- Autumn Equinox
Fall has always been my favorite season - the crisp air a kind of awakening. This year is different, as I experience too vividly the autumn of my body. I shouldn't mind so much, this routine surgery for a woman my age. My daughter is twenty-nine, and my womb has long ago done its job, though I always thought I would have more children. Divorce interrupted that, and by the time I remarried, I felt I was too old. Now benign tumors are causing pain and infection, and in a few weeks I will part with my womb.
When the doctor tells me I will be recovering in the OB ward, I feel a twinge in my gut. As much as I love babies, I know I won't want to be around the radiant young mothers and their newborns in my newly barren state. I wonder if, without my womb, I will still get these gut feelings - if I will still love chocolate, or have a housecleaning frenzy once a month in which I delve into any and all dark corners, into the backs of drawers that have once again become unconscionable. A physician told a friend of mine that women have strong "gut feelings" because they develop in vitro differently from men - in boy babies, all brain cells ascend to the brain, but in female embryos, a few brain cells are left behind, somewhere in their center. Somehow, I want this to be true.
Though I read clearly my gut feeling about the OB ward, I am too embarrassed - a woman my age not wanting to be around babies - to talk to my doctor about recovering on another floor. Making room to separate the bearing from the losing may not be possible in this small hospital in a small town. And I am confused - in about a month I will be a grandmother, and I delight in this role. I have just finished sewing a cradle quilt for the baby my stepson Dieter and his wife Kristin are going to have. I don't understand [End Page 122] why this delight does not cancel out my grief over my own inability to bear. I should be, according to the literature, accepting my path as "crone," though when I talk with women friends, none of us likes the image - the beady eyes, pointy nose, drawn mouth, and warty chin, complete with whiskers.
In the weeks before my surgery, I cry whenever I think about the babies on the OB ward. My husband Ed sees how sad I am.
"Why don't you write about it?" he suggests. I write poems and stories, but I can't write about this. I am preoccupied with my visions - new mothers holding little pink mouths to their breasts, making this first connection - as when the nurse brought me my beautiful daughter Kim, her nose flattened from my pubic bone, her sprig of red hair, her blue eyes clear as a miracle. GIRL - BREAST - the sign read on her transparent plastic bassinet, to indicate her sex and method of feeding. Her father and I laughed at these start designations. Now in my mind's eye GIRL - BREAST takes me right to WOMAN - WOMB - a designation I am about to lose. I think if I have to see the new mothers and babies, I will die in that place from which my brain has not ascended. Still, I can't imagine telling any of this to my doctor, to anyone, really. The last thing I want to be is one of those middle-aged women with obviously dyed hair, garish makeup, and short skirts. I work on embracing my autumn.
A television looms over the waiting area blaring a sitcom as I wait for my pre-op appointment with the surgical nurse. Televisions seem to be in all the waiting rooms of this hospital, and I have a hard time believing this grating canned laughter is a comfort to anyone. The nurse sits down with me at a round table, and tells me the step-by-step of my hysterectomy, winding up with a strong recommendation for a...