Deferred Dreams

Monday, September 22, 2008

This is an extra long post.

Back in college Mike had taken an African American Literature class. The books and reading appealed to me so I read them myself. Of course, Mike did not mind. He was so busy with his important engineering classes that a minor elective like this got lost in his intellectual world. At times it was helpful to him that I had already read that day's assignment. I would give him the high points of the stories or poems and off he'd go to class leaving me totally jealous that I could not sit in on the lecture.

I am no brainiac, who naturally deciphers symbolic reading. If there's a deeper message hidden I will often miss it. I'm more of a Spell-It-Out-For-Me kind of girl. But there was one poem that has stuck with me. It was simple and easy to understand.

Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore--

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over--

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

--Langston Hughes

Hughes says:
"Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?" A raisin is already dried. It's useful, editable, and nutritious like that. But leave a raisin in the sun and it becomes hard and impossible to eat. It's value is sucked out. It no longer can serve its enjoyable and nutritional purpose.

He then says:
"Or fester like a sore and then run?" If you have a sore you want it to dry up. That's when it can heal. But if it festers that's when it getsit gets infected and takes it much longer to heal. The dream that festers gets infected with the disease of dissatisfaction and restlessness in life. That's an ugly place to be. Depression sets in and unhappiness spreads out to all areas of your life. Sometimes the person even strikes back at WHO- or WHAT-EVER is deferring the dream.

He also says:
"Does it stink like rotten meat?" I once left some raw tenderloins in the refrigerator too long. When I took them out and removed their plastic wrapping their odor was so rancid they immediately were discarded into the garbage can and taken to the curb. It was completely unusable, worse than just a dried up raisin. You don't want anything left around from that meat...for even just the memory of its smell alone makes you gag. You don't want a deferred dream to get to this point either. It's completely wasted, unusable.

What next:
"Or crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet?" I use to buy a big bottle of honey but we could never use it up fast enough before it became all thick and crusty. A dream that is forced to sit idle hardens into an unusable substance of destructive thoughts of doubt, despair, and anger.

Then He says:
"Maybe it just sags like a heavy load." Mike likes to leave his 30 pound dumbbells in the living room. When weeks start to go by without use their presence in the living room begin to irritate me. So I pick them up and carry them back to our spare room. As I'm walking down the hallway their load slows me down. Perhaps a dream deferred slows the person down as it weighs heavy on the mind, often manifesting into the deep pit of "What if's" and "What might have been's". These useless thoughts dip back into the past and weigh heavy on the mind of someone that has had to defer a dream. Depression is usually not too far around the corner then.

Last, he says:
"Or does it explode?" This one I'm not sure of...what explodes? The dream? The person? What does an exploded person look like? Is it rage? Completely unhappy with everything? Mental breakdown? Suicide? Or do you blow up the dream so you can rebuild it?

At first I found Hughes kind of whiny. Then he got me thinking. We all have dreams...goals really, for our lives. We almost define ourselves by them. They give us something to look forward to...something to press on towards. But sometimes something happens that defers a dream...perhaps makes it completely unreachable. What do we do when that happens? It's an important choice because what we do with a deferred dream effects our quality of life.

Life is full of struggles; trials, and tribulations; and overall, it’s a learning process that takes a LONG time…and as we get older, we look back and reflect on those learned lessons.

I consider myself an optimistic person but there are days when even I look up to the heavens and ask, “Why me, Lord?”

I think that's normal. Perhaps it is part of the process of moving on from the hard times in life. I always try to watch out for the negative ruts my mind is tempted to get stuck in. Those negative thoughts will penetrate and then permeate from every pore in my body. If negativity sticks around long enough to become a habit, that is a terrible place to try and recover from.

I feel so lucky to have married a man that is a very optimistic person. Mike naturally looks at the brighter side of things and his example helps me learn how to carry on.

At times this blog has been a way for me to constructively channel my feelings, work through my negative thoughts, and reach the goal of arriving to a better state of mind. It's a process.; facing reality, grieve, and then move forward. My belief is, in all things, there is a silver lining. It's God's way of showing us He's still here among us in this fallen and broken world.

So here's me working through my latest grief:

My C-section for Cayman's birth throws in a complicated twist in our plans for future kids. Two doctors have given us the opinion that I am high risk if I get pregnant again. That even if everything develops naturally for the baby I will be in a high risk clinic due to the complications of birthing another baby. Because epidurals do not work in my spine, general anesthetic is the only way to go. The surgeons cuts quickly to get the baby out before the general anesthetic reaches the womb. Cayman was born only one minute after the gas mask was placed over my face. Two doctors have given us the same opinion; that while surgeons do try to cut carefully they can't always see what they are cutting when the area has scar tissue from previous surgeries. A surgeon could cut a main artery or nerve accidentally. If they nick a nerve it could leave me paralyzed. If they hit an artery the risk is bleeding to death.

