Playing the “What If” Game

Dawn Davenport


What If Game

We can worry ourselves all night playing the “What If” game.

Surely I’m not the only one who occasionally awakes at night to play a round of the What If Game.  This infuriating game is infinitely versatile and can fit any middle of the night musings (or obsessions). Take your pick:

  • What if she never outgrows this problem and is still acting this way when she’s 15, or 20, or 30, or…
  • What if his learning disabilities keep him from passing the end of grade test?
  • What if this new behavior is a sign of attachment issues?
  • What if I’m ruining my family by adding just one more child?
  • What if an expectant woman never picks us for adoption?
  • What if our money runs out before infertility treatment is successful?

After playing a particularly strenuous round of the What If Game recently, I am here to tell you that the What Ifs are not our friend.  You simply can’t win.  You go round and round and end up no where.  I know this.  I know this during the day. I know this when I grab the What If ring in the middle of night and start the game.  But even though I know the futility, I still periodically can’t seem to help but play the game.

One technique that is sometimes effective for me is to get out of bed and write about whatever I’m obsessing about.  In the past when I tried to keep a journal, I would pour out my angst there.  Unfortunately, I’m not very good at keeping a journal and it was used only for these middle of the night worry sessions.  I worried that if anyone ever read the journal they would think me an obsessive worry wart—or neurotic.  I suspect the purpose of keeping a journal is to reflect the whole of your life, not just the obsessive moments of your life.  I hope no one ever reads my journals, but just in case, I’m vain enough to want a more even representation.  Now I write out my worries on paper and throw them away when I’m finished.  There is something cathartic about tearing my worries into many little pieces and throwing them away.

I always end my writings with a prayer for peace and clarity.  I also repeat a wise Russian saying:  The morning is always wiser.  And it always is.

Image credit: LadyBlackwood

31/08/2010 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 11 Comments

11 Responses to Playing the “What If” Game

  1. *What if’s* ugh. That one little phrase will drive you crazy it you let it!!


  2. Avatar Theresa Hernandez says:

    Let me add a few to your list:
    What if my husband decides we can’t afford to stay in treatment?
    What if he loses his job and then we will definitely not be able to afford this next cycle?
    What if this next cycle doesn’t take and the doctor suggests we stop treatment?
    What if I do get pregnant and the child has problems associated with me having taken all these drugs in order to get pregnant?

    Yeap, I have played quite a few rounds of this game as you can tell.

  3. Avatar Mama S. says:

    I was up last night playing the What If game. so many things to worry about. I remembered this post and the Russian saying. It helped some, so thanks for that. It also helped to remember that many other people were problaby playing with me. thanks for your humor and your honesty!

  4. Avatar Jeanie Jay says:

    I found you through the show you did on Unexplained Infertility and now I’m totally hooked. I’ve downloaded a bunch of shows to listen to in the car. I haven’t watched any videos, but that’s next. I identify with this blog. I am in the middle of one big What If game, but it is while I’m awake and when I’m asleep. I feel like I’m waiting to start my life and wht if I never get started.

  5. Avatar Kathy's Mommy says:

    I know that game all too well. I’m in the middle of yet another two week wait so I play this game even during the day. I should know better and I should protect my heart from getting too hopeful, but I just can’t seem to do that. I needed to read this post today.

  6. Avatar Kirsten says:

    I could have written the ‘what if’ list! I’ve had almost all of them!

  7. In the midst of an international kinship adoption and I play this game a lot. I use my blog to do what Dawn does with her journal, but agree that it gives a one dimensional picture of the situation, and I’m not always seen in a flattering light. It helps to get the story out of my head though, and it helps me process everything. Better than lying awake worrying about it.

  8. {Cross posting from Facebook . . .}

    I’ve got a serious case of the what if’s goin on right now.

    What if Li’l E doesn’t ever stop crying after I drop her off at her first day of pre-school? What if she hates it and the benefits of being there can’t be realized b/c she’s so emotionally over-wrought about being away from me? What if I never get to pee in private again? 🙂 What if she hits panic mode with her new teacher and they try to handle it without me? What if she gets mad at me for that? What if the Royal Melt Downs get worse with the start of pre-school? What if she stops napping with the change in her schedule? What if she slept later than 7:30???

    Ugh. I’m off now to go tackle my clutter pile, do some mindless paperwork and pray my way through that mental pile of clutter that the questions bring… Thank goodness for prayer – besides being a powerful tool in the life of a believer, it’s darned soothing to give the worries over to Someone bigger than I. Who LOVES her MORE than I….

    Thanks for this post. . . a good one for my week!!!!!

  9. Avatar Laura Jean says:

    I find it useful to answer what if questions. I end up acknowledging the things that are outside of my control. Then I can focus on what is in my control and how I would respond.

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