that feathery hope

Emily Dickinson wrote:

Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

I’ve always loved this view of hope. I think it’s a part of faith that we’re called to aspire to, to surrender to, but that’s never been an easy thing for me. Hope has always threatened me. A handful of early experiences taught me that it’s dangerous to hope, at least without caution. So I tend towards restraint in the hope department, assuming that it’s better to wait until you know if some good will come before getting attached to the idea of it. This philosophy runs counter to the person I want to be today, and these contradictory influences – my cultivated restraint versus the faith to which I feel called to surrender – are especially apparent with regards to this baby making business.

I still haven’t started my period and it’s day 32. This is an odd thing. It could mean that I’m pregnant. It could also mean that my cycle is a bit askew from the stress of trying. In fact, it’s probably more likely to mean the latter. What seems more interesting than which of these possibilities is true, though, (at least in the immediacy) is what I do with this moment of not knowing. My learned response is to assume that I’m not pregnant, that my period is simply late, that it would be destructive to hope. But that response is just self protection, right? I don’t want to think that I might be pregnant because I don’t want the hurt of learning that I’m not. But how dangerous is that hurt? I have a fierce and unwavering support system: my partner in all of this, our friends, a devoted mother and mother-in-law. I have my health and time and resources (limited though they are). So if we’re not pregnant now, we’ll grieve that and move on to new possibilities. All that I will suffer for hope is a little, very temporary, pain. We will walk through it, and then we will be fine.

It seems to me now that the not hoping costs more. It closes me off from the miraculous possibility of new life. From “the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul.” I don’t know how well this attempt at surrendering will work, or how long (if we’re unsuccessful for months on end) I can sustain it. Still, I think it’s worth trying. Maybe this is a self destructive decision (I think most American experts in fertility would say so), but it seems that opening one’s self up to a child takes far more than opening the body. So I’ll try now to put down the fear of hope, and to pick up, in its place, the unrestrained faith it has to offer. Wish me luck.


3 thoughts on “that feathery hope

  1. R–I was driving to the Zoo yesterday and I was vividly remembering how I had to drive that same route, sometimes 3 times per week, to go to the (in)fertility doctor. I remembered what a frustrating and hopeful and crazy-making, and huge and special and depressing time that was and my thoughts went to you and J. I have no doubt that your hope (and the hope of all your friends) will carry you through and that, like it is for me, this process will all be a fading memory soon. Much love to you.

  2. Pingback: equal parts feathers and razor blades | .breaking into blossom.

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