The third piece in the Hope series
In moments of extremes – extreme sadness, extreme stress, extreme disappointment etc., I have a perverse hankering for apple compote and natural yoghurt. An urgent need for those contrasting flavours; the sourness of the yoghurt, the syrupy sweetness of the apples. Focusing on the clashing sensations exciting my taste buds, relishing the thick creamy sludge squidging over my tongue, is the only way to cap my feelings – make them more manageable.
I say perverse hankering because that’s what I was given each time I came round from the general anaesthetic. That and a crusty cob with a triangle of Vache qui rit cheese which I didn’t have the energy to eat. I’d peel the thin foil lids off each pot and take a teaspoonful of apple then a teaspoonful of yoghurt. Apple then yoghurt, apple then yoghurt. Sweet – sour, sweet – sour. It was quite therapeutic. And it tasted like hope.
It was the second to last step in a long and draining process. Hundreds of consultations, thousands of examinations, millions of daily injections. Over a week of one-hundred-and-ninety-five-kilometre round trips to the hospital in Clamart – a depressingly faceless area of high rises and highways spreading like some concrete bacterial fungus on outskirts of Paris. Over a week of queueing along the corridor with the other hopeful couples – none of us making eye contact for fear of seeing that agonising, pathetic look of desperate hope that we knew we were all trying to hide. The women taking it in turns to climb into the stirrups and watch our wombs lit up on the big screen – black with a smattering of starry white speckles – while the doctor scanned around searching for possible eggs, lassoing and measuring them like newly discovered planets. Then finally strutting out of the examination room like I’d just come top of the class when the doctor finally found three plump eggs grown to the right size. This was always rewarded with a trip to the theatre, to have them removed and plopped onto a petri-dish bed of jelly to await the arrival of the blessed spermatozoa.
Apple compote and yoghurt seemed to be the post-theatre menu du jour. An odd mix of siltiness and creamy smoothness experienced through that post-anaesthesia, ever so slightly hallucinatory druggy state. Half propped up on pillows – the teaspoon unaccountably difficult to coordinate with the mouth opening – the gastronomic delights of a late lunch unfolded in hazy abstract. The textures complimented one another; silky and rough, yin and yang, him and her, sperm and egg… It was a time to relax. To breathe. Time to prepare the body to accept the arrival of the long awaited. Each mouthful of appley-yoghurt was bursting with potential. Baby names drifted across the mind unbidden. Colour schemes for nurseries floated by. Absolutely no blue or pink gender stereotyping clothes in the tiny wardrobe that would have to be bought. Would s/he take after my side or his? We’d have to take lots of trips back to England and Ireland of course so s/he could get to know her/his cousins and aunts and grandmas. Where would we hold the Birthday parties? And what about schools, universities…. whole lives would stream by until the anaesthetic finally wore off and reality slapped me across the chops shouting STOP!!!! Chickens, hatched, counting and all that.
With the last scrape of each plastic pot, that sugary apple and tangy yoghurt flavour was filed away under ‘H’ for hope. ‘H’ for happiness.
Two days later the lovely old surgeon would gently slip three tiny embryos into their new warm bed, making sure they were all snuggly and safe.
–We’ve done all we can, now it’s up to God, he’d say each time, patting my stomach.
And for the next week or so, comfy socks and fluffy jim-jams on, fave music playing, I’d take my temperature every day and phone the nurse with the result.
–Ah! J’en suis desolé.
I’m not sure if I hanker for that sweet and sourness out of some masochistic impulse to make myself more miserable, to dig the knife in a little deeper because it’s so pleasant once you stop or whether it’s simply my inner wiser self reminding my self-pitying, wallowing-in-it self, to hope. Hope for better times to come.
After all, you know the old adage, ‘where there’s life…’