Selective Reduction

This story is fiction.

pregnancy-14-weeks“Hey, you’re looking good!”

“Thank you. In fact, I feel good.” A radiant Norma took my arm as we walked into the coffee shop.

We’d been colleagues–two women in the male bastion of the banking world. In addition, we both hoped to get pregnant. When she left the company for another job, about a year ago, we lost contact. To my surprise, she called me yesterday and suggested to meet at our favorite coffee shop for old times’ sake.

While we headed for “our table” in the far corner, welcoming warmth and the aroma of coffee enveloped us.

I took off my jacket and hung it over the back of a chair. “My treat. Espresso, as usual?”

Norma wrinkled her nose. “No thanks. But I’m craving for carrot cake with butter frosting.”

“What? Since when do you eat cake?”

“Curious eh? Why don’t you get our snacks first?”

When I returned with a cappuccino and two oversized pieces of carrot cake, Norma had taken off her coat too. Was it my imagination, or was her slender figure really fuller than it used to be?

For a minute, we just relaxed and enjoyed the cozy ambiance. I scraped some frosting off the cake and savored its creamy sweetness.

“Mmm, this is so good.”

“Isn’t it. How are you doing, Alice? Any news on the baby front?”

“Yes and no. Roger and I found out that we can’t have children, but—“

“Oh honey, I’m so sorry.”

“But we’ve decided to adopt.”

“Adopt? Wow, how courageous.”

“It isn’t courage, Norma. It’s love. Actually, we’ve just been approved as adoptive parents. Now we’re waiting for the agency to match us with a child.”

“You can’t choose a child?”

“Nope. Our agency says that in real life you can’t pick a baby either. Anyway, we’re so excited! This waiting is difficult though; like being pregnant without knowing the gestation time.”

Norma took another bite. “Speaking of pregnancy—I’m in my fifteenth week.”

“How wonderful! I’m so happy for you. Congratulations.” I meant it. Clearly, it hurt being barren, but thank God, the grief had never dominated me. I simply trusted that His ways would bless me more than my own plans ever could.

“Thank you.” Norma avoided my eyes.

“Is everything alright, Norma?”

“Yes, everything’s great.” She hesitated. “I was carrying twins.”

“Oh my, what happened?”

“Winston and I were shocked when we found out. Our life doesn’t have room for two babies. We both have demanding jobs and our apartment has only two bedrooms.”

My stomach churned. “So?”

“We opted for selective pregnancy reduction.”

My hand flew to my mouth. “You had an abortion?”

“They were boy-girl twins. I didn’t have a preference, but Winston always wanted a son. Last week, the doctor just injected something into the female tissue. My own body will absorb the fetal material.”

Carrot cake rose up my gullet. I swallowed hard. “Norma, at three months a baby isn’t just ‘tissue’ or ‘material’. It has a head and arms and legs. Its little face can frown, its hands grasp. Its heart beat.”

“Alice, please, I don’t need to hear that right now.”

I pushed away the cake dish.

She leaned toward me. “Hey, what’s wrong? I shouldn’t have told you this, should I? You can’t even get pregnant. I’m so sorry.”

Closing my eyes, I felt tears flow. “I’m not crying because I’m infertile.”

I need to get out of here before I throw up.

Suddenly, God whispered in my soul. Don’t turn your back on her. She needs My grace.

Did He really say that? Please Lord, I don’t feel like talking to Norma now; she doesn’t seem to regret her choice at all. How can I make her recognize her need to repent?

A persistent Nudge made me decide to trust His discernment more than my own assessment of Norma’s heart. I suppressed the urge to leave and, after a deep breath, I managed to say, “Norma, may I share with you how my life—how I changed when I realized how much Jesus loves me?”

Her eyes turned big. “Do you believe in God?”

“Yes, I do. And He’s there for you too.”

A flicker of uncertainty passed over her face. “I don’t know, Alice. Anyway, if it makes you feel better, talk about it.”

I cleared my throat. “Well, it all started shortly before you left the bank. A friend invited me to a Christian retreat where I heard people sharing amazing testimonies…”

As I spoke, I felt the nausea fade. The disgust gave way to compassion; Norma needed to meet the Author of life.


At the Mediterranean Sea

SeaThis week, we–Jan, our daughter, a friend of hers, and I–spent a day at the beach at the west coast of Italy, in Marina di Pescia Romana.

Although the school holiday has long started, the beach was still quiet. After all, it’s only the first week of July. The peak holiday season in Italy is August, especially the weeks around August 15–Ferragosto.

It was a lovely day amid bright blue and sparkling turquoise. An inspiring day, which made me seek for the right words to communicate its essence and share it with you.

That evening I read a post on Rosanna’s blog, Writing on the Pages of Life, which was about new writing ideas. I love how Rosanna always looks for creative ways to learn and grow in writing non-fiction. This particular post mentioned ways such as early morning writing, writing by prearrangement, haiku’s, and haibuns.

Then it happened. I too–like Rosanna–fell in love with the haibun, which is the combination of two poems: a short prose poem and a haiku. Here are my very first attempts, inspired by our day at the Mediterranean Sea.


Liquid Embrace

Water envelopes me as I walk into the sparkling waves. I stretch out my arms to embrace the dancing light and the vastness of the sea. Wordless worship wells up from within my soul, overflows to join the praise of all creation.

Floating on the waves
Eyes closed and breathing slowly
Peaceful in God’s arms


BeachOn The Beach

Radiant blue, endless turquoise. Quietly rolling waves softly consign their collars of foam to the golden sand. A breeze caresses the skin. The parasol flaps in the wind like the wings of a helpless bird.

Seagulls, so it seems
With ev’ry wave of the cool
sea, girls’ high-pitched screams.