in our home for the rest of the week to recover. We just enjoyed our time as a family and kept it low key, after what was a pretty emotionally draining time. Over that period one thing became clear, we needed help. Kristen was due to go back to work in February, when our little girl turned one. She had gone to some counselling sessions through the fall to talk about what she was feeling, but further intervention was needed. So we got the help that we needed, and continue to do so. Kristen extended her mat leave another 6 months, and as she recovered, the light came back, to the point now where things are certainly much better.

This story was supposed to be about Christmas, and don’t get me wrong, even though last Christmas was one of the most emotionally challenging of our lives, it was still absolutely special. Seeing Abby surrounded by people that love her, playing with her toys, eating with her family, hugging Kristen’s parent’s dog, who was wearing Christmas jammies of her own. A ton of fabulous memories were made over those days. But I don’t want to present a story to people that is viewed through rose coloured glasses, because life is real, life can be challenging, and when we are honest with each other, I think that is when the feeling, or perception that we need to sugar coat our lives can be dropped. We all struggle, we all have fears, it’s part of the human condition, we don’t need to be caged in by them. So share your struggles with someone, your parents, your friend, your sibling, your spouse, a counsellor, a doctor. There is no shame in it, in fact there is power in it. There is no shame in needing medication to help with a mood disorder, there is no shame in talking to a professional, those are things to be commended, celebrated. I think that should be what Christmas brings about in us, it’s so much more than family gatherings and presents. It’s an opportunity to be genuine and share a love that is beyond ourselves.

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So from my family to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.

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