My fella doesn't really believe in a prescribed Day of Love, with all its commercial connotations, but he embodies the best parts of it—the parts that cannot be bought. This year he went all out, but there were no roses or chocolates in sight.
It's so rare that we have a day to ourselves anymore, my hubby and I, but our destination yesterday was not amorous in the least. We got up extra early and drove downtown to Sunnybrook, so I could have an exploratory laparoscopy for endometriosis.
Day surgery is no romantic walk along the beach, but it's what I needed to feel better, so we did it. My hubby is good at sticking around for that "in sickness" part of the deal we made in the bookshop. He takes his vows very seriously.
Having him in my corner is the greatest gift I could receive. He believed me when I said I needed surgery. He supported me unfailingly, even as the day drew closer, the panic set in, and I began to doubt my decision.
There were no delicious chocolate kisses or candy hearts these past few days as I prepared for my surgery. Instead, there was a lifetime supply of Jell-O, beef broth and apple juice, as well as an orange-flavoured serving of Pico-Salix.
Sunday was one of those days you want to put to bed before it's even begun. The kind of day you dread because you know what's not in it: solid food. Throw a bowel prep into the mix, and you're just adding insult to injury.
Then my hubby had to trudge through heavy snow on foot to buy me Jell-O that wasn't red, since we heard at the last minute that it wasn't on the safe list of see-through foods to eat. He valiantly scoured three stores until he finally found some that was orange and green. When he victoriously brought it home, I felt like I was consuming a gelatin version of the Irish flag. It seemed like good luck.
As I spent the afternoon on the couch feeling incredibly sorry for myself, he shovelled our driveway more than once in the middle of a snowstorm. Then he drove our daughter to my parents' house so she could stay with them overnight.
When he got home, he ate his dinner (aka real food) hidden in the kitchen so I wouldn't salivate at the mere sight of his pasta. At that point, I would have killed for a single cracker, even one of those grim unsalted ones. Afterwards he watched a movie with me instead of going to his usual volleyball game.
The man is a gem, and it's on shitty days like this one that I am reminded yet again of how lucky I am to get to call him my Valentine. He even sat with me while I watched Gilmore Girls in between frequent bathroom trips. (He was scanning his phone the whole time, but in fairness, that's a lot of loquaciousness to listen to in one sitting).
I didn't get a mass-produced verse on a Hallmark card this year. Instead, my husband sang Chet Baker and Ray LaMontagne songs into my ear before bed, to calm my nerves the night before surgery. It seemed more fitting.
Yesterday, the day of the procedure, he didn't eat breakfast in solidarity with me, despite my protests. He just waited until I was out of sight to scarf down a breakfast pita. He kept my family informed of what was happening and how I was doing. When it was all over, he drove the car around to meet my wheelchair escort at the main door of the hospital.
There is no whiff of romance to be found in the fact that your wife is not allowed to shower for two days while her incisions heal, but he dealt with it by making a joke so I felt a little less self-conscious about my upcoming funkiness.
Sometimes true love is just noticing and pointing out the positive, silly things in life, like blue hospital slippers with little happy faces on them. And then taking a picture of said footwear to bring a smile to your wife's face as she waits for the porter to lead her to the operating theatre.
It's incredibly easy to forget what real love means in the mad dash of our day-to-day lives. And when something like Valentine's Day rolls around, our views become even more skewed by the strong focus on passion and romance. Now, don't get me wrong. I love the idea of Cupid and kissing as much as the next gal, but I've learned to appreciate the evolution of love in all its incarnations.
It's what happens on the other 364 days of the year that mean the most to me. The fact that he loves me enough to offer to drive me downtown to various specialist appointments because it's winter and I don't have a license. How he always wants to help me feel more confident talking to doctors by simply being in the room with me.
Valentine's Day isn't just about romantic love, either. I felt it in so many different forms yesterday. It filled the foyer where my parents were waiting for me at my house, there to welcome me home after my hard day. It tugged at my heart when my dad helped tug off my boots as soon as I walked in the door. It soothed my soul when my mum said her usual round of prayers for my surgery and told me she was proud of my bravery.
This kind of love is a force to be reckoned with. It's something you can ingest and hold in your heart when the pain rears up at three in the morning. I had several good friends text me and wish me luck, and then check in after it all to see how it went and how I was feeling. To feel that kind of love is healing.
Now it's officially Valentine's Day and I'm sitting here thankful for not just what my sweetheart and friends and family did for me, but also for the little things. I'm grateful the student nurse got my IV in right the first time. I'm happy I managed to nick a few extra pairs of hospital underwear to wear at home while my belly is swollen and sore. I'm glad for the presence of quality painkillers lined up beside my bed. The invention of laser technology amazes me. As does the fact that I have learned how to advocate for myself—not just when it comes to my mental health, but my body as well.
I'm grateful for our health care system, even though it isn't perfect by any stretch. For getting lucky enough to have surgery two weeks after my initial appointment with my gynaecologist. I'm thankful I get the chance to improve the quality of my life. Feeling better makes it all worth it.
The last three months haven't been easy on me physically. I had a kidney cyst removed in December, an awful flu in January, and now this laparoscopy in February. They say things come in threes, so I'm hoping this is it for me for a while. Yes, I've had a lot of health issues over the years, but they are just things that have happened to me. They don't define me.
As I was lying on the operating table yesterday, I felt comforted by the fact that the woman who had been my OB with Eve was now taking care of me in a different capacity. As she briefed her team before I went under, I looked around the room at the two nurses, the assistant, and the anesthetist, and I realized I was surrounded by a tribe of women.
At a time when women are marching all over the globe to fight to be seen as equals and not lose what progress we've made, I felt safe in operating room 19 with this clan of feminine healers. I knew I was in good hands. All my gynae teams previously have been led by men, and they've been fine, but there was something fitting about this scene. What they call "women's problems" being solved by women.
Thank you for taking this journey with me as I tell my latest story. May your Valentine's Day be filled with chocolate and flowers and treats, but also gratitude for the love that lies beneath it all, the love that makes all our lives possible.