Thursday, 22 March 2012

My Deepest, Innermost Feelings (Mostly Dark) on being childless

THIS IS A PERSONAL ENTRY ON THE MOST PERSONAL LEVEL (I am usually not like this, being my usual cheery self) AND JUST SO YOU KNOW COMMENTS WILL BE MODERATED

I have been almost subtle in my past blogposts on my state of childlessness. Today, I feel the need to share on my personal blog something I couldn't get myself to verbalise up till now, simply being it is too personal, but I feel that it is time. I have always believed that the catharsis effect (releasing it via sharing through speech or writing) plays some role in preserving my sanity. THIS IS ONLY A HIDDEN PART OF WHO I AM, maybe at most 25% of me, so don't deduce that I am a suicidal person or something. Just a sharing blogpost.

Let us start from the beginning.

As a little girl, I had always believed I will be a fine mother one day. I played with my dolls and pretended to be their mother. I played with the cat we had and enjoyed watching my mother playing 'mother' to the kitty, RIP Meow Meow. I always looked forward to receiving new siblings (quite a huge age gap, hence I was an older child when they were born), or new cousins. I relish in playing with children and almost nothing they do will irk me or made me cross unless it is really over the 'accepted' limit.

Fast forward to the 21st century, I fell in love and fell out of love a couple of times before I finally found my man, the guy I call my husband today. We had some years together as a dating couple before finally taking the plunge, hmm, literally, into marriage, speeded up by both sides of the family's demands we tie the knot, reason being we had been dating since we were 23. Yup, I am one of the lucky ones to have found my soulmate at an 'early' age. I would like to believe in soulmate and that I found my soulmate in my husband. I count my blessings.

It was an eventful year in 2007 when we got married. Looking back, I am quite amazed at how I survived five years ago. I lost my beloved grandpa, my dear grandpa (dad's dad) with whom I was very close to, just days before my wedding reception. I was hospitalised 7 times in 2007, two being having to have had D&C performed on me as I couldn't stop bleeding -- google up D&C and you would be able to guess just exactly what happened. That is a whole different story which is best left aside for now, another raw emotions-filled memory box.

Anyway, I survived my first year of marriage, literally, hubby and I both grew up together in our first year as man and wife, and life has never been better, up till today... but a nagging feeling persists, we are still childless.

SWEET, SWEET SUPPORT
I would say the person closest to you once you are married should be your spouse, maybe children, but you should never replace your spouse with your children, in terms of attention, that is.

In my five years of marriage, from a young man to a not-so-young-man-anymore, my husband has proven the 'through thick and thin, in trial and tribulations' part of most marriage vows, he has stuck through with me and listened to me and held me close in those down times where you couldn't have recognised me for my usual self. NOTE: I usually do not appear as sad in real life, always with laughter and a ready smile on my face.

PAIN AND HURT
Let me say this straight: It pained me more than anything else in the world to not have my own child. The hurt is due to the fact of having your hopes crushed month-by-month, the pain is indescribable. It is only natural that I would crave for my own flesh and blood and after awhile, I am opening up my options to adoption as well. As long as the effort will not cost more than 10k, we've tried it, trust me.

We have tried almost everything except IVF (test tube baby) due to the prohibitive cost. We don't have 10k (minimum) times three (x3) for a 3-round IVF treatment to spare. The success rate at best is only 35%, hovering as low as 25%-35%. It is like knowing you will fail the test/exam and still paid the exam fees to proceed and sit for the examination paper you know you can only score the max 35%.

Sweet, sweet hubby has been there with me and he was there when I had to self-administer an injection to my tummy and for me, who have a strange phobia (fear) towards needles/syringes, it was a huge feat just to be able to poke my skin myself, I actually cried all three times I administered myself in a round (a cycle, which is a month, following your monthly cycle), just to stimulate ovulation. I managed to ovulate, it is not that I couldn't, but nothing came out of it. Stress took over by just trying too hard that we abandoned serious fertility treatment at the LPPKN (government subsidised clinic) in 2009 and turned to gynae visits instead for more stress-free option rather than invasive procedures every month.

For those of you who are of medium-income-range, and would like to try a subsidised alternative of fertility treatment, here is the link, under Rawatan SubFertiliti: http://www.lppkn.gov.my/lppkn/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=336&Itemid=119&lang=ms
The English name for LPPKN is: National Population and Family Development Board, an agency under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. -- don't bother turning on the English version of the website as the translation isn't complete.

