SIDE STORY 4.2
The conference had a formal banquet and wine reception. After taking a shower, Li Chuan took me to buy a black evening dress. We strolled down the street north of the Church, eating the local tangerines and sweet melons, and bought a bag of pistachios. When we returned to the hotel, the banquet had already started. Li Chuan introduced me to those of his industry. Everyone used various languages to chat about industry news. I accompanied him the entire time, smiling and listening. It was both strenuous and confusing, and I had to exchange social niceties with every one of these professionals. After a while, Li Chuan finally understood and let go of my hand, “Honey, the bar over there has coffee and ice cream. Go and drink some first. I will come accompany you after I chat for a bit.”
I pardoned myself and headed over.
The bar was in the southwest corner of the hall. I got a glass of wine and lightly sipped it. As expected, the fragrance was unrivaled. After a short time, a chestnut haired European came over, got a glass of whiskey, and sat down on the bar stool to chat with me.
She was very beautiful and was dressed exquisitely. On her neck, a jewel shined in the light.
“I am Mi Fu. An architect.”
“I am Xiao Qiu. My husband is an architect.”
She raised her eyes, and asked while smiling, “Is your husband Zhi Tian Jun?”
“No, my husband is Swiss.”
I didn’t mention Li Chuan’s name because I was too unfamiliar with the architect world. It wasn’t easy to finally find an empty place to rest and I didn’t want to get into discussing industry news with anyone.
“I am American.”
I smiled. Did that even need to be stated? Her American accent was too obvious.
“I am from China.”
“You are Taiwanese, right?”
“No, from Mainland, Yunnan.”
“You look Taiwanese.” She actually had never heard of the place, “Your outfit is very pretty.”
“Yours is also. I like your shawl.”
“Hehe, you have great eyes. Can you believe this? I bought this in Cambodia, handmade. I fell in love with it at first sight.” She spread it out on her shoulders to show, “This conference is really boring. It’s all men, 99% of them. Darling, can you believe this, when men come together to flatter each other, it’s even more corny than women.”
She was quite funny, I couldn’t help but ask, “Then are you one of the only female architects?”
She laughed, quite pleased, “That’s right, 20% of architects in England are women, and the US only has 9%. Actually, 40% of college students who study architecture are female. Strange, where do these people go after they graduate?”
I twirled my glass of wine, “They probably married architects.”
“Darling, which city do you live in in Switzerland? I have contracts with many Swiss companies. Perhaps, I even know your husband.”
“My husband is Alex Wong.” I pointed to Li Chuan’s back, “That one with black hair.”
She sucked in her breath, eyes wide open, “(English) Oh My God. You are Alex’s wife!”
“It was because of you that Alex didn’t come out of China for a whole year.”
“I had some work that I couldn’t leave and he was willing to stay in China to accompany me.” I didn’t mention anything about his illness. Sickness in foreign countries was a huge taboo to talk about. Only a few friends knew about Li Chuan’s cancer.
“Alex is one of the most difficult people to come in contact with!” Mi Fu half laughed, holding in some annoyance, “I tried to seduce him so many times, but never succeeded. He only treated me to a glass of wine and still competed with me for business the next day. It wasn’t even a huge contract. I told Alex, let me this one time, he said, sorry, he had settled on a ring.”
She pointed to my hand, “That ring was bought by that money in XXXX year, right? I labored over the drawing for three months till I was spitting out blood from a hole in my stomach, and, in the end, he got the deal. Alex, that horrible fellow, beat my design down over and over again. I need to find him to take revenge.”
Actually, this ring was bought in Switzerland before Li Chuan and I split up the first time. At that time, Li Chuan was confident in his body and thought that it was just a routine checkup. So he purposely went to a jewelry store and bought this engagement ring. In the end, the hospital’s phone call shattered his dream. When he first heard it, he was stupefied. The doctor said that he only had three months. He wanted to go and die right then.
Even years after the fact, when Li Chuan talks about that time, his mood will still dampen. He had walked along the river in Zurich, in unbearable pain. He then went and stayed in a church for a whole night, quietly praying. Finally, he was dragged to go skiing by his brother and Rene. He sped down the hill, over and over again, seeking to forget in the speed.
