Sometimes the waiting rooms at our clinic can be pretty quiet places. Sometimes no one talks to each other, frustrated from a long drive or worried about getting home in time to get their kids off the bus. Other times, though, it's almost magical. Connections can form between patients and their families that are really healing.
A few weeks ago, one of the patients brought her grandmother along as her support. They'd had long morning, many hours of driving already. Initially, the grandmother looked uncomfortable, but she warmed up as other women started filling in the empty chairs. Patients chatted about where they were from, what they'd expected the clinic would be like, about the lives that had brought them there.
Finally, grandma chimed in. “Let me tell you what it was like when I first got married. Back then, you couldn't even get one.” She started telling stories about her years as a young wife, with very little idea about how reproduction worked and about her friends and what they'd tried to do when they found out they were pregnant for the fifth or seventh or ninth time. “That's nothing,” said another patient, “my grandmother had twelve children. Twelve!” Slowly, the stories started coming out, about grandmothers, mothers, daughters, dreams for family, dreams for themselves. Grandma opened the floodgates, opened her arms, grandma started the storytelling.
Being the counselor, I knew everyone's stories already. One woman had just finally taken out a restraining order against her husband after years of abuse. Another had a daughter with a full scholarship to a prestigious university in the fall. Having sacrificed everything for her daughter, she was dumbfounded to learn she was pregnant at 41. A third was a college student far from home, wishing her family could be there with her that day. It was her comment that made me pause. “My grandma's real religious, I don't think I could ever tell her about this. I wish you were my grandma. I can talk to you, I think you'd understand.”