Dreams Recalled at the Biomed Lab: A Poem About Fear, Precognition, and Hope
I Can Make Life: Poems About Infertility and Miscarriage, Pregnancy and Birth
Introduction to "Dreams Recalled at the Biomed Lab", from I Can Make Life
"Dreams Recalled at the Biomed Lab" was inspired by three dream fragments I remembered one morning as I sat in the waiting room of the local bloodwork clinic. These visits were frequent several years ago as I underwent ten cycles of fertility treatment before finally giving birth to my son in March of 2010.
Each of these fragments came back to me slowly one morning as I wrote in my journal, awaiting my turn. It seems to me now that as I was up and going earlier than usual on blood test days, it was likely I interrupted an active dream cycle, which made it easier to remember parts of my dream that morning.
The three fragments each had something to tell me, though I wasn't sure what they wanted to tell me at the time; I just had the sense that there was a message in each fragment because my dreams were particularly vivid. The third of the fragments was the most uncanny,and its meaning only truly sunk in months after I'd completed writing I Can Make Life.
I am looking at myself in the mirror.
I am wearing a black cocktail dress,
my breasts well-concealed
behind two feather flowers
that move slowly with me,
like those on a boa.
It dawns on me slowly that
my belly is huge and round.
A perfect black moon.
The more I stare
the fuller it gets.
I turn and turn and look.
In this fragment I am truly surprised to see myself pregnant. I'd had three failed attempts at this point, including a biochemical pregnancy, and at that time was trying to psych myself up for the next cycle. This dream/poem fragment conveys my bewilderment of actually seeing myself pregnant. In the end, I did enjoy a full term pregnancy, but not for seven more cycles. The black dress, the black moon, the feathers concealing something, were, in the end, clues to the dark side of what was to come. This poem was written months before I became pregnant on my 9th IUI attempt, but then lost the baby at 6 weeks.
I am showing you off.
Your middle name is Alexander.
I barely know you
you are so new
and hidden inside layers
and layers of white blanket
In this dream/poem fragment, I actually got to hold the baby I was wishing for. I didn't see much of him, not even his face, but enjoyed the feeling of holding a warm little bundle in my arms. In the dream I said to someone, "His middle name is Alexander." Strangely, Alexander was never a name on our list; it was always Tristan, with middle names borrowed from our father's names. A few years after I wrote this poem, after my son was born, I met a woman online whose story about her son, whom she lost three weeks before his due date, truly moved me - and whose story, in part, inspired the courage to write my book. His name was Alexander.
The owner of the tattoo parlour suggests
a line of black ivy entwined with thorns.
The only other detail a tiny black dove hanging
off the vine by a small round link,
like a charm on a bracelet.
I’m not ready for this tattoo, I tell her,
but I’ll think about it.
Maybe I’ll come back.
Bird symbolism runs through I Can Make Life, from the first poem, "Bohemian Waxwings", through to the closing poem, "Garden Cycle Three: The Children's Garden". While some women think of their lost babies as angels, and the image of butterflies are often used by organizations that support families who have lost a child, when I think about the babies I lost (three in all), I think of birds. I'm not sure when or how this connection began for me; possibly with the writing of "Bohemian Waxwings", the first poem I wrote on the subject of my journey to have my son.
I didn't realize until after I'd written the poem that the image of the black dove likely came from the Tori Amos song of that name, from her "From the Choirgirl Hotel" album (written about her own miscarriages). Incidentally, a reference to the song "Black Dove" appears in my poem, "February". The ivy entwined with thorns and the black dove hanging from it always felt sinister to me, which was why I left the parlour in the dream. But I also felt I should consider it, that I'd come back when I felt more brave.
After the fourth unsuccessful IUI, I decided to take a break from trying to get pregnant for many months and then "came back" to the fertility clinic (tattoo parlour) for six more appointments. The black dove was indelibly printed on me when I lost my baby; the loss felt foreseen yet inevitable, even if I dodged the loss by avoiding the clinic altogether for a little while. But the experience was there, waiting for me; something, it seems, I had to go through to get to my son.
In the end, my black dove was the reason for me to finally become the writer I'd always dreamed of being - by writing about him, and the others, in I Can Make Life.
About Nicole Breit
Nicole Breit'sdebut poetry collection, , explores the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual impact of fertility treatments, pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and birth. I Can Make Life was a finalist for the 2012 Mary Ballard Poetry competition. Her essay, “For Tristan: A Meditation on Loss, Grief and Healing” was published in The Sound of Silence: Journeys Through Miscarriage (Wombat Books, 2011). She is also the author of a number of online I Can Make Lifepregnancy loss resources.
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