I looked at the ring on my finger. How could Mi Fu understand the complications and scares that came with it? I smiled and didn’t reply.
Fortunately, Li Chuan was already heading towards me.
“Hi, Mi Fu!” He said, “I’m really happy to see you. I thought you were still busy in Germany with your designing. Xiao Qiu, let me introduce you. Mi Fu is ROB Architecture Firm’s Chief Architect. We worked on many projects together. I really like her designs and working with her is a great delight.
Li Chuan was quite experienced in social interactions. After all, the generations of architects in his family had given him a strong network. Those in attendance at this conference, besides Li Chuan, were one of his uncles and two older (paternal) male cousins, who, because of projects tangling them, left earlier. Otherwise, the Wang family could hold a household meal here.
I felt that Mi Fu’s eyes towards Li Chuan from the start were filled with affection and enticement. Her voice suddenly became a bit softer, and her head leaned side to side and laughed with glee. Of course, this is not the first woman I’ve seen lose control of herself in front of Li Chuan. But I was still a bit jealous.
He introduced me to her, “This is my wife, Xie Xiao Qiu. She is a very talented professional translator.”
“We’ve already been introduced.”
“Mi Fu, my younger (female) cousin is a sophomore at the University of Murcia and wanted to intern at your company during winter break, is that alright?”
“Hold on, Alex. You aren’t thinking a sending a small spy to obtain information, are you?”
“How could I do that? There are other places for her to go, but she worships you too much. The little girl has just started sophomore year, and don’t understand anything. If you let her do some small things and learn a bit, that would be good.”
“Can she speak English?”
“She can speak French and German, and can understand English. She’s just not that fluent. Don’t you know French?”
“My god, that little French of mine can only be used to look at French fashion magazines. How about, you pay, and I help her find a translator.”
“Alright, I’ll have her brother pay.”
“So stingy, and you’re even first cousins. You aren’t even willing to part with that little amount.”
“You’re right in your criticism. I’ll have her pay with the money she earns while working. She’s already that old and is still not embarrassed to be taking the family’s money.”
“I know a hotel that is favored by foreign students.”
“Oh, don’t bother. I will help her book a hotel closest to your company.”
“Close to my company? The wealthy district?” She suddenly laughed out loud, “You are really a big spending cousin.”
“She’s a girl, after all. When she’s out, safety’s first. Plus, for those in our field, rest and food are very important.”
“Alright, have her call me and I’ll take care of the rest. Don’t worry.” Her expression then seemed annoyed, raising her chest, she said, “Really Alex, you didn’t even tell me about such a big thing as you getting married.”
Li Chuan promptly explained, “Really sorry. We had our wedding in China. When will you have time to come to Zurich? Xiao Qiu and I will treat you to a meal.”
“I won’t be going to Switzerland soon, Alex. Just don’t forget me when you hold the celebration for your first child.” After speaking, she glanced meaningfully at my abdomen.
I was a bit distressed. She had hit a sore spot. I hesitantly looked at Li Chuan.
With his normal countenance, he said, “Of course.”
The banquet was very luxuriant, but everything was tasteless to me. My mind was packed with thoughts about IVF. Li Chuan slowly drank his juice, while I held a glass of wine on the side, accompanying him and smiling, hiding a heavy heart. Carelessly, I drank till I was half drunk. Li Chuan still wanted to see a friend. He took me home, urged me to go rest first, and then turned around and left.
After more than an hour, when he came back again, I was sitting in the center of the large bed, hugging the covers. I said to him seriously, “Li Chuan, I want to undergo IVF.”
I didn’t say “ask about” or “try”. I didn’t give him any leeway for argument. Plus, I also didn’t mention “us”, because this thing, if we’re only talking about procedures, didn’t require his participation.
He placed the door card on the table, an expression of slight amazement. He lowered his head and thought about it, “Can I persuade you to give it up?”
He had changed his mind.
“Why?” I tried my best to keep a tone for discussion, “You don’t need to participate in this matter. The sperm has already been deep-frozen many years. I’m just taking them to use. It would be a pity to waste them. What do you say?”
