With each piece that I write, I listen to a particular song. For this piece, I listened to Paul Cantelon’s piece from ‘The Diving bell and the butterfly’. The story of a man trapped inside his body, like me. It really is worth a listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kLBAWutvdw
Babies and the possibility of not having them is rarely discussed. it is less spoken about when it’s the young. And even less again in the young and Chronically Ill. But this is my reality now. I am faced with complete heartbreak and uncertainty, as my body fails in me in the worst way yet. I am ok that my body has tried to kill me. I am not ok that it is trying to kill my future.
This is my current reality. Maybe it is yours too. Or your friends, your girlfriends, your cousin or your sister. Perhaps the girl next door, or the girl in your lecture. It is not rare, and it is not uncommon. It is sad, and it is awful.
But it can be spoken about too. Someone just has to start the conversation.
The balloon seems to stand still in the air while the earth flies past underneath
~ Alberto Santos Dumont
I am still. For, I never had a choice. I understood the Doctor’s instructions. The nurse murmured in agreement.
We need you to be still for this. It will be ok.
I wondered if they too could hear my pulse sprint away. Out past the curtain, through the gawking eyes in the waiting room, and into the street. Did they hear as it chased the white dashes in the folds of the road? Past the screeching breaks, the angered honks.
Stupid girl they would shake.
I wonder if anyone would question why my heart was running away. I wonder if anyone would ask if I needed help. I wonder if they would have tried to stop him.
But I must not run. I must not move. For the surgeon told me so. And I was without choice; my legs were firmly stuck in the concrete of the stirrups of the chair. Fear had never been quite so heavy.
She was not a nurse. She was Vogue. Dark, shining tentacles cascaded from her canvas skin. Breast was full and overflowing the strong tailoring of her white blouse. I cast my own blackened eyes down. She was woman. My body couldn’t even seem to get that right.
A blankets width separated my naked bod from his gloved hands. Threads and spread. This was the routine. You may think it crude of me. But when your only blanketed shield is removed, and the gangle of your legs gently pried apart, dignity is soon a foreign word, as strange and awkward as my splayed splashes of skin.
Before it begins, I look at his hands. I wonder why he is trying to trick me. Blue latex. It is but a deflated balloon, stretched and coated. An old party decoration, tailored for his blessed hands. I wonder, if I were too cut them off now, would I be saved? Or would they simply find another pair? Was the body really so dispensable?
He asks for the pliers, the vice, and the scissors. For a moment, I think I hear someone laugh. It is a baby. A bouncing baby with a bouncing balloon. And then I remember. It slaps at my lips, and rips at the ribbons threading chest bone together. If I had a baby, I wouldn’t be here. There is no baby laughing. It is a girl, she is screaming. She whimpers. She asks him to stop cutting. She asks the nurse to make it stop. She sobs when they tell her it will all be ok.
After, Mummy asks me how it went. I smile weakly, and pretend that the nurse was right. We pretend that it was ok. I don’t tell her about the screaming girl. Mummies always know the truth. Mummy will know the screaming girl was me.
I wait for heaven’s lights, pin pricks in the sky. I wait until the world is asleep. I wonder who is peeking through the pin pricks. I wonder if they see me, wrapped in sheets of cotton. I think they know my secret. I don’t think they will tell. Sometimes, if I am greedy, I ask them to send me a miracle one day.
And once I am sure that the world will not stir, I slip the smooth of my pyjama above my navel. In the dark, you can’t see the scars where his balloon fingers cut me. I slip the curve of my hand down to the balloon of my belly. And I keep it there, until I can believe it.
It is not a twitch, a muscle spasm, dancing in decay. Tonight, it is a kick. I wonder how old it must be to kick. In the morn, my finger tips stroked the ivory of the piano. Daylight and music made love on those keys. In the dark, they stroke my round, taut belly. Love was made. And love made another. And I love what rests beneath my skin.
The doctor tells me that the cysts make me swell. But they have it wrong. I am not growing cysts. The scans show that they fill each room that they should not. But it’s only a picture. Doctor’s art. At school, they taught us that everyone perceives a piece differently. They don’t need to read me the results, I know what they see. Jackson Pollock, No 5.
