Tuesday, 6 June 2006

Check up

Wednesday 6 June 2007

After his lightning visit the day after the operation, Dr Foldès indicated that I had to return to see him 2 to 3 weeks later. All I had to do was to call the secretary to find out when he would be there and to turn up without an appointment.

So on Monday morning I called the Louis XIV clinic. His secretary told me that this week Dr Foldès was consulting Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon from 14:00.

I didn’t want to go at all. So much so that instead of choosing Monday afternoon I decided not to go until Tuesday. I arrived just on time on Tuesday afternoon and not at least half an hour early as I had been in the habit of doing.

While going to the clinic, I tried to analyse my concern. There was the fact that Dr Foldès had impressed me a lot. And yet there was also another component which I couldn’t manage to express. All I could grasp of it was that I had no wish to meet other of Dr Foldès’ patients.

When I entered the clinic, I exchanged glances with a woman sitting where I had waited when they came to find me on the day of my admission, the night before the operation.

She was black. And I couldn’t stop myself from thinking she was surely there to be operated on by Dr Foldès.

Dismissing that thought, I went up the few steps which led to the surgeons’ secretaries.

And there, bingo, I met Dr Iceberg. As usual, as expressive as a prison door, he didn’t recognise me. At about that moment a lump appeared in my throat and my morale began to waver seriously.

Dr Foldès’ secretary put my name in the margin of her book. As a result I had no idea what time I would have to wait.

I thought that I would be given priority but, once settled in the jam-packed and stifling waiting room, I noticed the surgeon talking to his secretary. I felt my body tensing and I was ridiculously relieved to hear him call an older man. In the end I preferred to wait until after everyone else who had an appointment.

Dr Foldès is basically a urologist. That occurred to me when, two or three times, he came to look for a man in the waiting room.

During this time the waiting room didn’t become any emptier, to the contrary. There wasn’t a single free chair and new arrivals crowded standing up along the cubicles of the surgeons’ secretaries.

Seeing black women appearing, I once again immediately though that they were Dr Foldès’ patients. That was confirmed by their going to his secretary.

A young woman of about 25, with her head in a turban, arrived first, followed closely by a woman of about fifty. Then a very young girl (she hardly seemed to have come of age) came into the waiting room briskly. A few minutes later another woman in her twenties arrived, accompanied by a woman who could have been her sister of her friend.

These women had no doubt been circumcised too. And they no doubt had also come to have their mutilated sex repaired.

I studied them to work out at which stage in their long journey to reconstruction they were. The last arrivals were wearing slim fitting jeans and crossed their legs. The two first were wearing loose clothes but had a lively gait. So I deduced that it was either their first consultation or it was more than six weeks since their operations and they had come for a check up.

The lump in my throat was growing, my morale was sinking. I felt vulnerable and sad. For myself, for them. Each black woman present was very likely a circumcised woman. I found that distressing.

We weren’t patients like the others in the waiting room. Unlike the others who had come to battle with an stroke of fate, we were there to repair an abomination which had been inflicted by the hand or wish of our own people, of a member of our own family.

And we took all these actions, these round trips to St Germain en Laye, these pains, this fear, anxieties, to restore our dignity plundered without our consent.

In a real mess, that outraged me so much that the lump in my throat doubled in size and my morale dropped to the abyss of depression. I wanted to cry.

At that moment I thought that I really would like my parents to say they were sorry one day.

Lost in these black thoughts, I hardly heard Dr Foldès calling me, and I didn’t have time to be afraid.

In his office Dr Foldès smiled at me, which heartened me a little. He asked when I had had the operation. He didn’t remember me and that was curiously a relief. I really wanted to be ordinary and anonymous come to be examined, not a victim of circumcision. I was no longer a circumcised woman. It was over.

On his desk he had an information leaflet about a young Malian woman born in 1988 and circumcised at the age of 5. That weighed down my already not very brave morale.

He asked me to get on to the examining table and to bend my legs. Then he did an rapid examination. “Superb! It’s perfect!” he said. That pleased me, I felt very proud. “It’s healing well, the labia minora as much as the clitoris. It’s very good”.

He added that it’s normal to have a hole at the front (but what hole exactly? I feel I’m going to have to explore again with my little mirror, I didn’t know what he was talking about at all) and that there will still be a little discharge.

He recommended continuing cleaning the whole genital area with well diluted iodine three or four times a day.

Then he explained that this visit was a check up just to establish that everything was going well. And everything was going well.

Then he said he would see me again in 3 to 5 weeks. That consultation would be very important, even essential, because he would prescribe a further treatment.

He smiled at me again and my morale got a second wind. I was even fairly happy and reassured. In the end all the pain was worth it …

I made an appointment for 4 July before leaving.

Leaving for the RER station, I was split between the joy of knowing my healing was going well and a burst of anger over the mutilation.

Damn, I WISH my parents would say they are sorry.

I need someone to say they are sorry for the pain they have given me ….

[original in French]

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19 comments:

  1. sourisdansroquefort11 June 2007 at 20:06

    Happy to see everything is going well ...
    Your parents, going by what you've said, still rejecting responsibility for what happened to you. And perhaps they aren't wrong, in a way, because they apparently didn't want what happened to you. I hope you'll be able to resolve the problem fast, by means of therapy perhaps?