He sighed and sat down next to me, “First, to undergo IVF, a lot of blood must be taken from you. You have blood phobia.”
“I don’t faint from the sight of my blood. I’m not afraid.”
“Second, the process is very complicated with low chance of success. It’s very stressful. Many people have to see psychiatrists afterwards.”
“Low chance of success? Then let’s try more times.”
“Third, and the most important, my genes are extremely bad.”
I wrinkled my eyebrows and looked at him from head to toe, “Your genes are quite nice. Handsome and beautiful, intelligent and tall.”
“My genes could contain cancer.”
“Sigh, don’t think so much. My uncle died of stomach cancer and my (maternal) grandmother had arthritis. Trust me, Li Chuan. This is only a random appearance.”
“Xiao Qiu,” he looked at me, “Your heart is incomparably strong. If something happened to you, you would still be able to continue on. But, if my child had to face these things in her childhood, whether it’s for her or for me, it would be too cruel. Have you thought about that?”
I was silent for a bit. It was hard to answer.
But, I stood firm and said, “Why should I think about the negative? I’m not a negative person! When you draw each time, would you think about it falling down in an earthquake?”
“Of course I would! I emphasize shock proofing in each of my designs.” He suddenly changed to a begging tone, “Can we wait a few more years before considering this question?”
“But, the older I am, the harder it is to get pregnant. If we want to try, the earlier the better.”
“Wait three years, okay?” He held my hand and put it against his lips, lightly kissing it, “Let me be positive that I can take on the responsibilities of fatherhood…”
“No! This is not a problem of time. You can become a father at any time. Even if something happened to you, I can also raise the child up alone. Li Chuan, think about it. If we have a child, then life…”
“Xiao Qiu, can you please consider my feelings?” He interrupted me, his voice a bit sealed. It was clear he was angry.
I looked into his eyes and firmly said, “Li Chuan, I want a child. You cannot change this fact.”
Because of my words, Li Chuan was depressed the entire night and hardly spoke to me.
I didn’t foresee him having such a strong reaction to it. After getting married, we would bicker sometimes, but didn’t seriously argue about anything. We both greatly treasured this time that was hard to come by.
The next day, Li Chuan had a presentation. I went down to the arcade and played a whole day of video games. When he came back, I saw his pale face, as if he had not slept the entire night, and I didn’t mention it again.
When the conference ended, we went to the small village, Taormina, and stayed at a hotel on the cliff overlooking the ocean. Li Chuan took me to see the famous fire mountain and seaside spa. The town’s mountain rocks were uniquely shaped, and small alleyways passed through the area with stone steps everywhere. We especially went to see the ruins of a Greek theater, ancient collapsed walls, and new shows that were playing. We saw the beautiful gulf, lethargic streets, children running around everywhere, and the elderly wearing hats. Li Chuan accompanied me the entire time. He had already been here before, so he was both translator and guide, making him quite tired.
My heart softened and I didn’t mention IVF for a whole two weeks after we got back to Switzerland.
One evening, I drove home after buying a heap of groceries and made Li Chuan his favorite fish dish. Seeing that he still hadn’t gotten off work yet, I took the watering can to water the flowers in front of the front door.
Our neighbor, Angie, held her own three year old daughter, Sophie, and chatted with me.
“Annie,” she said, “Sophie was quite miserable today. She’s been crying the entire day and has a rash on her entire body. Look, even my heart hurts.”
Little Sophie’s face was completely red and covered in sores. Layers of vaseline had been smeared on it.
“Poor Sophie, does it itch a lot?” I took the child and held her in my arms, closely examining her, holding down her flailing little hand, “Look at her continuously wanting to scratch her own face.”
“That’s right, I’ve cut her nails. I wanted to put gloves on her, but the weather is too hot and she was very unhappy.” Angie was a native who went to college in England. Even though she had a thick German accent, her English was very good.
“Why don’t you lower the air conditioner at home?” I suggested.
“It won’t do. I’m afraid of her catching a cold. Last night, she cried terribly. Her dad and I didn’t get a wink of sleep.”