I do not need to look at their machine canvasses. I need only to hear the gurgles from the babes and breasts in the waiting room to know that they got it wrong. I show them the Birth of Venus.
They say nothing. I don’t think they like being wrong.
We fall asleep together, babe and I. Safely tucked away, we do not listen to the tests, to their stories. We do not need them. For one day, we will have one another. One day, they will know that they were wrong. They will know that they made me cry for nothing.
And of course, my baby and I don’t see the blood. The rose petals falling down my legs, swirling on the showers tiles. It waits for us, morning and night. And everywhere in between. The thorns scrape and claw. They twist each organ in their cold, slippery grasp, and wring out all that is left. When I was seventeen, still just a girl, I stumbled to the bathroom. I remember slamming the door, in time to catch my breath. That’s when Mummy heard me scream. She banged with all the fury that a mother in distress can gather. I flinched with each knock. My white spindly fingers slowly opened the door. And then I heard her gasp. At the blood. And then my insides, which now slipped away. She screamed for Daddy. Later, I thanked her for catching me before my little blonde head smashed on the tiles.
I listened to my friend’s moan, the troubles of being a woman each month. I never said a word. No one would believe that you could be a woman every day for a year. I wasn’t sure what was worse; being labelled a liar, or a freak.
And so I swallowed His tablets, and lay on his cold surgeons table. I vomited his side effects, and lived in the Morphine swirl of living hour to hour, until the next powdery coated pill could slide over my tongue and rot away at the organs that were left.
He cut me. Once, twice, three times, four. He was impressed he said. Who would have thought a cyst the size of a water balloon could live in a belly as petite as mine? There were complications, of course. I greeted them with expectation. And now the nurses were impressed.
A blood pressure of 66/40 and still conscious. Wasn’t it just amazing?
I didn’t share their excitement as the bags of saline leaked into my spindly veins. And of course, the yellow splash ensured that more cannulas must pierce my little crooks. Complications followed surgery, infection followed complication, and allergic reactions followed infection. And this was the broken home that Jess built.
My body failed at being a woman. And yet, like every other woman, I dreaded bikini season. No one understood. You are beautiful, they would smile. I wish I was skinny like you. So I replaced panties with Seafolly, and listened to their gasps.
What happened to your stomach?
I looked at the burns from the heat packs, the cuts from his knife, the swelling from the cysts. Nothing, I told them.
Nothing happened at all.
I wait until they are asleep, but for the stars. My fingers stretch wide and proud across my balloon belly. The salt settles in the black gutters beneath my lashes. Because, no matter how tight I squeeze them shut, there is no escaping that everything is happening, and no Doctor and tablet can stop it. I stopped being surprised by the forever falling petals more than a calendar ago. Daddy stopped asking when I was going to have the ‘baby’, as he laughed at the heat pack gingerly placed beneath my top. Mummy stopped asking me if I need Morphine. Instead, she silently places them in the palm of my grateful hand. The man that I love stopped asking why I was screaming in the darkness of the night.
Because my body wouldn’t.
I know that I must choose between my body doing everything and nothing. I wonder if there is a middle ground. A choice between life and not creating it. I wonder if I can have both. The doctors are still looking.
I think of the balloons of a newborn, in baby blue and pink. I think of the deflated balloons stretched across my surgeon’s hands.
Last time I lay in the hospital, waiting for the surgeon, I stole a rubber glove from its dispenser, and placed it’s wrist around my lips. My lungs emptied to the chime of IV’s, as the glove filled. And suddenly it wasn’t a glove anymore. It was a balloon.
So tonight, like every other night, I will place hand to belly, and live in a world of fantasy. I will dream of marriage and nurseries, and the gentle suckle of a newborn. I will smile at the beauty of it all, knowing that the baby belongs to me, and disease to anyone but me.
And together we will rest, until my drug laden lashes are weighted down, until the balloons take us away, and never cut us again.