Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On Writing and Disability

‘Anything else you want to chat about?,’ the midwife asks nonchalantly: a casually phrased question I assume is geared to pave the way for a possible discussion about pre or postnatal depression.

‘Uh, yeah, there is something else actually...’

She looks up from her note-taking, biro poised above my medical file.

‘I can’t feel my fingers.’

‘Oh, okay...’ Her shoulders relax a little and she continues writing as she talks, ‘That happens sometimes in pregnancy. It’s called Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, mostly caused by fluid retention causing pressure on the nerves in your hands and wrists.’

‘How do I get rid of it?’

The nurse smiles patronisingly as she marks a full-stop at the end of today’s entry, ‘Oh, there’s nothing much you can do. Keep exercising. Keep up your fluids. It usually disappears after the birth.’

‘But I’m only seven months pregnant,’ I stare at her incredulously, ‘My hands are completely numb. I can’t wait this out for two months!’

‘I’m afraid you don’t have much option...’

‘I can’t write. Or type.’

She stares at me cautiously, surprised at my reaction. ‘You’ve finished up at work already, haven’t you?’

‘I’m a writer. And I can’t write or type.’

Oh. I didn’t know that. What kind of things do you write?’

Is this woman for real? She’s just told me I’ll be incapacitated for at least two months and she’s wanting to chat about genres!

‘Some journalism. Some short stories. Mostly poetry though. I'm a poet’

She closes the file, raises an eyebrow and looks up at me, the left corner of her mouth slightly twitching as if holding down the start of a smirk. ‘Poetry. Oh. Well, if it’s just poetry I’m sure you’ll manage to get by for a few months.’


  1. Loved this post Maxine, very true of how society somemtimes views written creative expression. Teurai

  2. Hello Maxine,

    "it's just poetry"

    It alway seems as if we are on a common mission. Well, maybe I should say we are of a similar mindset.

    I wrote a post 2 days ago and later went back and added an addendum. The addendum spoke to "who really cares".

    Like the core of your post, my post was of a very personal nature.

    When you get a chance, stop by.

  3. Thanks Teurai. It's unfortunate (and infuriating) how many people feel this way. Lovely to meet you the other day at the Still Waters sister circle :)

    Carey, you know what they say: "great minds..." he he. (Or maybe in this case, FRUSTRATED minds...)

  4. Oh that's so frustrating - clearly some people have no idea that a writer needs to be able to write.

  5. True: It's so black and white (no pun intended) when you put it that way, Tracey. Would they feel the same if a runner sprained their ankle?

  6. Oh dear, 'just poetry'.

    That's so insulting, but then, I always wonder, if every single person enjoyed, wrote and 'got' poetry, would I still do it?

    I guess it's a little awful of me, but I like doing/being something that many, many other people aren't/can't be. Egotistical I suppose.

    (and yeah, I would still do it, can't stop)

  7. ....you know you're a writer (fiction, journo, poetry, scripts etc) when you're away from home for a few days and find yourself absent-mindedly 'typing' on the table....

    Your experiences remind me of a friend who has had a terrible bike accident and needed to have stitches pretty well all over her face. The nurse ripped them out without much preparation and when she saw that Jill's eyes were tearing up with the pain she said, "Oh for goodness' sake, I've seen worse than you." It was then that we decided that nurses and doctors who lack empathy need to undergo some of these procedures themselves (call it 'personal development') so they understand that for each and every patient who arrives before them, it's frightening, painful and confusing.

  8. True, Ashley - but if everyone 'did it', you'd still most likely 'do it' better than most, but you'd have their appreciation of how hard it is to 'do it' well.

    Kath - You're kind of right: a great doctor is one who has been a patient... Although I can imagine how empathy would eventually get eaten away after some years in the medical profession.

  9. Wow, thank you, Maxine! I guess you're right, we'd have a much wider sense of appreciation coming in, a wonderful thought, thanks

  10. ..."Well, if it’s just poetry I’m sure you’ll manage to get by for a few months."

    Water, how long might you be able to live without that?

    Air, how long would you be able to live without that?

    Your ability to perspire, sweat your heat, until your body now cooler can regain its former equilibrium...would you give this up?

    And finally...precisely what is your relationship to metaphor?

    Don't have one, perhaps that is why you would not seem to care, and even suggest that I should live without them...and the way the expression of them has the ability to bring light to the darkness of even your dismissal…of my passion.

    ...these might be things I might have said to the nurse who has forgotten so much...



  11. Maxine,

    A recorder/dictaphone device for your for beautiful one number 3, how about that? Enjoyable read.

  12. Hey poetman, I wish I'd had you as my spokesperson at that appointment!

    Mama Shujaa: No! Not number 3! 2 is enough already! This post is written about being pregnant with my daughter who is now 4 months old. Thanks for the congrats though :)

    My hands are a little better now, though still very painful. I've been looking into voice recognition programs, but they all seem pretty ineffective...a lot of editing required, which almost defeats the purpose.