“So it’s this hard to raise a child.” I looked at the dark circles around Angie’s eyes and sighed. I thought to myself, no matter how hard it is, I was still willing. But, raising a child isn’t just one person’s decision. Li Chuan’s support was very important. My thoughts became even more complicated. Afterwards, Angie said a whole bunch of things on the details of getting up at night and feeding. Nothing went in except the last thing she said.
“…it is exhausting now, but it’ll be better after she’s three years old. Afterwards, you’ll dislike her growing up too fast.”
The soft little thing in my arm moved and blinked at me with her large green eyes. Her head of curly golden hair softly lay on top of my chest. She cried out and I played with her, making her laugh at me. She then stuck her own fingers into her mouth. I couldn’t help but kiss her face. When I lowered my head, I saw that a large section of my clothes was wet from her saliva.
I quickly said, “Sigh, does she seem like she wants to be breastfed?”
“I just fed her,” Angie said, “Actually, your Alex also really like kids. When Sophie’s old sister was younger, if Alex was home, she would run to his home. I don’t know how much ice cream and chocolate she tricked from him.
But after we got back, Li Chuan never mentioned anything about kids. It was clear that he didn’t want kids in the near future. Yet, I had been secretly researching online. I guessed correctly, the older a woman is after IVF, the lower the chances of success.
After a pause, Angie had to ask, “Then when do you guys plan on having kids? Huh? If you have one now, she can play with Sophie. That would save a lot of trouble for our families. Raising a child is hard work, the earlier you have one the better.”
“That’s right.” I said vaguely.
“The Wang family only has two sons. The older one won’t have children and there has been no indication for the second one. Alex’s (paternal) grandfather must be extremely anxious, right?”
She did understand the Chinese culture. I looked at her, unsure of whether to laugh or cry.
Because of his sickness, the entire family was all very sensitive about the topic of children with Li Chuan. When chatting, everyone consciously avoided this topic. The Wang family wasn’t missing this fourth generation. We’ve been to many one-month old birthday parties here and have given gifts one after another. I really didn’t know how to respond.
Angie suddenly looked away, “Hey, your Alex is home.” After saying this, she waved behind me and took the child back.
I turned around. At some point, Li Chuan had already returned and had been standing by the car for a while. I quickly hurried over and took his laptop and leather bag.
“You’re back early today. There was no traffic?” I asked.
“Dinner is already ready and waiting for you to eat.”
“Didn’t we say that you would wait for me to come back to make it?”
“No, this time, I have to show off my skill for you to see. We’ll eat authentic Yunnan food. I especially went to the Chinese store to buy Chinese New Year Cake.
Li Chuan smiled, and touched my face, “Is Angie’s daughter cute?”
“Super cute!” I blurted out, “I want to hold her in my arms every day.”
My excited tone leaked out my thoughts. Afraid of him discovering it, I quickly changed the subject, “Hurry and go in. The soup is still stewing on the stove!”
He changed his shoes and headed to the dining room. Li Chuan drank a sip of the soup and suddenly sad, “Xiao Qiu, if you really like children, then go get an IVF. I had something to ask the doctor about today, and also asked about it.”
“Why are you in a daze?”
“You went to look for the doctor? What’s wrong? You don’t feel well?” My voice was hoarse and looked at him anxiously.
“No, no, no, don’t let your mind wander. I’m just done with my medication and wanted him to prescribe two more bottles for me.”
I loosened my breath, “Oh.”
“As for IVF, do you want to go to the clinic in Zurich or in the US?”
“That…didn’t you say…to wait a few years?”
“Xiao Qiu, don’t worry too much about my feelings. Your own feelings are also very important.”
I gazed at him in a daze, my heart thudding, “Does that mean you agree to the IVF, Li Chuan?”
“Uh huh.” He stroked my shoulder, “I am only worried that you will be tormented. You have to go to the clinic many times for IVF, have to have many examinations, and have to eat a lot of medication. Many of the medication have side-effects. Besides that, the success rate is so low and I don’t want to see you disappointed.”
I grinned and made an OK sign towards him, “That’s not a problem. I just happen to be free during this time. The boss said that since I’m not in Kunming, he would try to give me less work. I’ll use the remaining time to concentrate on making a baby.