ONE NOTE: DO NOT expect private hospital (nice) treatment or smiles all the way as you only pay a fraction of the price - RM10 for consultation, RM10 is about USD3 for a specialist consultation, and subsidised (discounted) procedures and tests, and to some extent, the expensive ovary-stimulating drugs. A friend had a success on her second IUI (artificial insemination) attempt and is now a mother to a pair of boy-girl twins, she was the one who introduced me to LPPKN. Happy for her, seriously.


MORE PAIN AND HURT, INSENSITIVE REMARKS


The people around you will add on to the pain and hurt, like the cliche "to add salt to injury".

I remembered sharing with a girl friend when I had myself checked and all, in my attempt to conceive and she said that she'd rather not know what is wrong with her or do so many things just to get pregnant and let it happen naturally, not like some people and she added, no offence. Geez, girl, I am still taking offence or rather, feel quite hurt by that. About a year after that statement, you are one of the lucky ones who had a miracle happen and you conceived when you least expected it, with our common situation, having PCOS and all, but I am not so lucky and so are many other women like me out there, and of course, rather than mulling about it, I sought help.

Whatever you do when are a childless couple, you get judged. For doing nothing, you get judged. For getting help, you get judged. Even when you are doing something, you get judged for not doing enough or doing it wrong.

One insensitive remark I remember till today was of an acquaintance who 'jokingly' said maybe we are not pregnant (I refer to 'we' being pregnant cos I think of our journey to conception as both me and hubby) because we had not been doing it right in bed, he said some crude words and we had only met once or twice before that and he thought it was funny to poke fun at our childlessness like that. I took offence immediately and told him right off that is unacceptable.

Hey, what I do with my husband in bed is none of your business and I am perfectly happy with his performance and we thoroughly enjoy each other's company, infertility isn't inability to have sex. Now I am really angry and still fuming at insensitive remarks like that. Oh well.

Anyway, after more or less 'giving up' with expensive fertility treatments, I stick to my current gynae, bless his gentle soul, who put no pressure on me, and the kind nurses who are rooting for me all the way. I still remembered the first time I ovulated last year and the doc was very excited, and the nurse was almost cheering me on when the internal scan (pelvic/trans-vaginal scan) showed that one ripe follicle. I think they were more excited than I was. Bless their soul. Of course, nothing happened out of that and I am still without a child. I guess you can get used to prognosis like that after some time :-)

My family and hubby's family, after some 'orientation', has since learned not to breach this subject that often and usually they tip-toed gently on this subject, with an underlying encouraging tone. Appreciate that but I guess no one besides those suffering from the same 'predicament' will truly understand how difficult our journey is.

I also feel guilty when I poured out to hubby, and he told me: Do you know I also feel pressured? Seeing you like this and I cannot do anything about it makes me feel helpless.

I then said "Sorry", and toned down and took control of my feelings. He too, is in this journey, and being a man, it is harder to verbalise his feelings.

FEARS
Of course, I would be lying if I say I don't fear my hubby leaving me just because we have no child to bind us together. Call it irrational fear, but I guess women are hard-wired at birth to think like this... all the dooms' day thoughts of "What If's". So far, so good, hubby has reassured me again and again that he will be by my side no matter what.

Another fear is that we will be nearly dead/too old by the time any possible child is born/adopted by us and when we die (due to old age) the child is still in school. I don't wanna be running after a toddler when I am in my mid-40s (sorry to those who are doing that), but I cannot fathom that I will look more like a grandma than a mother to my own child. Geez, call that vanity but that is just my fear.

THE CATHARSIS
Now I have been writing a pretty long prologue of our journey and will now dwelve into these feelings to begin the catharsis. Catharsis is defined as the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music, or emotional release.

I think some of you who read my blog before this would have read this before, something I wrote two years ago when I turned 30. http://suesanctuary.blogspot.com/2010/10/reflections-on-turning-30.html

I have always tried to side-step this issue and making it 'lighter' by trying to see the positive side of things: http://suesanctuary.blogspot.com/2010/11/infertilitychildlessness-good.html

Now, I will try to let it all out and unleash that untamed raw feelings from the dark abyss of my being. Let's see if this catharsis session works.

