In my dream, the baby is floating in a clear plastic bag of water. He rests his head against my chest and I curl into him. I’m holding him in this bag of water and feeding him bits of green grapes. With one hand, I peel off baby sized pieces of grape and put my fingers into his mouth, feeling sharp baby teeth against my fingertips as he chews the fruit. I make sure the size of the grape bits are small enough to not pose a choking hazard. With my other arm, I steady him against my body and sway from side to side.
I sit patiently while waiting for my turn to see Dr. Yanai and observe the other women in the waiting room. Two ultra-Orthodox women are waiting; one with her nose buried in a prayer book, the other gossiping in Yiddish on her cell phone. Ilana, the receptionist, finally asks the woman on her cell phone to continue her call in the hallway since she was disturbing everyone else. The heavily pregnant woman nearest to me looks tired and I remembered the feeling. The door opens and a young couple walks out. Ilana enters with a blue bowl of green grapes and messages. She motions for the woman praying to come in and then closes the door.
I can’t see the baby’s face or his body, I just know he’s a boy and that his body is in a bag full of water. I can’t smell his hair or hear any noises as he eats the grapes but I feel the pressure of his head against my chest. He fits comfortably in the space beneath my chin. In what appears to be seconds, he stops eating and falls asleep. The head against my chest grows heavy and I still my swaying.
The last time I saw Dr. Yanai, there was a line of pregnant women waiting outside her ultrasound room at Hadassah Ein Karem. Gaby was with me and I had a packet of papers with my PET CT results. One spot on my right ovary had lit up in the PET CT and so we rushed over to see Dr. Yanai, to determine if I had ovarian cancer that had already spread to my liver, spleen and bones. We are close to Dr. Yanai, she coached me through practically 36 hours of labor before delivering our eldest via emergency c-section. She performed my heartbreaking D&C and then went on to deliver our other two children. Seven months ago, I shivered on the exam table as she looked at my ovaries, trying to determine the primary. After careful examination, she ruled out my ovary as being the primary cause of cancer. For a moment, I actual wondered if this was all a mistake, until she took the ultrasound wand to look at my liver and confirmed the presence of “spots.” She wished me luck that day as we left her office.
I need to pack for my flight to London but I can’t find anyone to take the sleeping baby that I’m holding. I can’t put him down because he’s in a bag of water, besides I don’t see anywhere to put him. There’s no crib or bouncy seat in my room. I shift his weight and his head presses firmly against my chest.
Dr. Yanai has eaten some of the grapes in between appointments and I sit down across from her. I take off my baseball cap and run my hand self-consciously through my baby hair. She updates my card with new information: non-Hodgkins lymphoma, RCHOP, high-dose methotrexate, no evidence of disease. I want to know if I’m really in menopause and what that means beyond no more monthly periods. It has been eleven days since my last appointment with Dr. Ashkenazi, my PICC line scars bright pink against my white skin. I undress and ease my body onto the examination table as she prepares the internal ultrasound wand.
I look at the clock and try to figure out how much time I still have to leave for the airport. My flight takes off at 9:30 a.m. and I want to leave the house at 5:30 a.m. so I can make my flight. My clothing is strewn across my bed and I don’t see a suitcase.
“Can I have another baby?” I ask the question hesitantly.
“I thought you were done,” she answers while pressing a hand against my lower abdomen. I see my IUD on the ultrasound screen but nothing else is familiar to me.
I respond with a shrug.
“I understand,” she says. “It’s one thing to make the decision yourself, it’s another thing if the decision is made for you.”
Dr. Yanai finds my right ovary and delivers the news.
I panic that I’m going to miss my flight. With one hand, I try to gather the clothing on my bed. I look frantically around the room for my suitcase but still can’t find anything. My other hand holds the baby tighter against my chest.
“There are no follicles in your right ovary and your uterine lining is very thin.”
I nod my head and let the news sink in. I’m only 41 years old. Dr. Yanai has a hard time finding my left ovary and pushes around on my stomach. I swallow hard and try not to cry. My ovaries are much smaller because of the chemo. She finally finds my left ovary, it too is empty.
I see the baby’s sleeping face, eyes shaped like his father and siblings, light brown hair messy and wet against his forehead.
His head is heavy as it presses against my chest.