I was visiting a friend in hospital
when I saw her.
She was leaving as I entered
through the automatic doors.
Her eyes, swollen and red raw
from endless weeping, met mine
and in that instant
utter hopelessness gripped me,
flicking a trip switch
inside my head
I had to escape -fast - from this sad
little creature and the disturbing
memories that were resurfacing
too vividly for comfort.
For the rest of the day
I was haunted by her image.
Feeling uneasy and restless,
I had to shut her firmly out of my mind.
It was the only way
I could move on with my life.
But it didn't protect me from the acute awareness
that I was leaving her
to suffer alone.
Things could have been so different though,
had my heart been more open that day.
I should have smiled and asked
if she was OK, opening a channel of compassion
so she could unload the crippling burden
she was struggling to bear.
I wish I'd had the courage to override
the fear of my own emotional reactions
and reach out to that tortured Soul
to have told her I understood
those devastating feelings of uselessness
and inadequacy, that awful sense of guilt
for disappointing husband and parents,
by inadvertently bringing to a close
two ancestral lines of descent.
I should have reassured her
that she wasn't alone in feeling
a freak, a female eunuch;
nor in despising her barren womb and wishing
she had been born a boy.
I could have told her it's only human
to fake illness to avoid going out,
where the sight of mothers with children
torment her beyond endurance;
so is feeling envious and resentful
when friends and relatives
fall pregnant so effortlessly
- over and over again - just like
everyone else eventually did
at the infertility clinic,
until she was the only one
still valiantly attempting to cling to hope.
If I could only relive that day,
I would comfort her with the promise
that everything will eventually be OK,
that there is a reason (and a time)
for the fulfilment
of our deepest desires.
How can I possibly make such a promise?
I am something of an expert
in this particular field,
because for ten demoralising years
I wore her shoes.