Recap: Zani’s world falls apart because she is not pregnant. Dr Cohen explains that a miscarriage is often nature’s way of protecting itself against damage or disability, and that most couples conceive naturally if they are prepared to be patient, but Zani remains fretful.
I have to snap out of it and quickly.
Action time, I think to myself. I still have a fair number of the original supply of 400 ovulations left. If I could do it once – okay, if we could do it once – we can do it again. Surely?
Jake and his buddies are off doing the 94.7 cycle race and I have an entire day to myself. Time to take myself off to the Two Tarts, but first I want a bit of pampering, some me-time. For someone who usually plans things weeks ahead, I have noticed that I am getting more and more unpredictable and impulsive. I blame it on the hormones.
By the time I have had a deeply relaxing full-body massage, and my hair has been washed and dried till it looks 100% naturally silky and straight, it is only half an hour before closing time at the Two Tarts. Maybe I can still catch a private word with Vee? Mmm, seriously unpredictable.
Vee is her generous and warm self and greets me like she is genuinely happy to see me. She immediately shoves a menu in my hand, but I explain that I won’t eat. I am already late, and I know her kitchen is already in the process of closing. Besides, it is more important that I grab my opportunity to speak to her. But Vee is Vee, and she insists we at least share a pot of herbal tea – “And maybe a rusk or two?” – and quickly ushers me to an outside space where we can be alone.
“How’ve you been, sweetie?” she asks, placing her hand gently on my arm. “Last time we spoke you were going through a bit of a rough patch. There’s something different about you now. Can’t put my finger on it. Everything okay now?”
I try to remember when we last chatted. Aah, the Saturday Jake and I went off to the Cradle. Lots has happened since then.
“I’m perfectly fine, thank you, Vee,” I smile.
As we seat ourselves under the trees, I tell her about that weekend, about the epiphany that fell into my lap, and the exchanges Jake and I shared during those two days together. I also tell her of the men-and-baby book Jake read and how it scared both of us, but also how we appreciated the fact that someone had been able to give us the version which was not sugar-coated.
Then, as the tea grows cold in the pot one of the waitresses has brought over, I spill everything that transpired in the weeks following our trip. I tell her about falling pregnant and then losing the baby in what must have been the first couple of days. I see her eyes grow misty, and she dabs her cheeks with a paper napkin from the table. When she has composed herself, she smiles her sweet, gentle smile and quotes something from Edward Thurlow that, she says, helped her many years ago: “Nature, dear Zani, is always wise in every way.”
She has a wistful look when she softly tells me that she also lost a baby. Seven unsuccessful pregnancies, in fact.
“I am so sorry, Vee.”
“Me too, sweetie. Me too. But nature is always wise in every way. Remember that.”
I am stunned, but I have to ask. I ask, as gently as I can, whether she has had any successful pregnancies. Does she have any children?
“No, sadly not, Zani.”
She must have seen the anxiety flash across my eyes and gives my hand a comforting squeeze.
“But that doesn’t mean the same will happen to you, Zani. My story’s very different to yours. My husband and I had a genetic incompatibility and that’s why we couldn’t hold on to the babies. Nature knew best, because if we’d have managed to stay pregnant, our baby would have been disabled. Perhaps severely so.”
“But… but wouldn’t that have been better than no baby at all?”
“I don’t know. Gustav and I talked about it a lot. We also talked about adoption, but in the end we decided God was great to have given us each other and that was enough.”
“That must have been hard for you. Every girl wants to be a mommy, doesn’t she?”
“Oh, it was hard all right. I was young, Gustav was a geologist and he was away a lot on expeditions. I battled to understand why. I battled because I felt like a failure as a woman. I battled, because even though I prayed a lot, there was still no baby.”
There is a faraway look in her eyes. A sadness I’m sorry I’ve helped dredge up, but she is determined to tell her story.
“My mother was amazing and simply cried with me when I cried. She held me when I needed to be held. She allowed me to rant and rave when the anger and disappointment threatened to consume me. She didn’t try to fix it. She didn’t try to be funny to make me laugh. She didn’t buy me stuff. She was just there.
“And I’m sure it must have been just as hard for her, because not only does a mom hurt when you hurt, but she was hurting because I was an only child and she would never have the privilege of holding a grandchild.”
Now we are both crying, because even though it is many years later, I can tell that her heart is still broken. But Vee simply wipes away the tears with her already damp serviette and smiles her warm, generous smile.
I am speechless. How is it possible that the most motherly person I have ever met has never been a mother? It simply makes no sense to me.