A cafe in Paris

I remember sitting in my hospital bed, looking out the window. The nurse had just been in with the results of the scans and the conclusions drawn based on them. She’d seen the look on my face and asked if I wanted something to calm me down before the surgery the next day. I was baffled. Baffled that that would be her concern. Baffled that she would think it was the surgery I was worried about.

I’d thought that when you give a 21 yr old the verdict that she’d never bear or have biological children of her own… that they’d offer to send in a a therapist or someone to talk to who knew and understood what that really meant. Even hand out a damn flyer, you know?

To them, I guess, it wasn’t so out of the ordinary. I even remember a few days after the surgery while I was still confined to the bed, they compared me to a girl in the next room who had just undergone the same surgery, telling me with a look down their noses that “SHE wasn’t in pain and was dealing with it just fine”

That’s probably when it really hit for the first time. The feeling of inadequacy and humiliation. Reduced to half a woman and now not a good patient either.

I spent 16 days in total in that bed in a place that felt a world away from my friends and family – and even when they did come to visit I couldn’t deal with it and just closed off. Most of the time I just lay there alone, feeling trapped and alienated from anything and everything – most especially myself.

Until the 8th day. Then I got a new “room mate”. A woman about my mom’s age. She’d had surgery on her leg and was bedridden too. Her family visited a lot and were very nice. She and I talked, not about what was wrong with us, …but about everything else.

One day when we were bored, we somehow ended up imagining that we were in Paris, having lunch in one of those small cafes. I was mobile at that point and would often go to fetch things for her from the cafeteria or snack carts down the hall. I guess that’s what started it – me bringing in a tray and serving up coffee for her. When the nurse came in later to check on us we were both bawling with laughter and spent the rest of the day living out that little fantasy, even speaking with poor French accents.

Afterwards, we of course blamed the drugs and being couped up in bed for so long. But for us both, it had been a welcome escape where we had been reminded of all the things we could still do, instead of those we couldn’t.

I left a few days before her and saying goodbye was actually kind of hard. The week we’d spent together had been so intimate that it felt like much longer. She even gave me her phone number and I gave her mine, both of us promising to call to keep in touch. Neither one of us did.

Perhaps, the reminder of that time was too painful for us both to want to dig it up again. Perhaps, we were just so relieved to be out of that place and get on with life that we forgot. Or maybe we just didn’t know what to say… chained to a bed, completely dependent on nursing staff and overhearing everything that’s said, even when you try not to listen in… it makes talking easier, I guess. Being up and about again… it was too easy to run away. So we did.

I haven’t thought about her or that cafe in years, and don’t know what brought it to mind now. But truth be told, she should be remembered. It – she – was the one bright spot in the wash of numbness and pain of which my life consisted at that time. I really hope she is well and happy. I hope she recovered fully, and I guess, in a way… I hope she remembers, too.

Whether she does or not, I – at least – will always have Paris… *smiles quietly*


This entry was originally written in November 2009. For more info, see Not by choice
A cafe in Paris

Mixed feelings

I find myself at a loss as for how to continue. It’s been ten years. An entire decade of living somehow parallel to this truth about myself without really engaging it – and now I suddenly want to confront it head on?

How does one do that?

I come from a big and very tight-knit family. I wasn’t just “raised” by my parents. I grew up with all four grandparents and dozens of aunts and uncles and cousins living so close to my home that by the age of eight I could ride my bike to visit them all on my own. And did frequently. Several times a week, usually.

I even remember spending summers with my great grandparents in their garden when the whole family would gather to help them pick cherries and apples and I don’t know how many other things from trees and bushes. They were in their ninties then and still maintained their own home, fed the chickens and kept the garden. Our family cook books are full of recipes on how to make jam, preserves and cakes because of my great grandmother.

Family, and all the traditions that come with it, has always been the core of my life. The cornerstone that everything else rests on. Even to this day my maternal grandmother remains the family matriach – the tie that connects us all, keeps us connected and in touch with the more distant parts of the “clan”.

I feel blessed to have grown up this way. With an entire “village” around me, all ages, all walks of life, to learn from, lean on and interact with.

I don’t feel burdened by the expectation of carrying on the blood line anymore. At least not as much as I used to in the past. It really weighted on me. Especially after the death of my brother five years ago. Now, it is more … a feeling of having something of value to give, and no one to give it to. If one cannot share what one has… some of its meaning and worth diminishes somehow.

It makes me feel somewhat adrift. Without purpose. I know that is a narrowly biased and not entirely healthy way of looking at things but I guess part of the human condition is learning how to alter perception according to circumstances, rather than trying to force life to be what we think it should be.

It’s hard, though. Giving up on dreams and intentions I wasn’t even really sure I had not that long ago. It’s hard to accept the presence of something so irrevocable. And hard to look around when we all gather in the embrace of time and tradition and shared bonds… to feel like the odd one out. The flawed and weak link.


This entry was originally written in November 2009. For more info, see Not by choice
Mixed feelings

Not by choice

It’s taken me time to get to this place. Years, in fact. But as time passes it has become clear to me that this isn’t going to go away. Thoughts once fleeting and almost curious in nature now linger and take root – hurt, even. They stay with me. And I with them.

Perhaps, I should explain.

I am barren. I was born that way. For convenience, and to avoid more detail than is desirable to divulge, let’s just call it… a chronic problem with the plumbing.

It was not a shock when it was finally diagnosed. I’d known – or suspected – since my early teens. It was one of those “nothing can be done, just how it is” kind of things that one encounters in life and hurl into the “NOT FAIR” category. But actually, in some ways, finding out for certain was a relief for me. At least, I knew. It had a “name”. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.

I was young…. 21 at the time… and couldn’t care less. I’d never really dreamed of having children, so it didn’t seem too much of a loss to me. I understood well enough the implications but having the mind of someone who’d only just begun to explore life and adulthood I couldn’t fully grasp the ramifications of it. There were so many other things so worthwhile in life… why should I becry this one thing?

Inevitably, time and life matured me, altered my perceptions and – whether forced by necessity or invited by opportunity – taught me that life is never as simple as one might think.

That’s what brings me here. The fact that this is something I have to find a way to live with… or perhaps more accurately… something I have to find a way to live without.

Right now, I have no idea how it could ever have seemed easy or convenient to me. It may not be anyone’s fault, but that doesn’t free me from feeling broken in some ways. Less than whole. And I guess, I feel like I need to say something on this. Speak of it. Give it a name. I don’t know… something.

When the topic is mentioned in conversations or the media, it’s always about how to treat it, about deadlines and upholding the rights of those unable to conceive. Nothing is said of those for whom there never was a treatment, nor any hope. Nothing is said of those who don’t fit into a fertility program. Nothing is said of their rights to have families. It’s their problem. Our problem. My problem.

I guess, that makes me feel like talking about it. Even if it is just to myself here. So the next couple of posts will be a few old entries from my private journal. Maybe more will follow in time to come. I have not decided yet. But to anyone who listens however briefly – Thank you.


“For everything you have missed,
you have gained something else,
and for everything you gain,
you lose something else.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not by choice