A blog about babies: the babies I lost, the babies I never had, the baby who made me a Mama.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Colonial House; or, Daydreams and Visions

Growing up outside Philadelphia, I was always fascinated with the Amish (bear with me, I promise this is going somewhere).

I loved history, especially colonial American history, and being Amish seemed to me like the closest one could get to living in the past. In the summer, I would sit on the back stoop, looking out over our backyard and the creek and acres of woods behind it, shucking corn from one of the local farms for my mother, and I would daydream about being an "oldtimey" girl, a farmer's daughter during the Revolution, or an Amish girl today, helping to prepare dinner and thinking about the sheep she had to shear and the wool she had to card and the herbs she had to collect.

* * *
This evening, I took our puppy Bella to the park around the block for her late afternoon walk. The setting sun lit up the sides of buildings with a summery, buttery glow. The trees were budding green or blooming white. The babies and their mommies and daddies (and some of the big kids too) were climbing all over the jungle gyms and swings, playing catch on the ball fields, lounging on the benches. Summer is on the way, and the entire neighborhood is ready to celebrate.

As Bella sniffed her way to the perfect pee-spot, I thought about the months to come: the amateur Shakespeare productions, abridged and pitched to children, performed on a makeshift stage; the family film festivals projected on a screen on the back of the little colonial house in the park's center. I had a vision: four months from now, late-July heat heavy in the air, a screening of Meet Me In St Louis or The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland's face projected two-stories high, and Lawyer Guy and I pushing a pram between lounging families on picnic blankets, the nebulous, genderless baby blob that is our perpetually 7-weeks gestation m&m sleeping under his or her green and silver canopy.

What could have been.

* * *
Some people start trying to conceive with a tentative we'll-just-see-what-happens toe dipped in the water. Some of them get their we-never-knew-it-would-happen-so-fast BFPs and are borne along a stream of ultrasounds, hormones, and expanding waistlines until the baby arrives: no time to think, to consider, to get scared. Suddenly, a baby, two parents, a family created, and life readjusts and they readjust with it.

Some of them face difficulties they didn't expect or lose the pregnancies that came so easily, and the doubts that might have surrounded their ceremonial tossing of the condom box disappear. "I am ready," they realize. "I do want this. Whatever I thought in the past was wrong. I have changed."

But I was ready before we started trying. For years I waited, ready. I had no doubts, no questions.

With each month that passes, my future parenthood seems to recede in the distance, to become less rather than more possible, less actual, more fantastic. Me pushing a pram seems like a daydream rather than a prophesy, so easily imagined, so impossible to achieve.

* * *
I still love history, and it's still history of the domestic and literary (rather than intellectual, national, or military) variety. I tour historic homes, old forts, recreated settlements. The Brooklyn Museum has a series of eighteenth-century rooms: recreated farmhouse interiors with immaculately laid wood tables and delicately painted wall hangings and period-appropriate china and cherry four-poster beds all behind a plexiglass barrier.

I can look at them for hours, projecting myself into the impossible past of my imagination, envisioning my alternate eighteenth-century life and the feel of the pewter ewer or the cast iron toasting stick or the brass warming pan.

But I can never get past the glass.


  1. It's amazing how far-fetched that dream feels when it's so available to most people. I can only relate with my obsessive reading of the Little House on the Prairie books. I grew up on a farm, saw baby animals born every spring, and never for a minute doubted my own fecundity in those early years.

    I'm really sorry about having the flash-forward of the life that would have been. It hits you in moments you don't expect, but the pain and wistful longing lingers in places you'd least expect. Snagging you with thorny tendrils as you simply walk the dog.

    I still believe that you'll get your shot on the other side, even if it's harder to imagine than your life in olden times. :)

  2. I think that dream recedes because motherhood won't ever be that way... effortless. It will still be miraculous, likely even more so than if it came easily, but you lose something of the spontaneous joy of it all when it is so hard won. That's kind of what I think you mean, and anyways, it's how I feel.

    I keep trying to talk myself out of this horrible state of being, but so far no luck. This actually IS all happening, I still can't believe it!

  3. That was a poignant and lovely post. Let me assure you, though, that based on my Little House on the Prairie style childhood years, while the baking bread and sewing clothes and such are nice and romantic, the no showers and defecating into a hole in the ground aspects are less appealing. In case that helps draw you back into the present.

    I so relate to the feeling of watching that future receding. It must be so much harder when you've been waiting for a while to get started, too. Poor kid. Just cling to the fact that your RE said (if I recall correctly) that you have no reason to think you'll miscarry again, and no reason to think you won't be pushing that baby. I know--anything can happen and any optimism feels so jinxy, but facts are facts.

  4. I so know what you're saying, its so funny how your perspective can change so fast. Since we got pregnant relatively easy, after the miscarriage I use to say things like when we get pregnant again, and rationalize why our next due date (about 3 months later) would be way better anyways, and now we have more time to plan. Now, almost a year later, I don't even want to think about due dates, I say things like if we ever get pregnant, and you're right...it's so much harder to picture now. I sometimes feel silly thinking of myself as ever being pregnant. I'm hoping for both of us that fantasy becomes a reality again...and SOON!!!

  5. That was such a beautiful post. I am still very hopeful for you that your dreams are closer than you think.

  6. Beautiful post as always. We live in a neighborhood that is so darn idyllic with gorgeous families with darling children everywhere I turn. I so know how you feel about experiencing something beautiful and being separated from it at the same time. It makes the hurt that much deeper.

  7. This is such a beautiful post; I could read your writing all day! It's so true that with the changing of seasons I discover new ways this process hurts my heart. But I do believe you will come out on the other side of the glass my friend!!

    PS Yes, let's email abt our NYC meet-up, I am super excited! :)

  8. I love this post. I really is amazing, the shift in perspective you can feel in a year. Think of everything you've been through since March of last year... makes my head spin.

  9. you're gonna get past that glass. *believe it* :o) as i write this, i realize that i have so much more optimism for others than i do for myself. why is that? i am the queen of doom for myself. yet i firmly believe that *everyone else* will get their time sooner than later. ps - loved your description of wanting to snatch babies from passing bugaboos. if our place was bigger and there were more hiding places, i think my dh would search high and low for stolen babies on a daily basis. isn't that rude of him? i wouldn't steal a child. *really* :o)