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  2. Hi
    It's good that everything is going well, that you are healing correctly. I'm happy for you.
    I have one or two questions.
    - Have you already told you parents of this anger you have towards them about this mutilation? Do they know about your anger?
    - Have you told them what you want of them regarding what happened to you?
    In fact I'm asking this question because it seems to me they may not know of the wrong they have done to you. Or, if they do know, since you have had the operation, as far as they are concerned the wrong has been put right and with it their blame. Even though not as far as you are concerned.
    You should share these feelings with them, rather than keeping them to yourself and suffering alone.
    What do you think?
    I know it's not easy, but it needs to be done, you need to tell them of your anger. And at that time you will see their reaction and you will notice. At least I think so.
    That anger has to go.
    Look after yourself Papillon, love and kisses.

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  3. You've set out on a long journey. I hope with all my heart that one day you will forgive them even if they didn't intend to inflict this mutilation on you.
    I often think of you and ask if one day these barbarities will cease? So that no other women will have to suffer this humiliation.
    Your courage should give such hope to so many women. Look after yourself, be strong, do it for yourself.

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  4. I don't know what to say to you, other than I'm thinking of you so much.
    xxx

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  5. Hello
    I came across your blog while trying to understand better the work of Dr Foldes, and how women live through these mutilations and operations. Perhaps I'm a bit out of place here but I am a nurse and often work at the Louis XV surgery and even though I try not to question the patients on the subject because they are stressed, I find myself very concerned by these operations. Perhaps you will let me ask what you want of nurses, things which have shocked you, attention you would like. It's a complicated question because all women are different, and besides all nurses are too, but it could possibly help me personally find the words and behaviour just to be able to attend to details I have neglected in the past.

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  6. Thank you for sharing my joy Sourisdansroquefort, Non and Elene B.
    Thank you too for thinking of me Mlle Crapaud :)

    In fact, in that waiting room I realised my parents had never asked my pardon, nor said they were sorry to me. That's beyond the question of responsibility I think, Sourisdansroquefort. I am their daughter, this abomination happened to me and they have never even felt sorry? As a result their phone calls seem lame, they lack a part, where the parents succeed in not protecting their daughter.

    My father called me the other day and asked how my convalescence was going, then (happily I was sitting) asked if the operation had brought me the psychological improvement I showed in my letter. I stuttered, evaded the question, answered obliquely. I was annoyed with myself for a moment then I realised that in any case, I couldn't talk to him about this psychological aspect because it concerns him directly. Afterwards and since, I felt a great burst of anger. It seems as though my father and mother are not primarily concerned by my circumcision. Even though they are my parents.

    Damn, just thinking about it I'm wavering between tears and rage.

    Nono, I haven't yet told them about my anger with them. Your comments are interesting because my therapist has also said that one day it's going to be necessary to tell them about the anger I am experiencing, for fear of poisoning myself with it. I agree, I especially don't want them to think that my operation is an absolution for them. But for the moment I can't do it. I have the impression it's beyond my capability. So I'll get there step by step: I'm already not playing at being the nice little girl any more. That may seem ridiculous but that's what is within my reach at the moment.
    That and the fact of keeping in mind, as you say Elene B, I'm doing it for myself...

    You see, Elene B, it's one of the things that destroyed my morale on Tuesday afternoon: to see this continuous stream of silent women come to be repaired as a result of a mutilation. Physically it's possible and within reach even if it seems hard to take all the actions. But shame, fear and humiliation, you have to manage to live with them and that turns my stomach.

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  7. Hello and welcome Alex. I hope that other young women who have had the operation will see your comment and give you their point of view too. For myself, I was touched by the kindness of the nurses during my stay at the clinic. They were warm and natural. Most importantly for me, they didn't show out of place pity or comiseration. I was there for a reconstruction, to leave this state of being a victim of circumcision, and to be treated "normally", that did me an enormous amount of good. Honestly, nothing in their attitude shocked me at all. On the contrary, I didn't want any favoured treatment, I wanted to be a patient like any other.

    If you have other questions, write to me on papillonblog at gmail dot com and I will be delighted to reply there and forward to other young women with whom I am in contact. In any case, many thanks for making the approach, it's admirable and very much in place here.

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  8. I don't know what to say, not having experienced a situation that even approaches yours, but all my thoughts are with you.
    It's great if everything is going well at the physical level, I hope things go better for you with your morale.

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  9. Parents... everyone definitely has something to reproach them for. I think your parents, in their way, encouraged you in your reconstruction. At least they seemed to approve of your operation. That's a point, but not enough. I understand that your reconstruction must have their apologies, and also explanations on the story behind your circumcisions, yours and your sister's. If you aren't convinced by their version of events, it may be that you need more information, conversations, demonstration on their part.

    Talk, talk, talk, even at the risk of going mad!! And no doubt you will because your suffering added to your parents' denial for thirty years will cause a disturbance undoubtedly more painful than the operation. But talking is the only way to understand and forgive.

