My youngest son is four years old. He recently discovered a book of children’s poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, a collection I adored when I was a kid. One line in particular gets me every time we read the book’s opening poem: “…it is but a child of air, that lingers in the garden there.” I know all too well what it is to love “a child of air.”
Infertility grief is difficult to handle on a regular day, so it’s no surprise that special occasions and holidays really increase the emotional intensity. What’s especially challenging for couples dealing with infertility is that they’re grieving for a child who has never existed. Unlike grief after a loved one’s death, there are no happy memories, photos of smiling faces, or videos of birthdays. There’s never even been a birthday, a smile, or a single memory for the child who isn’t there, the child who never has been.
One of the most effective tools I created to deal with this grief was a mommy box. On small sheets of paper, I wrote down brief descriptions of things I wanted to do to make a memory with my child after he or she was in my arms (whether through birth or adoption) and stored them in a box a very talented friend had painted and given to me years earlier. My mommy box was an especially therapeutic tool around the holiday season when so much of the public Christmas displays, both sacred and secular, are geared toward children.
I remember arriving home after a Christmas church service one year when we were trying to conceive and almost running to the closet where I kept my mommy box. I had two or three things I just had to write down. For me, writing about something I wanted to do with my future child was a way to feel productive while we waited and to give my longing a tangible outlet. Every time I added a note to the mommy box, I felt relief and peace. It was important to me to write down the date so that someday, my child would see that I imagined the things we’d do together throughout the year.
Sometimes instead of writing down the activities I wanted to do, I opened the box and read all the ones I’d already written. The slips of paper were little pieces of hope. I cried over them, held them, and prayed over them. They were, and still are, very important to me.
I’m happy to say that after we became parents through adoption, we did fulfill almost every hope and wish I’d jotted down in my memory box. And of course, those shared moments were just the beginning. My heart is now full of beautiful, happy memories of the things I’ve gotten to do with my children. I recently sat down with my oldest child and read through some of the pieces of paper in my mommy box. He was delighted to know all the hopes and dreams I had for him, for us.
Have you done anything similar to my mommy box to help you process your grief? I’d love for you to share about it in the comments because your technique may be just the thing that helps someone else cope.
Top image via Flickr by arctia