I started scrapbooking when I was in high school. My mom has scrapbooked for years, and ever since I started my own albums, it’s something we love to do together. We like to go shopping and find fun stickers and paper that will coordinate with photos and mementos. When possible we like to work on our pages together too — but this is a rare treat now since I live across the country. Now we like to sit together with tea and look through each other’s albums that we’ve worked on since our last visit. We look at the pictures, read journal entries and letters, and share memories.

But, like so many other things, infertility and loss have affected my relationship with my scrapbooks, and I have really struggled with scrapbooking since my pregnancy ended. And I think the reasons for this are complicated and tough. It’s been hard to admit to myself the reasons for my disconnect with scrapbooking…

To start, like with my lettering practice and other creative endeavors, I no longer feel inspired. On days when I feel like I might want to scrapbook, I go sit at my desk and look at my pictures and papers, and I have no inspiration, no vision of a completed page, no desire to arrange them nicely and write down thoughts or notes. I look at the completed pages and sometimes it feels like someone else must have completed those ones because I can’t imagine having the inspiration to put that all together. In the last six months, I have scrapbooked only two single-sided pages. My materials have sat out for months with no forward movement.

But it goes so much deeper than *just* a lack of inspiration.

When I look at older pictures, I see myself before infertility, innocent and happy, with no idea of what’s in store for my future with infertility. I’m reminded of the dreams and expectations my former self held close, and then I think of my present state, heartbroken and disappointed… In those moments I struggle with acceptance of what’s happened. (“This wasn’t how it was *supposed* to be!”) I feel like I look different now too, and I struggle with acceptance of those changes — whether they are physical or psychological. Sometimes it’s hard to even look at pictures of myself because it reminds me of all of the innocence, hopes, and dreams that I’ve lost since the photo was taken.

And to be quite honest, I’ve really struggled with the thought that if I do not have children, who even cares if I’ve preserved our memories in scrapbooks? Who cares about our photos, our travel journals and mementos, or our progress on house projects and landscaping? Who cares about the silly things our cats do or the presents Matt received on his birthday? What does any of it matter?

I admitted this to Matt recently and I think he was pretty horrified… But seriously, my mind goes there and I think it’s important that I’m honest with myself about it. Because scrapbooking is (or was…) a favorite hobby of mine and if I’m going to be able to continue doing it, I need to make peace with the things holding me back. Inspiration is one thing — I’m ok with waiting for inspiration and exploring other ways to be creative in the meantime. However, accepting my situation and facing my concerns about preserving memories without children to pass them to definitely need to be addressed if I want to continue scrapbooking.

Accepting this disappointment and the gap between what I *thought* family building would be like for us, and what it is *actually* like is a constant practice, a work in progress. I’m working on accepting what’s happened and what continues to happen. I’m working on accepting this new me, scarred — both physically and emotionally — by my experience. But acceptance is a lot harder than it might seem. In time I hope that when I look at old pictures, it won’t hurt so much, but right now it does. So in the meantime, I’m trying to be patient while I give myself space for acceptance.

When I asked Matt, “Who even cares if I scrapbook if we don’t have children?” after the initial shock subsided, he responded that *we* care if our memories are recorded; that we like having our photos printed and journaled; that it’s for us. And I suppose he’s right…

After all, I didn’t start scrapbooking as a highschooler years ago with the intent of passing them down to my children — I scrapbooked for me. Because I liked it. Because it was fun. Because I enjoyed revisiting my photos, writing down reflections, and sharing the finished product with friends and family. We like having our finished albums on the shelf, ready to look over together. Not everyday, but sometimes. And I’ve enjoyed showing albums to friends and family who are featured in them, or to someone who is soon to be visiting a place we’ve traveled to previously.

But at the same time, there was always a part of me that was excited and proud to have our photo albums ready to share with future generations… and not knowing if I will have children to pass our memories to is hard for me. So I’m working on letting go of that and reclaiming scrapbooking for myself. Like accepting my situation, letting go of the desire to preserve our memories for children is a work in progress. I’m trying to be patient and give myself space to feel these things and let them go; to acknowledge that this is holding me back; to accept that whether or not we have kids doesn’t matter for my photo preservation — if I like scrapbooking I should do it for me.

However, it’s easy for me to sit here and type out the list of what I need to do. Knowing that I need to accept these things is different from actually doing them. But I’m working on it.

One of these days I’ll get back upstairs and I’ll finish scrapbooking that trip I’m working on. I’ll tackle the next year, and revisit all of the things we did that year and memorialize the loved ones we lost. I’ll work through our photos and record memories so that Matt and I can revisit them when we want. I’ll finish pages so that my mom and I can drink tea and look through my albums. I’ll work on my scrapbooks because it’s something that used to bring me joy, and I believe it still can — when I’m ready.

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At the beginning of this year I decided that I would work on my hand lettering skills… I intended to pick a theme for each month, then letter and illustrate quotes in that theme, and post them on my other blog. For five months I stayed the course and I lettered some really nice quotes — quotes about new beginnings, love and friendship, life, home, and gardens. I drew pictures of flowers, bikes, and houses, and found new ways to design letters.

