My mind has been on the concept of magical thinking lately. I recently finished Joan Didion's book that covers this topic--The Year of Magical Thinking--as she discusses the year after the loss of her husband. Since so many of the emotions of infertility mirror that of death--the mourning the loss of our vision of motherhood/fatherhood, the mourning of actual children, the mourning of each failed cycle--it was impossible not to apply some of her ideas forward. Especially the title concept of magical thinking.
Magical thinking is usually used to describe how a child views the world. Since they don't understand true causation, they build their own. It's raining because I'm sad. If I walk down the hallway touching this wall I won't have to go to bed. This stuffed animal keeps me safe at night. Adults also engage in magical thinking--as proven by the stuffed dog and bear on my bed that were purchased over the journey to parenthood. Because buying a stuffed animal will certainly bring a child into your life. Right? Well don't rain on my parade because I believe it will work for me. And my mother confirmed this by placing her own stuffed animal that was purchased thirty years earlier for this same purpose in my bedroom. As if generations of stuffed animals were going to be make the injectible medications work their magic.
Magic. That word again. My husband asked me where I wanted to go on vacation right as we began fertility treatments. I told him Disney World because it seemed like such a happy, sunny place. What the hell was I thinking? Children. EVERYWHERE. Parents who didn't deserve to have children. EVERYWHERE. People saying idiotic things to the infertile couple standing in line: "you guys are so lucky that you don't have children and you can actually enjoy your vacation." EVERYWHERE.
I cried at the fireworks--especially when Jiminy Cricket told me that if I wished for something with all my heart it would come true (I think all those negative pee sticks may hold a different story, Jiminy, but I'll let you have your magical thinking). My sister's favourite part of the park was a light parade that took place at night and she was in her own sad place so I desperately wanted to videotape it for her. We had tried to see it together the last time we had been to Disney, and despite running through the park at top speed, jumping over benches and ducking around rides, we missed it except for the final float. This trip, I was determined to catch the entire show on video for her. I began believing it was what needed to happen--the final obstacle that needed to be jumped in order for me to become pregnant. So if I missed videotaping the parade, we would never have children.
My poor husband sat on the curb for an hour in the rain while we shivered and tried to give each other hope that the parade would still take place (yes, we were holding out hope that an electrical parade would still take place in the rain. You can imagine the frustrations of the poor employee who had to tell the crazy infertile woman over and over again why they couldn't send out performers on floats covered in light bulbs in the rain).
They cancelled the parade and I truly believed my fate was sealed. I would never be a mother because I had failed to deliver a videotape to my sister. How is that for magical thinking? As if my womb is directly tied to a digital video tape? But lo and behold, the parade was rescheduled for the last night of our vacation. For the hour before, it threatened to rain and they postponed the parade. My poor heart. It felt like I was climbing Everest, so close to the top and running out of oxygen.
When the parade finally emerged, I spent the first few minutes crying because I truly believed that I could now be a mother. It was now going to happen. The superstition I had created for myself had been fulfilled. A float carrying the three fairy godmothers from Sleeping Beauty passed us and Fauna, the green witch, waved her wand and pointed it directly at me--sending baby magic straight into my body. Because I had to believe that a woman in a costume could do that. Where was I without magical thinking? And you can imagine my disbelief when I wasn't pregnant that month. I had to be. Fauna pointed her wand at me. Yes, she's a woman in a costume (or perhaps a man--you can never tell with these costumes), but she's a magical woman in a costume, imbued with all sorts of powers by my magical ferility thinking.
Magical thinking is the practical manifestation of hope. If hope is the body, magical thinking is the arm that is grasping out and doing while hope moves you along. Once, when speaking about the roller coaster of emotions I put myself through by holding out that hope before each beta--the dreaming, the wishing, the superstitions, the role-playing while standing in the shower and rehearsing how I'll tell my husband (okay, so it wasn't just in the shower. It was during every car ride and while I prepared dinner and when I was brushing my teeth. I would literally try out different phrasings of "honey, we're going to have a baby!")--my therapist pointed out the importance of that time. She explained that it wasn't any healthier to "borrow pain." Because the inverse of hope and magical thinking are negative emotions--the early mourning, the pessimism, the lack of faith. She promised me that if the beta came back negative, there would be time to mourn. There would be time to feel pain and feel sad, but that magical thinking that I did before each beta was a celebration--a celebration that would either continue with the positive or end abruptly with the negative. But since my heart needed to go through one or the other (I was not the type of person who could compartmentalize and approach each cycle with detachment), magical thinking was the route for me. Thank you, Fauna.