Time Check: 8 am or thereabouts Day: 16th July 2014 Place: Paris Metro, France
It’s very tempting, when narrating one’s experience on a particular issue, to block out every other aspect of your life at the time. To concentrate on the singular narrative of the many failures, trials and tribulations faced and how they were overcome. It makes for good storytelling, but it does not quite tell the life story. The reality is that life is not linear. We are never facing just one thing. A street kid has moments of laughter and experiences love at some point. A refugee is more than just a refugee. They are parents or siblings, friends or mentors and all these things do not go away simply because they are refugees. For anyone struggling with fertility or any other relationship challenge, it is important to take a wider view of things. Only then can whatever you are going through be put in its proper context. And more often than not, it doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming as it does when dealt with as the singular issue you are living through.
The tale below is a wider view experience.
Paris was a beauty to marvel at. We had taken a 12-hour coach from Basel, Switzerland and were more than a little tired when we alighted. The journey had been pretty similar to the Kampala-Nairobi route, complete with people on the bus talking on their phone for hours on end while others snored louder than the vehicle’s engine. But we were grateful for the break.
Diana and I were at the tail-end of our respective masters degrees and had been trying to conceive for almost a year by then. By the time we went on this holiday, we were emotionally, spiritually and even physically drained. But we were also in a very good place as a couple. For us, the experience had brought us closer, forcing us to cling to each other and open up in ways we had never quite done before-and probably would never have.
So as we jumped off the Paris metro and walked out to the Rue de Rivoli, we were a happy lot. We had not planned out the details of the trip. As always, we had simply written down the must-dos and figured that in our four days there, we would find a way to fit them in. The spontaneity was part of the charm. Because I am rubbish at reading maps and even worse at asking for directions, we spent over an hour trying to figure out where the Louvre (that world-renown home to the Mona Lisa) was. When we eventually found it, we realised it was just opposite the place we got out of the metro from. We had spent over an hour-and an indecent amount of money in an expensive café drinking soda and fries- looking for a place we that was right under our noses. We laughed at ourselves, took as many photos as we could outside the Louvre and then headed off to try and find our hotel.
Over the next few days, we visited Napoleon’s palace in Versailles, walked around and in the Notre Dame cathedral, and the Wall of Love (on which the words ‘I love you’ are written in over 250 languages). We went up the Montparnasse Tower to the observatory from which one can literally see the whole of Paris. We tried out roadside food and-for our first night- slept in a dingy 2-star hotel in the outskirts of the city that didn’t have running water on our floor and whose lifts were as temperamental as Gen. Kasirye Gwanga. Looking back to those four summer days, I really couldn’t have had a more perfect break.
Like every other couple, Diana and I have our fair share of fights. Some are about pretty big issues while others are as petty as they can get. Regardless of the importance, when you are fighting-especially with someone you love, it feels like the world will come to an end if you don’t win! One of our most ridiculous fights happened on this trip. In fact, as I was writing this, I couldn’t remember what had caused it and I had to ask my wife to jog my memory.
We were trying to locate the Eiffel Tower. As usual, I had led the way to the metro like I knew where I was leading us. In truth, all I had was a hint about the general direction of the train we should be taking and an oversized confidence in my figuring things out. An hour and several train links later, we were back to the place we had started from. My wife had lost her patience with me. Having literally gone full circle on different train lines, I was now confident I could get us there. Diana was having none of it. It was her turn to take charge. Offended by her lack of trust in my abilities, I did that passive-aggressive thing most men do when they are called out.
“Ok, since you are the brighter one, you do whatever you want, I will follow you”
Diana let it slide but held firm. She decided which train we were going to catch and I dutifully followed; ticked off mostly by my inability to find our destination, but unwilling to admit it. An hour later, Diana hadn’t fared much better. We kept coming out of the subway, looking for the Eiffel Tower and not seeing it. In between, I kept reminding Diana that she hadn’t listened to me and she kept reminding me that she had actually done so for hours with no success. Eventually, we got so irritated with each other that we needed time out. The only problem was, we were in Paris, completely lost and unable to speak French. As is the case in such squabbles, each of us tried to come out of the quarrel looking like the bigger person. I told my wife I could escort her to a cab and she heads back to the hotel. I would meet her there. She told me I should be the one to head back and she was a grown woman able to find her way there. Things escalated pretty quickly until she was throwing the hotel keys at me and walking off. Not to be outdone, I grabbed the keys, ran after her (which, I must add, was no small task…this girl can run!) and put the keys in her backpack. As I headed in the opposite direction she turned back and run after me. Quickly figuring she wouldn’t catch up with me, she threw the keys at me and turned back towards the exit. I picked them, run up the stairs, out of the subway and onto a boulevard with lush gardens and tall trees. Out of breath, patience and options, I caught up with her and told her in no uncertain terms that I thought she was being childish.
I should have known better.
We quarrelled and hurled accusations at each other like there was no tomorrow. I was being inconsiderate and arrogant, she was being petty. I have never listened to a word she says, she has never once thought to let me lead her. I was too demanding, she was too obstinate…we kept at it for a while, walking past the Church of Saint Xavier, across to the gardens we later learnt were called Place el Salvador. When we had let it all out, we kept walking, unsure of where we were heading, but pretty certain that wherever it would be was far better than two lost lovers spread across a foreign city with no way to get in touch and no idea how to find their way back home.
Our periods had been due a day before we left for France. As we were in our second night there and they hadn’t come, we were back in that window of possibilities. Neither of us had talked about it because this trip was basically supposed to be about everything but. Yet even as we hurled accusations at each other, I kept wondering whether this was the start of the much talked about mood swings of pregnant women in their first trimester. I hoped not, as I wasn’t sure I would put up with it! When our anger had subsided and given way to hunger, we agreed we should look for a restaurant.
By now, we were approaching the Ministry of Social Affairs and it was getting dark. As we walked along the Lowendal Avenue, my wife looked to her right, tagged at my shirt and pointed to something in a distance.
It was the Eiffel Tower.
We stood in stunned silence for a few minutes. I reached out to hold my wife’s hand. She was one step ahead of me and had already started wrapping her hand around my waist. We hugged each other and kept at it for a little while longer. She cried. I cried. I told her how sorry I was for ‘everything’. She told me it was ok and apologised for shouting at me. I thought she should have apologised for a lot more than shouting, but now wasn’t the time (later that night, she pointed out to me that ‘everything’ doesn’t count as an apology for a very specific thing. I guess it was-as our people would say- draw draw!). We walked to a café overlooking the Eiffel Tower, ordered a meal and took some photos while we could. It was now dark and time to head back to the hotel.
Mission Accomplished: Sometimes, the picture tells only a fraction of the story
The next day, we sat at a café not too far from the one we had ordered our make-up dinner from and revisited the plans we had made the year before. As we looked at all the things we had listed as targets, we realized that almost all of them had come to pass. Our income, our masters’ degrees, our farming plans, our travel company plans… In a very literal sense, we counted our blessings one by one, thanking God at each step for what He had done.
That night, our periods came.
We were sad about it. But we were also happy about so many other things.
When we returned to Leeds later that month, we started writing up our masters dissertations. As we began preparing to head back home, we felt very optimistic about what the future held. Surely we would get great jobs. Or maybe our businesses would do so well that we wouldn’t need to look for jobs. We had also come to terms with the fact that we may need to visit a fertility hospital and get checked up. We would be with child soon, one way or another. Or so we thought.
Unbeknownst to us, we were heading for the toughest period of our journey to Tanya.
Our Story Of Waiting To Be Ramya’s Parents Part 4