Seeing me so happy, he also smiled, “Then let’s go to Mount Sinai Medical Center in California. They have a really good clinic there. It’s just that the doctor said that he was worried problems might occur during transportation.”
“Is there no clinic here in Zurich? Can’t it be done here?”
“He did recommend a Doctor Singh to me. His clinic has the highest success rate in Switzerland.”
“How high is it?”
“39%. Of course, if the vitality of the sperm is taken into account, the percentage is even lower.”
“Hey, hey!” I patted his face, “Don’t worry. If the first time doesn’t work, we’ll try a second time. You have money, I have a body. We’ll succeed at some point.”
Li Chuan didn’t tell me more. I did more research on the internet. Numbers show that IVF greatly affects the mood and mind of the woman. If it fails, 60% of the women’s moodiness becomes uncontrollable and becomes depressed, anxious, angry, unable to sleep, argues a lot…30% of the women have the intention of committing suicide. That’s not to mention the work, the time, the money, the emotion, the couple’s relationship, and all kinds of costs that are invested into this.
I refused to think about all of this. The blueprint of my, Xie Xiao Qiu’s, life includes Li Chuan and my child. Otherwise, it would be an incomplete family. This point of view is a bit outdated, but I will never let a chance slip by.
I thought about it and told Li Chuan, “Then do you have Doctor Singh’s number?”
“I’ll immediately make an appointment with him and start as soon as possible.” I said, “You don’t need to participate in any of this, from beginning to end. I can stand the pressure of failing alone. If you get involved, then I won’t be able to.”
“How can I do that? This is between the two of us.” His face stiffened, “I won’t let you go to the clinic by yourself.”
“Hey, you are extremely busy and don’t have that much time to go with me. An IVF period is really long.”
“It’s not long. It’s about three weeks each time.”
“That’s not long? How many projects do you have on hand? Don’t they all have deadlines? This kind of thing will distract you.”
“It’s fine. If I don’t accompany you and it doesn’t go smoothly, you will take things too hard.”
What he said provoked me again. I jumped up three feet, “Ha, this again! Am I that weak?”
I wasn’t convinced and went over to surround his neck with my fingers, not allowing him to speak, “It’s settled, I’ll go by myself. I’ll definitely tell you whether it works or not.”
“You can’t go. It won’t work without me.” Li Chuan said, “You might not be able to understand this doctor’s English. I’ve already agreed for you to do IVF. You need to take a step back too and allow me to go with you.
“No, I’ll go by myself. I will report the progress to you.”
“Don’t speak any more of this, Li Chuan. I’ve already made up my mind. Congratulations on finding a determined and strong-willed wife.”
The next day, I drove to see Doctor Singh by myself.
Li Chuan blocked me by the door, “Wait…”
I loudly resisted, “Hey! We already talked about it yesterday! I’m going alone!”
He looked at me, sighed and shoved a car key in my hand, “Your car has no gas.”
“Oh, that’s right, I need to go get gas first.”
“There’s no need, I already got gas for you.”
“…Eh…that…when did you get it?”
“In the morning, before you woke up.”
Li Chuan was right, Singh could speak fluent English, but had an extremely strong German accent. A normal person could only understand half of it. But I was different, I was a trained translator. After a short time of chatting, I already figured out the pattern to his speech. For example, many of the ‘w’s you must think of as ‘v’s, ‘d’s as ‘th’, and words that start with ‘F’ must be changed to ‘v’s. ‘Fery good’ becomes ‘very good’. After a few dialogues, I could chat without hindrance. After he asked me detailed questions about my health status and medical history, Doctor Singh gave me a set of things to examine my LH hormone production to allow me to calculate my own ovulation cycle. I also started to take oral contraception. According to him, it was to increase the responsive nature of the ovaries so that my menstrual cycle will be on time.
Everything went smoothly. At the beginning of my ovulation, I went to the clinic for blood drawing and to check my hormone amount. The doctor was very satisfied with my health. There was also no problem with my uterus. So they started injecting ovulation medicine into my body. This type of injection was required three times a day for ten days. This was taken care of by the nurse Li Chuan hired for our home. In addition, there were quite frequent blood and ultrasound checkups.
