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.