*I paused for about 10 seconds thinking of how to put it into words*

1. SELF-BLAME, SELF-PITY

These two feelings are interconnected, if you ask me. First, you blame yourself (doesn't help with the 'maybe you didn't do that, maybe you did that, that is why you are not pregnant yet' well-intentioned remarks from family and friends and including strangers), after blaming yourself for not being able to get pregnant, you turn the blame on fate/God/others/your past/anything you can think of and think: WHY ME? Self-pity crept in and if you allow yourself to wallow in self-pity, the downward spiral of dark emotions will begin.

2. THE HOWLING
I feel like a wolf sometimes. These dark feelings I have, I can only cry to the moon deep into the night. I feel like howling in pain, soaked in the moonlight while tears soak up my face while I howl my pain to the moon. The feelings of longing for something I don't have (which is the root of suffering as what you crave for isn't in your hands, as per Buddhist teachings), I know rationally I shouldn't think about it that much, but deep inside, the Mother Wolf inside me is mourning her lost cubs-to-be, and the possibility of not having any cubs at all in her entire life.

I have cried many times alone and in the arms of hubby, who felt equally helpless, and also in front of my parents and my dear sister. I have learned that sharing with loved ones, while is supportive in some ways, is not fair to them in terms of putting more stress on them, as they are feeling as helpless as I am. I have since restricted my 'howling' to private alone-moments or in the selected few times (I try not to) with hubby. There was once a couple of years ago, I was feeling really down and triggered by some event/remarks, I actually burst into tears in the car, moments after stepping into the car to an alarmed hubby. In moments like this, sadness/disappointment/anger/frustration/pain all rolled into one.

I find myself on the verge of tears at the slightest provocation/remark/trigger on bad days which isn't happening that often now that I am off hormones-treatments for now. On good days, I can laugh about it and even 'forget' about it, but on bad days, I would fall into that emotional abyss and feel like howling again.

Yesterday was one of those days. I went for my monthly check-up at my gynae and jokingly told Alice, one of the nurses, that even the front counter girl could recognise me as I have been a regular for more than a year already at the specialist hospital, and I said "Even those who are pregnant at most sees the doc 9 months up til delivery, I have been coming monthly for more than a year already, longer than any pregnant woman", she laughed, being her usual cheerful self, and then I went in, escorted by Prema, another nurse.

Doc confirmed I have yet again to be successful in conceiving, and dear sweet nurse Prema held my leg on the examination bed in support/comfort to let me know they also wish that I will be successful soon, and one day I will be pregnant too, like many women in this world. I felt like bursting into tears there and then, touched by the sincerity of my 'medical team' I see on a monthly basis, sometimes more than a couple of times a month, depending on what type of treatment my doc puts me on. On the other hand, I felt like crying because of yet another month of failure and I wish more than anything to be a mother, not just a godmother (which is the second best thing in life right now), but a mother.

Adoption has been explored. You would be surprised at the intricacies and difficulties of getting a child to adopt in Malaysia due to the fact that I am a non-Muslim and as a non-Muslim, I cannot adopt a Muslim child. Muslim couples get pushed up the list as there are more Muslim babies available for adoption than non-Muslims ones. International adoption is possible, and while we can try to ignore the fact that the cost is prohibitive, the Malaysian laws do not grant automatic citizenship to internationally adopted children, hence their future is insecure in the adoptive country. I wouldn't want that for my adopted child. Hence we can only wait for the local wait list.

So many people have suggested adoption and said things like "GET A CHILD FROM CHINA, GET A BABY GIRL FROM CHINA, etc". Yes, I know. But it isn't that clear-cut. We are still trying - both at trying to conceive and adopting. We have been put on waiting list, went through the interviews/screening, felt more like police investigation with a 6-member-panel interrogating our every aspect of being/life. WE HAVE TRIED THAT, one year on, after being put on the waiting list, we are STILL WAITING.

I FEEL LIKE MY DREAMS SINCE I WAS A LITTLE GIRL to be a mother is being taken away from me, slowly but surely as the clock ticked on. I only have about 3 years of ideal child-bearing-years left, and I told hubby I will stop trying once I am past 35, or maybe 40 (if finances permit). How can I not help but feel DESPERATE? Go for a holiday? Hubby and I have been on numerous trips/honeymoons to relax, but infertility is a medical condition that cannot be cured just by relaxing. It is not that simple. I feel like shoving shoes up people's mouth when they give insensitive advices/judgments,etc. That's my inner-most feelings, but of course, civility dictates I must grin and bear with that, with me, being a good sport while seething inside.

