Most people form positive associations with ice-cream. Today, however, as I stare down at my gleaming dome of Belgian chocolate, I wonder if I would sooner dissolve into a puddle of tears before it melts into a gooey milkshake.
No, I will not get emotional. Not at my favorite Häagen-Dazs cafe in the middle of an upscale shopping mall.
I text my husband, who’s at work. “I saw Dr C,” I begin.
“How did it go? Everything OK?” comes his reply.
I pause. That is a tough question to answer, and is contingent upon how one defines ‘OK.’ It’s certainly nothing life-threatening, so in that sense, I’d check the ‘OK’ box. But how do I explain this heaviness in my heart that can’t be assuaged with some Häagen-Dazs?
He calls me back before I can formulate a coherent answer. “What happened? Wasn’t it just a routine check?” he asks.
“Yep,” I bite my lip. Persistent months of mid-cycle bleeding had concerned me enough to make an appointment to see my ob-gyn, but I’d remained hopeful it was just some manifestation of PMS and hormones out of whack. The worst-case scenario would be cancer or some other troublesome condition that would require an invasive procedure. So no, the worst hasn’t happened.
Trouble is, not-the-worst can still feel pretty terrible. I plunge my long silver spoon into my dessert, as if that might keep it from melting.
“Seems I have some polyps. They’re benign and apparently not uncommon for women around my age,” I elaborate, feeling old as that phrase escapes my lips. “So we’ll just monitor the situation for now.”
“Phew,” he says. “That’s good news, right?”
“But what? By the way, where are you?”
“Ion Orchard. Having ice-cream.”
He sighs in that way that he does whenever he knows the implication of my words or actions. Such as my impromptu urge to travel downtown for dessert on a random weekday afternoon. “Hang in there, I’m coming over. Talk later.”
By the time he arrives, I’m buoyed by the double hits of caffeine and sugar, having ingested both my ice-cream and a cup of Americano, so he finds me in a much calmer, even chirpy state.
“What’s bothering you?” he asks, in that no-nonsense-give-me-the-deets tone of his, as he gratefully accepts a glass of water and a menu from the attentive waiter.
“We can’t have kids anymore,” I blurt.
Certainly not a revelation he was expecting, judging from his raised eyebrows. In a graphic novel, the thought bubble above his head would probably contain a huge question mark.
“As in, it’ll be complicated, with the polyps issue,” I go on.
He looks at me, confused. “But we don’t want kids anymore. You yourself said you were done. So how’s that relevant?”
“I’m not upset,” I say, surprised by the defensive tone in my voice. “It’s just, barely a few years ago when we had Belle, I had no polyps, and now I do.”
“And in a short period, I went from being able to have kids, to not being able to—if I were to change my mind.”
“But have you changed your mind?”
I consider this question carefully. The answer’s clearly no, but that doesn’t seem to cushion the impact of my new reality. What am I grieving, really? Several more years of fertility I thought I had?
Ferris Bueller springs to mind and I see him, pajama-clad and staring into the camera, uttering the all-too-familiar platitudes. Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
“I haven’t changed my mind, but I don’t know why this still feels sad to me,” I admit.
The husband sighs again, semi-exasperated but mostly sympathetic. “It’s OK,” he says, patting my head while I hold back my tears. He makes a comment about the Sephora paper bag next to me, stuffed with impulse purchases, and the distraction makes me laugh.
The irony of my situation isn’t lost on me, however. Perhaps it’s the finality of closing a chapter that’s making me wistful. There used to be just Rachel BK (before kids) and Rachel AK (after kids). Today, though, a new era begins: Rachel NMK (no more kids). Maybe this is how some women feel when they enter the menopause, I don’t know. But I make a mental note to stop wishing away monthly periods and the excruciating cramps, because somehow they still make you feel like you.
We order another scoop of ice-cream, not saying very much for the rest of the afternoon.
[Continued from Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15 and Part 16]
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