My Secret IVF Vision Board, Revealed

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My friend, C, has for months been trying to convince me to create a vision board. C’s vision board has a lot of specific goals on it: work accomplishments, a trip she wants to take, attention to herself and aspects of her life. I know there are people who will say that their vision boards worked, and I don’t doubt that there is something to reminding yourself daily of your goals and wishes. But no vision board in the world is going to make me pregnant, and no amount of optimism is going to convince me otherwise.

Here is what a vision board of a giant baby will not change: It will not change that I am 35. It will not change that I only have one ovary. It will not change that I have endometriosis. It will not change that my estrogen count has been called “too low to sustain a pregnancy.” It will not change my AMH from being, on my best test day, as low as 2.1. It will not give me more eggs. It will not make my eggs better. It will not slow down time, reverse medical procedures, or convince me to get off the Depo and try earlier.

MJ and I will sometimes have not very productive discussions about our non-existent future children. We will argue over whether our kids can have toy guns (I say absolutely not), or whether any son of ours could wear a dress to school (I say absolutely yes). A lot of times, I’ll say a name and ask MJ, “what do you think?” and we’ll discuss whether we like it or not. On a particularly indulgent day at the paint store before we re-painted our kitchen, I explored the color options, and with MJ’s assent, picked out a color for our non-existent future nursery.

Don’t get me wrong, I have envisioned every inch of that nursery from furniture to wall decorations. The nursery would be the room that is now our library (a library being of course the fancy kind of room you can have when you don’t have children). Often I would sit in the large recliner I inherited from my grandfather, wedged between the russet brown bookshelves and I would mentally paint the walls, hang the mobile of birds, and fold the crib bedding. On bad days I would get too angry and refuse to go into the library, irrationally hating every inch of wall space jam-packed with the books MJ and I love so dearly. But whatever I thought or imagined, until that day in the paint store the thinking had never manifested itself as anything real. Until I took that small rectangular piece of paper with the sample color.

I put it in my purse and took it home with me. For a month I left it on the dining room table and would look at with whimsical wonder, instantly filling with excitement whenever I thought of it. But that was two years ago now. That one piece of paper began to feel silly and foolish, a moment of optimism that became more painful than optimistic. The sample with the color is still in the house, but now it is tucked into a holder where the take-out menus and coupons are kept, and you would have to dig around to find it. I have kept the house and my mind material-free since. There is nothing to suggest the library may one day be something else. I suppose I fear a vision board may have the same effect as that paint sample.

But C is persistent, and her belief in her board has risen to an almost paranormal level, a shaman-like adherence to the power of the board to make dreams come true. Which is why I decide to blame her, when one day at the bookstore, while looking for an acceptable card for someone else’s baby shower, my hand is drawn to a blank card with the most amazing front image.

I do not care for blank cards, and I especially do not want one for this shower. On this occasion, Hallmark or whomever may speak for me. I do not know what to say and do not care to write what I am feeling. I only want to find a cute card where I can sign my name and be done. So it should be clear that when I grab this card it was never intended for anything other than me. But I grab it. It is stunningly beautiful and features in its cover all the same colors and images I had seen in my head all those days I mentally decorated our nursery. There is the inviting trees of the woods, the soft large-eyed deer, the small happy squirrel, the bright toadstool mushrooms, and throughout ornaments on tree branches, one carried in the mouth of a bird, made of the same loved color from that long ago paint sample. The bottom of the card has small blocks lined up to spell “baby.” It tugs at every inch of my heart, and some of that old whimsy and excitement bubbles up inside me.

I take the card home and go to the library. I sit in there one night, back in my grandfather’s chair –- my grandfather who will never get to meet any kids I might have but who would have loved them, my grandfather who was always my image of strength and wisdom and the kind of person I wanted to be –- and I hold the card in my hand and I look around the room and decorate it once again.

If I had a vision board, it would be this card. I am tempted to tape it to the middle frame of the two white windows on the far wall, the only place not covered by books, and a spot that is about the center of the room. I rest it there upright for a bit while I wrap the baby shower gift and sign my name under the pre-printed message of the other card. But when I am done, I think better of it and I take the card and I hide it under a stack of books, one of the many we have for we have long since run out of room on the shelves. It is now buried under those books, and you would have to dig around to find it.

I do not tell MJ or C or anyone else about the card, and I try to forget it, but as the days follow I find that the image comes back to me, like the strum of a song you can’t get out of your head. I never mind too much when it comes along. Sometimes I even think of it intentionally, resting it in a small space of my head before going off to do something else, take a phone call, appear for a hearing, or wash the dishes. It stays with me, and for now –- and I know this may not always be true -– it is a kind of comfort. A secret wish that only I know, and which has not yet been tainted or ruined and which may even, just maybe, still be attainable. And I listen to C when she talks about vision boards, and I shake my head a little and say, “I don’t know...” and I do not let on that there is a vision board in my head and it is the most beautiful vision I could imagine.


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