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Homegrown Hollywood: Safe spot of fantasy allows hope to bloom

Jessica Runck

I've always had an active imagination.

As a kid, I believed in all the classics: mermaids, fairies, unicorns, elves. I was even convinced trees could talk.

Raised on a small farm outside of a small town, my imagination knew no limits. It was free to unfurl through the wheat fields and shelterbelts, happily leading me on epic adventures of my own creation.

One summer, at the height of my imaginings, my cousin, Grant, and I decided to plant a rock garden. (These are the kind of things we did for fun back in rural North Dakota, before cable television or poop emojis.)

We were convinced that with the right love and care we could grow giant rocks from tiny pebbles.

We spent a whole morning searching for stones, painstakingly picking out only the best ones. When we were finally satisfied with our "seeds" we began planting them, one by one, in neat little rows.

Grant went home that night and forgot about our little garden in favor of basketball and putting pennies on railroad tracks. But I didn't.

I spent the entire summer tending our small patch of dirt — waiting for my little rocks to grow.

I've been thinking about that garden lately, as more and more months slip by without any signs of pregnancy. Although my husband, Jason, and I know that IVF is in our future, I can't give up the hope that maybe we can get pregnant without any help.

That maybe — against all the odds — something will grow.

Which is why, every month, I've started to think I'm pregnant. In those first blissful weeks, my mind runs skipping over hurdles and racing past facts, right down into the soft, safe spot of fantasy.

I imagine how I'll tell Jason. I wonder what it'll be like to grow a human body inside my body. I wonder if I'll have morning sickness and where I should shop for cribs.

And when the day comes — and it always comes — that I find out I'm not pregnant, the pain is all the more potent because of the hope I had.

In those dark moments — moments that usually involve crying and expletives and yelling, "I'm fine!" — I wonder if I should let go of the fantasy.

The doctor gave us a 2 percent chance of ever conceiving naturally. So maybe all I'm really doing is watering rocks.

And yet...

Hope is like strapping on a bulletproof vest. While you're wearing it, nothing can touch you. You're safe and secure and happy. You believe in a world that's full of miracles.

It's a warm familiar place I can snuggle into and feel like everything's going to be OK. It's a place I can let my mind wander that's so much better than any facts I've found.

Because thing about my little rock garden is, I don't remember the disappointment. I just remember how happy I was watering my little stones.

So I think I'll take that extra bit of pain.

It's worth it to have those few weeks of magic — a place where even rocks can grow.

Jessica Runck, who grew up in Wimbledon, N.D., and graduated from Concordia College, is a writer living in Los Angeles. Visit www.jessicarunck.com for more information.

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