So those are my risks.

Pretty big I'd say!

We feel the gamble is quite it really worth the risk, especially since our dream of more kids can still come true through adoption. We always talked about adopting even if we could have our own kids. I wanted to have one of our own for sure. I wanted the whole pregnancy experience. Ok, maybe not the WHOLE experience. I would have been OK not knowing the "morning sickness".

But I wanted to know what it felt like to have a baby move inside of me, see their developing body on the ultrasound, bond with them before they were born, see what I looked like with a pregnant belly, wear maternity clothes, hear my baby's first cries, see who the baby looks like, and see the look on Mike's face when he realized he was a daddy. I wanted people to come visit us in the hospital; watch them "ohhh" and "ahhh" as they passed my baby from person to person.

I did get my wish of being pregnant but hardly any of that process went according to my dreams. The day Cayman was born was far from the experience I imagined it would be like.

Let me go back to that day:

March 8th somewhere around 10:30 p.m.
I felt my body moving as I slowly opened my heavy eyes. I could hear people talking as they pushed my hospital bed down a brightly lit hallway. I tried to make out what they were saying but their voices were muffled. I blinked a few times trying to get my eyes to focus. With each blink I started to fully come back to reality. It wasn't a dream. I must be out of surgery. Still groggy from the general anesthesia and whimpering through the pain as I waited for the Morphine to do its magic, I asked the nurse, "How did it go?" I couldn't bring myself to ask specifically "How is Cayman?" I feared the answer but felt so desperate to know. The nurse said, "Everything is good. The doctor did have to cut your uterus vertically to get your baby out because her head was too big for the lower cut." I knew that meant all future births would be done by C-section. That hardly seemed important to me at the time. The nurse didn't quite understand that my question "how did it go?" was not me inquiring about my surgery but my baby. Gripping at my now flat stomach I was forced to say it. "And Cayman, how is she?"

"Baby's doing good. Dad's with her right now."

Then the nurse showed me a picture of Cayman taken soon after she was born. Oh she looked terrible!! Her head was much bigger than we anticipated, her coloring was funky, and her eyes were not centered. I couldn't tell from the picture if she was really doing good or not. I was so startled by her appearance. I did not know what I would find. A baby with no response? Did good mean she was breathing on her own? Did she cry? Can she feel pain? Is she more than just a body with a beating heart? I needed to see Cayman for myself before I could believe anyone that she was doing good.

Somewhere around 1 a.m. I was ready to leave recovery and go to my hospital room. But first the medical team had a surprise for me. They wheeled my bed right into the NICU so I could see Cayman. I think they were able to do this because it was in the middle of the night. There's not a lot going on during those a.m. hours.

Rose, the NICU nurse, picked Cayman up and placed her in my arms.

"Hi my baby!"

Cayman turned right toward me! My baby knows my voice!! I almost thought I had imagined her immediate response to me but everyone that was there saw it too! She was making cute little baby noises and seemed so aware of us. She really was doing good!! I felt so happy. Peace.

When I was being discharged 4 days later, the OBGYN was getting my prescriptions all written up. He wanted to write me a script for birth control pills. I have tried those before...different kinds. I do not feel well on them. I am an emotional wreck while taking them. So I declined the prescription explaining to him why. He strongly urged me to be cautious on getting pregnant again. First off, we needed to wait at least a year to allow my large incision on my uterus to fully heal and then we needed to consider the risk we would be taking in having more kids.

As he talked his words barely penetrated my thoughts.

I heard the words:
bleed to death


All I could think was:
Kids? Like I'm ever going to do this again!

I guess enough time has passed now that I find my thoughts floating back to the idea of having another baby someday. But that's where it stops. It's a deferred dream now.

It's not an easy one to get over.

But in all honesty, God knows what my heart's desires are. And I know that those things in life that sometimes don’t make any sense at all, they hold all the potential to make us into better people. There can be a “silver lining” in everything if we choose to see it that way.

I'm so thankful for Cayman. We didn't know if I would ever be able to have children at all and now we have precious Cayman. And someday, when God knows we're ready, He will place another child in our arms.

Until then, I place my deferred dream at the feet of Jesus, with all the belief in the world that someday He will give it back to us, making it come true, or if not, He will bring me to a place of complacency.

