Grief, still.

It’s been a long while. I didn’t even write about turning 32 and still being… the same, barren, me. I meant to, but it just felt like I would be repeating myself.

That’s how it’s been. Numb. Yet constantly hurting.

There are stuff out there about healing from grief, steps to take or a process to get through. But how do you start to heal from grieving about something not happening? How do you continue to wait for something, not knowing whether it will come, and not feel sad when it doesn’t?

Nowadays I don’t even want to think about it. I’m tired of being sad about it, even if I constantly am. I keep thinking that surely I am feeling better now, but when I step closer to being honest with myself again, I find that everything’s still there. The same hurt, same vulnerability. I’m still very bitter, very hurt by this journey.

Some days I think, eh maybe it’s pretty good that it’s just the two of us. Think of the freedom, and all the things we could do without worry. But every day, my heart feels that same stabbed feeling whenever my eyes land on a pregnant woman or a mother carrying a baby.

Ah, well. One day at a time.

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Tired. 真的好累。

Last year April, for about a week, I fell into some kind of a ‘depressive state’. Undiagnosed, and therefore I dare not claim it to be depression, it was nonetheless very real. I missed work, stayed at home, stayed in bed. I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to live life. This week, I came close to something like it again. I missed a couple of days at work, didn’t feel like there was anything worth doing in my life.

I suppose I can attribute this to the status quo baseline sadness from this TTC business, and to last Friday. Last Friday was Day 1. Did I see it coming? Yes, because I just know that we will never ever succeed. Hurhurhur. What I didn’t see coming was the pain. My period cramps have been hell ever since I took Clomid, although I already stopped taking it since two cycles ago.

Last Friday, it was so bad I couldn’t focus at work and just had to leave early. On the way home in the cab, it was so painful that I teared up (never happened before), and actually wondered if I could get out of the cab and walk. And I would say my pain threshold isn’t low at all. For the first time as well, heat packs didn’t work, and actually felt like it made the pain worse. Still, I knew it wasn’t as painful as it could have been – in the sense of need-to-get-to-the-hospital level of pain. But this was definitely the worst I’ve had in my lifetime. (Thankfully the rest of the period went on and finished uneventfully.)

So I guess that just floored me this round. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Is it not enough that I have not been able to conceive? Why do I need to suffer that physical pain? Can’t I at least have a peaceable time of bleeding? I’ve been trying to accept my childless fate – can’t I be allowed to do this without feeling my uterus being twisted and contorted within me?

Perhaps it was also the added blow from family gatherings last month. I mentioned that the hubs and I were avoiding our two sides of the family because of younger cousins who were pregnant. The cousin on his side, we met her briefly as she was leaving and waiting for her ride just as we arrived. To my internal horror, she put her hand on my belly, saying things like ‘Here’s some baby luck from me to you!’ My only comfort was that no other family members were present to see that. Well-intentioned and lighthearted – we all laughed about it then – but, please.

On my side… Well, I avoided talking to my younger preggie cousin, but guess what, I found out that another cousin was preggie too. Then again, this was a truly happy thing – she’s an older cousin, about 40 years old, married late, and suffered a miscarriage last year. It was really nice to know that she managed to conceive given the odds.

But y’all know what TTC struggles are like. You’re happy for other people but your thoughts always come back to yourself. Even they succeeded, so why not me? What about me??? Friends who have one kid are celebrating their first birthdays. Some are moving on to No. 2. And us? Left behind.

A last reflection for this post is how I feel like I can’t openly say ‘I’m tired’ anymore. Declaring my fatigue seem to achieve two things that I absolutely don’t want – people reading it like a symptom oh she must be pregnant, and/or creating a sense that I don’t have the right to be tired because I don’t have kids. My sis-in-law with a 3.5-year old and a 4-mth old constantly laments, in a very vocal fashion, that she’s tired. In that instant, I feel like I can’t also say I’m tired because I don’t have babies waking me up every night. (You know how some folks have that passive aggressive vibe…)

Well, I’m tired. I’m so very very very tired.

Thinking about over-thinking

When your friend is an over-thinker, or a super over-thinker compared to the over-thinker that you are too:

  • You have had to explain why you used that emoji.
  • You mentioned something funny and trivial, and then that led to a longer-than-necessary relatively solemn conversation about that trivial funny thing.
  • You mentioned something a trillion conversations ago, and she brings it up a trillion conversations later to ask you what you meant when you said that.
  • You’ve had many many long and definitive conversations about something inconclusive.
  • Her “haha’s” have a forced-tone to it – I know you think it’s funny so I’ll laugh, but no, not really.
  • Ya’s, yep’s, and yeah’s are not preferred because they sound too laidback and insincere – ‘Yes’ is acceptable.

