Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dreaming for the Future

It is amazing how quickly I can dream and hope for a day when all this is over and we've been successful, even on the tails of disappointment and continuous bad news. I have a hope cycle of sorts -- it rises and rises the closer I get to a cycle, then rises and falls during said cycle as I hope for the best and fear for the worst (and usually get worst, that balance really should be shifting at some point here), then after a failed cycle plummets through the floor into THIS IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN OH GOD WHAT IF WE NEVER HAVE CHILDREN WHAT IF THIS DOESN'T WORK OUT AND THEN ADOPTION DOESN'T WORK OUT AND WE BECOME CAT PEOPLE AND I STUFF MY CAT IN A BABY BJORN OR RIDE THEM AROUND IN A BIKE SCREENED-IN THING? I spiral downward into worst case scenarios and find myself crying, or worse, numbly staring into space while I vaguely think about what it would be like to accept a reality without children.

But then, I snap out of it. I slowly regain my hope (key to this is having another cycle in the works, even breaks don't help because then I resort to spiraling down more often). And then... I engage in my Moments Of Hope And Dreaming activities.

The somewhat dusty vision board that we abandoned.
Good idea in theory, but in practice not so much.
These are things that should probably cause me immense sadness since we have been unsuccessful for so long, but when I am on a Hope Upswing, they actually bolster me up. They make me feel like this is possible, and it's in our future to have children in our house, and one day all of this will end not in heartbreak but in joy. I will note, though, that most of these activities are things that remain hidden and come out during a hopeful period, because if they were in my face all the time they might become more sad than happy. And a vision board is not among them. We did one of those once, and I wrote a blog about it in early 2011. It seemed like a great idea, and while it was a great exercise for a time, it now lives in the back back office, in the space behind my teaching books bookshelf. After several cycles of hopeful reflection and carefully snipped and pinned additions to this solid physical representation of our hopes and dreams, it became less a symbol of hope and more a symbol of the inner-voice wailing, But we visualized success!!! I would feel more and more frustrated and even tricked when yet another set of embryo pictures was taken down from the "We Love You And Welcome You" orange frame on the vision board. Fortune cookie slips seemed to lie viciously -- "You are about to embark on a most delightful journey!" and "The maze you have been traveling is coming to an end," messages that seemed so meaningful when received and pinned up on the board became no more substantial or prophetic than "Eat more Chinese food." The smiling faces of the pregnant people reveling in their new rounder bodies (or in my case, hopefully rounder with purpose), the couples kissing a baby with the words "Happiness is a journey" or "Believe Conceive" over their heads... they all started to sour and feel more like mocking than a hopeful representation of where we would be shortly with the right attitude and belief in success. And so it got relegated further and further from the kitchen wall, where we could see it everyday, until it reached its current hiding place. IT DID NOT WORK FOR US ANYMORE. Maybe, maybe if we had been successful during the Time of the Vision Board, I would be a lot more positive about it now. I could be like, "we visualized success, we put positive thoughts and intentions into the Universe, and IT WORKED!" But it didn't work, and after a while its prominent position caused us more depression and stress than what was intended, so away it went.

I learned a lesson from that--have things that make you feel hopeful, but have them in places where you don't have to look at them every day. When the Hope Cycle turns sour, it is helpful not to have your Moments of Hope and Dreaming activities sour along with the cycle. So I keep them hidden.

I still have my Baby Binder, evidence of crazy preplanning that has existed now for about four years and is getting to the point where I need to create two binders -- a Baby Binder and a Parenting Binder...
What's this?
Oh, just my drawer of parenting magazines,
chilling in the coffee table.

...because I still have a subscription to Parents magazine, which initially I got for $1 and ordered while newly
pregnant and hopeful and since then haven't had the heart to discontinue. They have good ideas. They have good recipes. I like their philosophy on things for the most part. So what, I've been receiving a parenting magazine for two years without actually being a parent? Don't people buy bridal magazines well before they become a bride? House and Garden magazines to dream of a home you WILL have one day, not the one you currently reside within? Sometimes the magazine makes me feel like I am sad and crazy, but it's just hopeful dreaming. And they hide in a drawer until I'm ready to read them. As does the Baby Binder.