I am a woman without a child who is wishing more than anything else, to want one to call her own, please don't deny me even my rights to feel my emotions that I am feeling while I try to make my wishes come true. Hence this blogpost is to share those feelings that I kept inside. I know how to be positive, but everyone has their down time, hence I am sharing how and what I feel during my down times, which isn't that often as time goes on.

I feel like this can summarise my entire blogpost aptly, copying Feeling No.2:
2. THE HOWLING
I feel like a wolf sometimes. These dark feelings I have, I can only cry to the moon deep into the night. I feel like howling in pain, soaked in the moonlight while tears soak up my face while I howl my pain to the moon. The feelings of longing for something I don't have (which is the root of suffering as what you crave for isn't in your hands, as per Buddhist teachings), I know rationally I shouldn't think about it that much, but deep inside, the Mother Wolf inside me is mourning her lost cubs-to-be, and the possibility of not having any cubs at all in her entire life.


*This article isn't written to disparage or critise or meant to lash out at anyone. It is just a reflection of my innermost feelings.*

Post script: This is only a part of me, not my whole being so please don't misunderstand that I feel like this all the time, I have since learned to be positive and learned to be optimistic on this very sensitive subject, but of course, there are downtime which I call my bad days due to hormonal changes, which is becoming lesser by the day. I am usually a cheerful and bubbly person as many who know me can attest to.

4 comments:

MJ said...

I can't say I fully empathize with you, but i'm also somewhat in this stage of wish im pregnant but so far still not yet after 3 CNY of giving angpow to people but no baby to help me collect back angpow :P

But really, i wonder if whatever i say will make sense to you or be too sensitive to comprehend. I also thought of not commenting for fear of hurting you. maybe u just needed a listening ear for you to pour out your howling inside.

For me i never grow up dreaming to be a mom, I actually thought if I don't get married I could become a nun? Your case is diff, but i still got something i wish to share with you...

you know the chinese saying "if its yours, its yours. if its not yours, its not yours." And we as practising buddhist, we try to learn the art of letting go. Its not totally detachment. We're not monastic yet, its just about the art of letting lose the grip inside the heart. Let the heart breath freely, don't hold on to your heart so tightly.

If you like children, you can always surround urself with children in sunday school? or even gemkids perhaps. Become foster parents in Than Hsiang kindergarten.

Give your heart a holiday...

Sue Tiong said...

Thanks for the comment and suggestions, MJ.

I think at this stage in life, at our age, there isn't anything that we haven't heard before/thought of before relating to childbearing. Am doing some kind of child fostering/sponsoring at a few organisations at the moment. Bowed out from Sunday school as I would like to dedicate my weekend to family time. I still surround myself with big children, I am still an educator. And of course, I love spending time with my dear nephews and niece and also my two god daughters :-)

Just like to add that I edited the blogpost to enter post script so that other readers will not have the wrong impression.

Post script: This is only a part of me, not my whole being so please don't misunderstand that I feel like this all the time, I have since learned to be positive and learned to be optimistic in this very sensitive subject, but of course, there are downtime which I call my bad days due to hormonal changes, which is becoming lesser by the day. I am usually a cheerful person as many who know me can attest to.

-- Sue

Orientalily said...

You blog touched me. It is hard when shallow minded people get anal and belittle us for something that is out of control.
I believe you have been so inspiring with your writing. My thoughts are with you in your journey.

Suki Chua said...

i feel for you, because i'm experiencing exactly like what you have experienced, i had the same emotions as you, my hubby too...
sometimes i just felt like hiding in a cave and never come out, because there will b many in laws n neighbors be asking about when will i have babies (it's annoying)
went through many ups and downs though i tried to keep an open mind like what MJ said, but when the downtime hits, i just breakdown...
will try LPPKN for IUI treatment soon...
by the way, which gynae are you going to now? mind to share? how's the progress on your treatment now?
thanks so much for this useful n inspiring blog, at least i know i'm not the only one suffering from these emotion breakdowns

Thanks,
Suki ;)