After my ectopic pregnancy, however, my lettering pretty much stopped. I have managed to letter a few here and there, but overall I’ve done very little practice since the beginning of June. I still have a large collection of quotes on a spreadsheet and I occasionally sit down with my materials and attempt to design something… but I don’t feel inspired like I used to. The ideas don’t come to me like they used to. I’ve abandoned a variety of attempts and not had the energy to start others.

I really wanted to letter something for Thanksgiving. Something on gratitude. I stared for days at gratitude quotes. Only one whispered any kind of an idea to me, and when I put pen to paper I failed to capture it. I closed my notebook and put my pens away. They’ll keep until I’m ready to letter again.

Another creative endeavor that’s currently on hold for me is scrapbooking… I usually love to scrapbook. But since my pregnancy it’s been really hard for me to even consider working on my scrapbooks. At this time I have so many complicated feelings about scrapbooking that I’m working on a blog post about it. Stay tuned.

Additionally, I’m no longer interested in playing my piano. I used to practice nearly every day, and now… I can’t even remember the last time I touched the keys. I actually had the piano tuned two weeks ago for the first time in over a year in hopes that I might get inspired soon and start playing again, but so far I haven’t played a single note.

Infertility, loss, and their close companion depression have seemingly killed my creativity.  And I hate it. I’ve tried so hard to not let infertility ruin everything, but it is sneaky and has managed to impact all kinds of things in my life — including limiting my ability to be creative in the ways I’m used to. I’m no longer inspired to create music or art or scrapbooks. I used to love these things and now the thought of doing them brings me no joy.

So what does a depressed, infertile, hurting girl do when her normal creative outlets aren’t inspiring, interesting, or enjoyable?

Well. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far for myself:

Let it be.

I don’t force it. I see no point in making myself work on a creative project if I’m not interested or inspired. Sometimes when I wish I were inspired, I go sit with my materials and see what happens. If inspiration strikes, I run with it (see my second to last point) and if not, I get up and do something else. I’m not happy that I haven’t scrapbooked more than two pages over the last six months, for example, but I’m not going to beat myself up about my lack of progress. It is what it is. I let it be.

Find other outlets for creativity.

At times it has been useful for me to find different ways to explore creativity. I don’t always have to be doing the same activities as I would normally do… infertility and loss are extreme experiences, so I think it’s ok if I change up other things in my life too. When I need a creative outlet and my “go-to” activities aren’t working, I look to what else I have enjoyed in the past or don’t do very often, or I try new activities.

Sometimes I color. I have a variety of coloring books — all gifts from loved ones — and sometimes coloring is just the thing I need for a calming, creative activity.  

Sometimes I crochet. This requires thinking of something to make, but when I’m inspired for a project, I’ve found that crocheting can be very soothing and enjoyable.

Sometimes I dabble in painting. I have taken a few painting classes with friends since June… you know — the kind where you sip on your wine and the instructor tells you which color to use next and where? Turns out those are pretty fun! In addition to canvas painting, I also painted some pottery this summer, and I love the mug I designed.

And sometimes I do something completely different: earlier this year I was inspired to create new playlists. I made playlist after playlist with different themes. My favorite one is a list that I named “this too shall pass”. It’s full of songs about getting through hard times and being ok. We also have a fun “wake up music” list with songs about the morning and waking up. There’s one called “pretty sweet” with songs about sugar, sweetness, and honey. We have lists called “dreamy” and “sky songs” and many more… Sorting through our music and creating new playlists was such a great project for me, and it’s been useful too — the lists have received lots of playtime on our stereo and iPods.

Find other activities to do.

Other times, I do something else entirely… Just because I’m normally pretty creative doesn’t mean I need to be creative all the time. Sometimes I need to do something else. Read. Take a walk. Watch a movie. Play a game. Sometimes my mind just needs a break or a change of scene or focus.

Run with it when inspiration strikes.

When inspiration does strike, I go with it. I try to take advantage of any and all inspiration when it presents itself. I’ve always kind of been like that, so I’ve had a lot of practice running with inspiration. I do feel like inspiration strikes less and less these days, but when it does hit, I switch gears as soon as I can and get working.

Give myself space.

When I look back over my time with infertility I sometimes feel guilty for having accomplished what feels like so little. My former self would have been working on this project and that project, and being useful and productive. But sitting with the grief of infertility and loss is hard, hard work. It’s demanding and exhausting. Sometimes I feel so depleted from dealing with everything in my reality that there’s just no room for anything else, and I have give myself time and space to heal. And by giving myself that space, I also think that I’m keeping myself open for inspiration to present itself, and that I’m open to my creativity even if it’s different from what I’m used to. I hope that in time, once I’ve had space to heal, some of my former creative endeavors will be enjoyable and meaningful again. And until then, we’ll see what else comes up.

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