An ode to a man much missed

I’d got used to the silence after you’d left to live in Islamabad. It had settled around me. I’d snuggled down into it. I’d occasionally interrupted it with friends, with endless episodes of favourite TV shows on Netflix, with phone conversations with family, with days spent at my desk working. I’d got used to the daily chats with you on Skype, you on the sofa in the quiet new home that next summer will explode with the sounds of me and our babies, and me in the flat in France that we’d so happily occupied together. I’d got used to cooking the meals for one, to sleeping alone, to waking up without you. I’d put a picture of you beside the bed, an indulgence I’d never needed when I could open my eyes and see the real thing.

But then you came home. Miraculously. Surprisingly. Gorgeously. You had two days of work in Geneva but hadn’t mentioned it to me. We’d spoken on Skype on Tuesday evening, then you’d packed your bags, got in a taxi to the airport and got on a plane to take you to Dubai, and another to deliver you to Geneva. Then a taxi brought you home to our door in Divonne. You rang the doorbell and I didn’t answer it – it was two o’clock in the afternoon and I was working, expecting no-one, still in my pajamas. So you came in. When I saw you I stood frozen to the spot for about five minutes. For about four hours I couldn’t actually believe that it was you. That you were there. But then I realised that the silence had evaporated. I didn’t need to snuggle into the silence anymore, when instead I could snuggle into you.

Before our babies were on board, we used to do stuff. We’d get out and explore whatever amazing world we happened to inhabit. We’d drive or walk for hours. I’d take thousands of photographs to document our experience. We’d visit and sightsee and soak up. But we don’t need to go out to experience amazing things now. All the amazing stuff is happening internally – inside our home and inside me. When you were here this weekend, we didn’t need to go out and feel the rush of cold wind on our faces on a hiking trip, when instead you could just sit on the sofa with your hand on my belly and feel the movements of our growing sons. We didn’t need to visit Geneva and hear the canons commemorating the Escalade, when instead we could just laugh out loud together and be filled with joy that the tiny ears of our babies are now developed enough to take that sound in.

I don’t miss the lovely stuff we used to do. It will all still be out there when we’ve safely delivered our gorgeous little aliens into the world and we can spend our time introducing them to its infinite wonders. It’s the small things that have become huge to me now – you wordlessly doing the few chores that you know I particularly hate having to do, or walking into the bathroom when I’m in the shower just to chat or to say something that will otherwise be forgotten. Just to keep the silence at bay.

But now it’s Sunday and you’re working in Islamabad again tomorrow, so today I drove you to the airport so you could get on a plane to take you to Dubai and another to deliver you to Islamabad. And then you’ll get in a car and drive to an office where people are expecting you, where no-one will stand frozen to the spot for five minutes, unable to believe that it’s actually you. That you’re actually there. And tomorrow afternoon we’ll speak on Skype, you sitting on the sofa in the new home that next summer will explode with the sounds of me and our babies, and me in the flat in France that we so happily occupied together.

For now, it’s late, and I’m going to bed alone, your picture propped up on the bedside table beside me. I feel our tiny aliens wriggling. And in your absence, I snuggle once again into the silence.

Life! Oh, life!

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

Woody Allen

Positive!

“M has a new job,” I said.

“I’m moving to Pakistan,” I said.

And the gods heard me, and they chortled.  “You think?”

And then I peed on a stick and I understood the reasons for their mirth.

“I’ll go anyway!” I said. “People have babies in Pakistan!”

And then the doctor did a scan. We listened to the baby’s heartbeat and I cried. And then he said, “Oh, but there are two!” We listened to the second baby’s heartbeat and I laughed for about ten minutes straight.

And the doctor said, “You’re going to be a 44-year-old woman giving birth to twins. You are NOT moving to Pakistan.”

I’m going to be a 44-year-old woman giving birth to twins! And the babies’ father is going to be living in Pakistan while I stay here in Geneva to have them! Who says the gods lack a sense of humour!

In the last of the four posts that I published in 2013 on the subject of infertility, I wrote:

“I’d thought that I was going to be a mother and I’ve done everything I possibly could to make that happen. But it didn’t, and now, barring some miraculous future event, it probably never will.”

Well, there seems to have been a miraculous future event. The miracle came in the form of modern medicine and a medical team with vast knowledge and immense skill, as well as a wealth of patience and understanding. It was fuelled by love and generosity and acceptance. It was paid for by those with the funds and prayed for by those with the faith. And if the funds and the faith and the tremendous good fortune continue to be supplied with such abundance, it will manifest itself next year in the form of two of the most hoped for, anticipated, loved (and presumably photographed) babies in the short history of homo sapiens.

The experience of sharing this news with our families has been like having a direct line into the source of all happiness. I’ve never felt so loved and supported, which is huge, given that I’ve always felt loved and supported. This is a screen grab that I took when Dad Skyped me back about ten minutes after the initial conversation in which I told him I was pregnant:

What a great day!

My sister Luli, who was sitting in a café when I called her with the news, went straight from the café to a hobby shop to buy wool, and has since started to knit a baby blanket for us, consciously casting a spell of love for the babies with each new stitch that she casts on.

My beautiful brother and I don’t speak on the phone very often but he called me as soon as Dad had shared the news with him. He said that in all the years that M and I and have been hoping for a baby and he has been trying to console us with the words, “You don’t need to have kids to be happy,” he knew he wasn’t speaking his complete truth, as he can’t imagine his life without the millions of joys that his two boys have brought him.

My sister Kalinka sobbed when I told her. She texted every day for days and days afterwards to see how me and the babies were doing. And she’s setting aside a little dress that was passed down to her daughter by my little sister’s little girl so that if I have a daughter, she can wear her cousins’ dress too.

My sister Pinky, hilariously recognising the enormity of the news for us and the fact that my quiet life of books and travel is over, kept repeating the words, “Fuckedy-fuckedy-fuck!” And that was before she knew we were having twins!

My little sister Coco started making immediate mental preparations for me and the babies to come and occupy the spare bedroom in the lovely new home that she and her family have just moved into. The cot that Dad made for his six babies to sleep in in the sixties and seventies and that has accommodated all of his eleven grandchildren since will take pride of place in the room.

When I was in The Vagina Monologues earlier this year and I delivered the piece about childbirth, one of the most poignant lines for me was the last one, “I was there in the room. I remember.”

It has even greater poignancy for me now. Because in April next year, if all goes according to the new plan…

I’ll be there. In the room.

And our lives will change, miraculously and forever.