Friday, 16 July 2010

It's all in the stomach

I went to boarding school for eight years from the age of 10. It was a wonderful school in a beautiful valley, and I made life-long friends there - I'm godmother to the daughters of two of them, and we're still in regular touch after all these years. Last weekend I went to a picnic organised by an old schoolfriend. Another classmate was there whom I hadn't seen since 1986. We recognised each other instantly, and chatted away as though we had seen each other yesterday.

So yes, I loved my school. The surroundings were beautiful, the friendships unbreakable, the education... well, it was perfectly adequate.

But every time we drove up the long school drive, there was a sinking feeling in my stomach - the feeling that (avoiding) homework was about to take over my life again, that my access to the television was going to be restricted, that I wouldn't see my family for at least another three weeks, and usually longer, that I was going to have to abide by a set of rules I didn't always agree with and shake down with people who weren't all what you might call soulmates.

Being several years younger than me, my sisters didn't attend this school until after I had left, and I often went back to visit them. I then became a school governor, and the journeys up the long school drive continued for a few more years. It's a special place that I've taken my DH to visit, and I've been back for various reunions and other occasions.

It's now 23 years since I left that school, and yet the school drive still has the power to stir those old feelings in my stomach. My head looks forward to the visits, but my stomach knows better, and remembers the aspects of school that my rose-tinted hindsight has forgotten quite successfully.

I was reminded of this last week. For the first time since the follow-up appointment after our failed cycle in December, I had occasion to take the road that leads to our old clinic.

For about five miles, I turned up the music on the car stereo, sang along loudly to it and sternly told my conscious mind that I was on my way somewhere completely different and there was nothing special or unusual about this road at all.

My stomach thought differently. As my car twisted and turned along the country road, my stomach churned and turned with all the feelings of hope, dread, disappointment and ultimate despair that characterised my dealings with that clinic. It wouldn't let me forget, it wouldn't let me move on. As the schoolgirl trapped inside me still experiences those first-day-of-term nerves on the old school drive, so the infertile inside me is reminded of all the times I drove this route, angrily swiping away treacherous tears as I tried to concentrate on the road ahead.

That was when I knew. My conscious mind will rationalise this thing, will tell me that if it never happens for us, if we never become parents, we'll be all right and will still have a happy life, even if it's not what we planned and hoped for. And most of the time, that'll be true.

But my stomach knows better. It knows that it will always carry that knot of grief, the knot that will be twisted at both predictable and totally unexpected times for as long as I live. And my stomach will tell my head, and my head will tell my eyes, and suddenly I'll be singing at the top of my voice and trying to drown out that little voice of pain that tells me I'll never be the same again.


  1. I hope that knot goes away and is replaced by something beautiful!

  2. this made me cry! So beautifully written.

    I too hope and hope and hope that something far better replaces that knot!