Under heavy supervision, the egg was finally successfully ripened.
When the opportune time came, the doctor injected me with a type of simple HCG hormones and told me that after thirty-six hours they would begin piercing through the egg. The name sounded scary, but because they used anesthesia, I slept through the entire thing and didn’t feel anything. Afterwards, I only felt that my lower abdomen hurt slightly. The doctor said that it was normal.
Due to ample curiosity and confidence, I cooperated perfectly with all the exams. The IVF process was truly complicated. Sometimes, I had to go multiple times in a day. Sometimes, I had to go every day. I had Li Chuan continue going to the company to work and not accompany me the entire time. Sometimes after the examination, I will see Li Chuan waiting for me in the parking lot. But I refused to let him see the doctor and go to any type of exams with me. Singh told me that Li Chuan understood my situation completely because he would call at least once a day to ask about all the details and procedures. The day they did the piercing, he waited outside the surgery room. Seeing me come out immaculately dressed, he smiled without speaking. After a few days, he even seemed more relaxed. He was probably affected by my uncaring attitude.
After three days, three healthy sperms were placed into my uterus. It didn’t count as surgery this time, and there was no need for anesthesia. I didn’t think it hurt either. Afterwards, the doctor allowed me to lie on the bed quietly for a few hours. Li Chuan had brought a detective novel for me. After reading a few pages, I couldn’t get into it and started chatting with him.
I could see that his calmness was a show, because he would not agree to quietly sit down and instead, walked around the hospital room leaning on his crutches. I secretly wondered whether he would be even more nervous during the checkup 14 days later.
“Hey, Li Chuan, don’t worry. We will definitely succeed!” I confidently raised a fist in the air.
He grabbed my hand and slowly rubbed it on his face, “Promise me, Xiao Qiu, that you will only try this one time, okay? If it fails, then you won’t try again.”
“Seeing you getting shots and drawing blood every day makes me on the verge of collapsing.”
“Strange, aren’t getting shots and drawing blood things you commonly did before? I feel like you should be more used to it than me.”
“I’m not used to it.” He said quietly, “Last time you had leg surgery, I stood outside the hospital for the entire night. Later on, you got worse and worse. Every time I saw that Eason, I wanted to choke him to death. Even now, when I think of it, I still hate him.”
“Then you should have come in to see me back then. Seriously, so heartless. At the time, I really hated you.”
“Sorry, it was all my fault. I thought…that maybe that way, you would (English) move on quicker and head into Eason’s embrace.
“Whatever! A person with this much determination like me would not dramatically change direction and steer away (Gai Xian Yi Zhe) easily.”
“Change what?” He didn’t understand.
“Dramatically change direction.”
“Xiao Qiu, your determination is really strong. I greatly admire you. If you were in the revolutionary periods, you would be a hero. If you were helping North Korea resist the US, who knows how many military fortifications you would have exploded. You were the one who directed my miserable and dismal life forward.”
“Li Chuan, since when did you become so talkative?”
On our way home, I pulled Li Chuan into a baby store and bought a set of pink clothing.
We both liked girls.
Li Chuan didn’t say a thing and went up to the counter to pay. The friendly salesperson energetically marketed towards me, “Madam, have you bought your baby carriage yet? Or feeding bottles? Newborn baby diapers? And soft blankets, hats, and gloves to wrap your baby in? Electronic breast milk pump? A Crib? A entire set of noise making toys?”
Li Chuan’s expression fell, “Not in a hurry.”
“Our store has a discount event this week, everything is 20% off. Don’t miss this chance!”
“Mmm,” I smiled, and threw a pair of glass baby bottles into the shopping cart, “Then let’s buy this pair of baby bottles.”
Li Chuan glared at me.
“Why are you glaring at me? If we really can’t have a child, this bottle can be used to hold soy sauce.”
Fourteen days came in a blink of an eye. I tested in the morning, using a pregnancy tester. I anxiously came out of the bathroom.
The mark I expected was not there.