    You are right when you say "I need someone to ask for forgiveness so that the pain they have caused ..." that will be the last chapter of your reconstruction, and you write so well that I would like to read the epilogue of this story :-)

    I wish you every courage, especially as, from what I have understood, communication is not a strong point in your family.

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  10. Thank you Millie.
    Elté, your analysis of the situation is very apt. It's true that I need more encouragement, I totally need them to ask my pardon. And as you have guessed, that's not going to be easy, silence being more usual than conversation in my family.
    Pfff That's going to be an enooormous test I think. But I too believe that my reconstruction has to go through a confrontation with my parents. So thank you for wishing me courage, I really do need it.

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  11. Hi Papillon
    Certainly now that you have been repaired physically, you must be repaired mentally also ... and for that I think that the word "anger" is very important, which couldn't be properly expressed until AFTER the operation. Am I wrong?
    You now need this anger (beneficial I think) leads to the asking for forgiveness from your parents, the logical outcome and a break in this long course...
    The problem is that it doesn't depend on you, and it is necessary for them in their turn to have as much courage as you.
    I wish it with all my heart. Hugs and kisses! :o)

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  12. What you say is very true Christine. I didn't feel angry with my parents before the operation. Though now I'm boiling. It's as though it was one stage after the other.
    I'm going to have lunch with the family this weekend. We'll see how my parents behave.
    At the same time, I'm almost sure that *I* will have to tell them about my anger, that i will have to engineer the confrontation. As if being passive and waiting for them to ask forgiveness won't be enough...

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  13. Hello Papillon

    I'm happy to read that everything is following a normal course as far as the operation is concerned.

    Your anger is healthy and legitimate.
    When you explain to your parents (and perhaps by writing, it's easier!) the ball will be in their court. Afterwards I think only "letting go" will let you live in peace, especially if they stay some time in denial.
    I hope for you that they are capable of listening and that they recognise their responsibility in the non-protection of your childhood.

    ...and your grandmother, is she still alive? If she isn't, a "symbolic" letter perhaps would also be very effective in venting this anger.

    Courage, little sister ;-)

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  14. Good evening Papillon
    I am reading but not writing because I don't know what to say to you, and giving advice is not my strong point. Especially not in cases like this.
    But one thing is certain, you have a clear and logical course, and so if I may be permitted: go!
    I am behind you, in solidarity and in friendship.

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  15. Thank you Cornélie. I know my course will go by when I express my anger. Perhaps I'm imposing it on myself uselessly but I would like to do it by the spoken word and not by writing. We'll see if I can do it.
    Do you believe that you can let go without having passed through this anger?
    My grandmother died some years ago. Besides it's strange because at the time I thought it was my other grandmother who was the "wicked" one and when my paternal grandmother died I felt nothing, as if it didn't concern me at all. I had said to my father "I'm sorry that you have lost your mother," and that's all. The symbolic letter is a good idea, and I'll keep it in mind.

    Thank you for your kindness Lalita. It goes straight to my heart.

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  16. Hello Papillon
    ... I had a similar experience (on the subject of pardon) several years ago. After having sent a letter to my father, there was nothing but denial and indifference. I waited for him to recognise the facts and to say he was sorry, I really hoped for it a lot, especially as I was ready to forgive ... but nothing...
    The years passed, the anger faded bit by bit, it was a long process battling against the injuries.
    10 years after the letter, I didn't see my father again until a few hours before he died. He already couldn't speak but was still lucid... I was able to tell him that I was no longer angry with him, that I loved him and that I thanked for giving me life.
    This forgiveness I "offered" did me an enormous good..
    It's just my account...
    I found that by being surrounded by people who believed me and supported me allowed me to survive the pain of being cut off from my father.
    Sometimes you have to face up to the indifference of people close to you, it's hard, but it doesn't have to destroy us.
    You are incredibly brave to want to confront your parents face to face!

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  17. Bonjour Papillon
    What I ask myself is whether people of your parents' generation consider it to be an ancestral and barbaric practice? Are they able to say that it should no longer be practiced, that it really is a mutilation of a body and mind? Are they still capable of doing it? I am curious to understand.

    "That which isn't named, doesn't exist"

    Good luck to you.

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  18. I find your story very moving Cornélie. True courage isn't that in forgiveness? I ask the question because forgiveness isn't something I envisage myself.
    I feel I need to confront my parents face to face for my own self-esteem, to prove that I have some intrinsic value. Except that I can't do it at the moment.

    I ask myself the same questions Elene B. My parents are so inexpressive on the question that I can't guess their feelings. Certainly both have alluded to the "psychological aspect", my mother when she received the letter, my father a little later, but both had the air of recognising that circumcision had an impact on the psychology of its victims. They have never condemned the practice in front of me. It's appalling.

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  19. I tell myself that your letter, your post, would merit being published in a substantial paper, read by the world, here in France and even perhaps in Africa (I can't really judge as I'm not African!) but here in France, yes.
    It should be on the front page of the newspaper.
    Yes, it's you who has to go through the actions, the suffering, work, adaptation, questions, caring etc.
    It's good to have courage but it would be better said, given media coverage by society, and that would help to reduce circumcision of course.

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Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.

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