7 Showin' Comment Love:

Kadynsmommy2007 said...

Amazing post! Birth control pills dont work on me either, they acually stop my whole monthly completely even when i take the inactive pill nothing, so i can not take them.

Anyways id adopt a child if i couldnt have another, even if i could, i think adoption is great, there are so many children out there in need of a loving home. I think one day i will adopt a child, of course when im older!!

Sherri said...

I loved this post. Thank you so much for sharing! I always wanted 4 kids and grew up in a family with 5 kids. I am sad about this, but I really have no desire to be pregnant again. Of course God is always in control, but with how traumatic everything with Miles was- I just don't think I could do it. Especially worrying if everything with a new baby would be ok...and then throw in finances and a baby who needs extra attention and Joe and I are pretty set on our family just the way it is. With Greta, I was so sad when she would hit each milestone because it meant she was growing up too fast. With Miles, it's been kind of a blessing to anticipate and cherish each milestone! So if he's our last- I'll never have to go through that "oh, my baby is walking already" instead it will be, "Praise God! Miles is WALKING!"
I would LOVE to adopt as well, but we'll see what the future holds :)

Amber said...

Excellent post...of course as an adoptive mama...I think it's an excellent choice! :0)

The Soldatke family said...


What a great post! Writing is definately your strong point! I don't understand poems worth squat! I was very impressed with your insight!

On future babies; I can't imagine how scary your delivery was for you! And while i'm not negating the risks the doctor has given you; as a labor and delivery RN I've seen MANY women who have "T" incisions carry future HEALTHY pregnanies and also have seen plenty of women have c-sections with general anesthesia with NO complications. I understand putting the 2 together does make any future pregnancies somewhat more high risk; but LOTS of things are high risk to me-like flying in an airplane when you don't know the pilot (I'm a bit scared of flying) and riding carnival rides when you don't know who put together the rides :) And driving down the road with the possibility of drunk drivers and other hooligans on the the road. Fortunately, we KNOW the 'Pilot' of our lives and the 'Person' who puts together this wild ride we call life and the 'Driver' of our destinations :)
Please don't get me wrong when I say these things, because you will be labeled 'high risk' and you will worry and you will be scared should you have future pregnacies! But doc's have to tell you these things to FULLY inform you of your risks (a.k.a-so you can't sue them). I also agree that adoption is a WONDERFUL, beautiful option that God has given us! I'm not trying to talk you out of it what so ever as God has certainly put this on your heart; I just don't want you to soley base your decision on your physician-although they have good and factual information. Just remember to talk to the Master Physician and see what he thinks :)

Kristen, I feel so lucky to have 'met' you. You are such a beautiful person and it's a priveledge to call you 'friend'!


P.s. As I reread this, I hope I didn't offend. Please erase it if I did. I in no way am trying to be offensive, but I'm not an eloquent writer and since I'm not saying this face to face, I don't want you to take this the wrong way. Doctors sometimes just frustrate me when they don't tell you the motive behind their actions and advice is 'sometimes' based partially (or wholey) on legality.

Grandma Cindy said...

Oh Kris - I will never forget that moment when you seen Cayman for the first time face-to-face -- IT WAS PRICELESS!!! I don't think there was a dry eye among us when we seen Cayman respond to your voice and the love in your eyes and in your touch and voice. It was sooo Beautiful!

Anonymous said...

And yet another beautiful post! I needed to read that poem and your break down of it so badly today!! You are such a blessing to me Kristen!!!
I wasn't there when u delivered Cayman, but I was getting phone calls updating us and hearing the story of how Cayman instantly took to mommy's voice brightened my night when your mom called. Not only do you mean the world in my life, but you are also touching many many many lives of people all around the world that you have never "met" before. You are also touching one beautiful baby girl's life each and every day. It is so evident that Cayman adores her mommy!!!! (and daddy too, of course!!!)
We love you!!

And I think last night, when we were looking at your post, Ashalyn said to mommy and daddy that she is ready to come see Cayman again!!!

Sarah said...

I like Langston Hughes, too. He really has a great way of describing things. And your analysis of his poem was certainly college level! No need to worry about your abilities-you are a very smart girl!

I try to keep up with your blogs but don't have an opportunity as much as I like. And then I can't always comment. But I love hearing about what you are learning and experiencing. We pray for you and think of you very often. It is so great to see Cayman thrive and grow into an even more beautiful little girl. I know it is because her mom and dad have amazing, multi-faceted beauty just pouring out of every part of them.

We love you guys!