I recently joined Pinterest, which I originally had no desire to be a part of because I thought it would be a huge time suck, but it's actually a lot of fun. And I can somewhat control what I see, and I can make my boards fit my needs (unlike Facebook, where the onslaught of happy families and pregnant people and congratulations messages for new babies can be somewhat taxing). And so I extended my Hope and Dreaming activities to Pinterest, and created a board called, Someday Our Dream Will Come ...until then I plan obsessively. It's a collection of activities to do with future children, nursery ideas, organization/storage ideas, etc. I have stayed away from pregnancy stuff, because I have plenty of time to add that in and quite frankly I don't want to go there. It's fun to add to and I do it when I feel like it and I can ignore it when I don't. I toyed with making it a Secret Board, but then I didn't. Why not semi-publicly plan for the happy ending we so hope for? As of yet it doesn't make me feel foolish.

Lastly, there's the Thought Activities. Things done in private with no visual proof or representation. Basically, times when I allow myself to think ahead to moments in a future we're not 100% sure are coming. Things like mulling over whether or not we will find out the sex of our baby (that's so happening if the baby is cooperative) and pros and cons of both sides; how to prepare for birth and how much expectation I will have for that culminating moment of all this strife (Birth plan? Not so sure...I think at this point the plan is whatever will keep me and the baby safe through the process, I don't yet have strong opinions on things like drugs or no drugs, epidural or not, but I can tell you that this very special baby, should he/she decide to arrive by way of my uterus, will be coming in a hospital). Bryce and I had a conversation about doulas the other day (in part due to an article in Parents, that I was reading just for kicks, and also because of a conversation I had with a friend who has beautiful children from IVF). I didn't even know what a doula was until a few years ago, and it's not really crucial that we have these conversations now, but it is fun to talk about and discuss and pretend like maybe this is in our future. The thinking about the birth end of things is new -- Bryce mentioned to me that he thought it was interesting that I never talked about that aspect of all this. I guess it's just so far away in our minds that all I can think about is the possibility of being pregnant, and of nesting, but not of the beautiful-yet-really-kind-of-violent entrance to the world that this baby will have. Maybe it's not what he intended, but as a result of that conversation I was like, "Yeah, sure--let's talk birth and labor and doulas and hospitals and stuff like that. Why not?"

Why not to all of it -- if I'm in the right frame of mind it doesn't make me sad. It's the strategic placement of these things, in places where they can easily hide away should I not be able to handle them anymore or at that moment in time, that is so key. It's also that all the activities I now have are not centered on my having some kind of control over the outcome here. That was initially a nice idea with the Vision Board, but ultimately less than healthy because really, NO CONTROL. If only it were as simple as physically visualizing the success and joy of reaching our goal. So no, instead these activities are more just hoping and dreaming and allowing space in our minds to believe that maybe, maybe this might happen.


  1. It is funny how hope rebounds after disappointment. But I guess it's good that it does...otherwise...could you imagine?!?! That vision board definitely looks like one of those "good in theory but not in practice" ideas. I think having to see something like that all the time would just make me sad. Have you ever read "Waiting for Daisy"? It kind of reminds me of the little night-table shrine the author talks about. I think it's good you've got your little hopeful things stashed around for when you want/need them.

    1. Thanks, Kelsey! It went like a zigzag this time, because I felt hopeful and then sank down into hopeless again, but I'm trying for back up to hopeful again. YES! I loved Waiting for Daisy. You should see the shrines peppered through our house... I hope all is well for you! :)

  2. This is a poignant post, and I imagine it as an essay/article in a women's magazine, or the Resolve newsletter---have you ever considered that? It tells the story I think a lot of us have. Thinking about your vision board, what it has undergone, where it has gone...it's like art therapy in situ. I used to have a vision board on the back of our front door in our apartment in Brooklyn---until one day I tore it down and ripped it to shreds. That was a very bad day. I think it is so healthy that you continue to allow yourself to read that magazine, to talk about doulas---you're not destroying hope, you're nurturing it and keeping it alive. It's so impressive and beautiful!

    1. Wow, thank you! I have thought about it, but am chicken/lack confidence... but maybe I shouldn't! Yeah, isn't the vision board tricky? So lovely at first, and then so poisonous. You have courage -- I think ripping it to shreds is probably healthier than letting it get dusty behind a bookcase so I can choose to look at it and laugh at my optimism when I'm feeling self-punishing. Ironically, the day after I wrote this post that felt so hopeful-upswing, I dropped down into the lowest low I've had in a while. I guess I upswinged too hard maybe. But, that little pilot light of hope stays lit... :) Thank you for your beautiful words. I really appreciate them (and you)!