Still, you love your super over-thinker pal because she does make a good and well-thought point from time to time, she puts her heart and mind into loving her friends (and great at buying thoughtful gifts), and you can trust her with your things, heart, and soul.

As an over-thinker myself, it’s better to over-think than under-think, right? 😉

The hubs is an under-thinker, but don’t get me started… Let’s just say it makes for an ‘exciting’ married life. Hurhurhur.

When gatherings become torturous

In my culture, we celebrate the Lunar New Year, which takes place in three days’ time on 16 and 17 February 2018. It’s kind of like Christmas – a time of gathering with family and relatives. Except that instead of giving gifts, we (the married and/or older adults) bless people (younger, single folks, and children) with money in red packets.

Anxiety has been rising in me since a week ago.

When we got married, it was tricky having to visit relatives from both sides of the family. And I was quite upset if I missed spending time with my side of the family, and vice versa. This year though, I told the hubs that I don’t really want to see my relatives, and lo and behold, he said he didn’t want to see his side of the family. Haha, how things have flipped…  Honestly, if I could, I don’t want to see anyone.

Although the custom is that married couples don’t receive red packets anymore, some of my relatives would still give to us – but with some sort of a psychological blackmail/torture sprinkled on top of the giving. “I’m still giving this to you… well, until you have a baby…” and then they would smile / wiggle their eyebrows / wink. What, because you ‘blessed’ me with money, I have to welcome your very unwelcomed words? Please, don’t ‘bless’ me with anything then, because I don’t need any of that!

Even if no one says anything to that effect, I feel the pressure. Because I would obviously be not pregnant, no kid in tow. And does anyone worry about wearing clothes that make you look pregnant, because the last thing you want is for people to think you’re pregnant, when you’re really not? Self-conscious much, I know.

Anyway, this year, both the hubs and I are dreading our own side of the family, because each side has a younger, recently-married cousin with a preggie belly. Those are launching pads for “So… What about you guys? What are you waiting for?” type of remarks – both verbally and non-verbally.

I don’t know whether it’s better or worse if people go down the maybe-they’re-having-trouble-don’t-ask path. Because that leads to pity or… I don’t know.

It’s easy to say, “Who cares what other people think?” But it hurts anyway.

If only I truly didn’t want kids, then I can boldly, happily, and freely declare “Meh, I don’t have time for kids. We’re good, just two of us. We’ve got the freedom, isn’t that great? Now, moving on…” Maybe I’ll do that…

I dread it enough to actually want to catch the flu so that I can have a legit excuse to stay home. Hurhurhur. We wished so hard that we could simply take off to somewhere, but this is a very important festival to the traditional folks. Sigh.

Consumed.

I was just thinking about the year that passed and realised that for an entire year, I have been consumed by only one thing – trying to conceive (and failing at it).

As I recall, there was not a single day in 2017 that I did not do or feel one of the following: spotting a symptom, feeling hopeful AND disappointed from that symptom, knowing exactly which day of the cycle it was, feeling like I was pregnant AND feeling like I was not pregnant. I don’t think there has ever been any other thing in my life that I was more obsessed with day after day.

For the past month since “giving up”, I stopped recording symptoms. Stopped checking the tracking apps on my phone.

Well, who am I kidding… I don’t think I’d truly given up and be happier for it – more like, I’ve vehemently shoved aside every fertility-related thought whenever it pops up in my mind.

My heart still aches. I still feel burnt, disappointed, terribly envious and jealous, bitter, and very very bruised. I still feel like I want to take things and smash them against the wall. (We literally have a hoard of glass bottles that were meant to be reused and cut into cups, and I have often considered them during my many internal rants.)

What’s 2018 gonna be? Will two years stretch into three? What kind of place would I be in by then?

I’m done.

Yes, I crashed. I cried. I lost sleep.

And then, I resolved. I’m done with this… Do I still want kids? I think so. But I’m done trying to have one.

I’m done with spotting every symptom and knowing exactly which day of the cycle I am on. (It’s hard not knowing because I’m the sort of person that always know.) I’m done wondering if we will do it on the right days and feeling disappointed if we don’t, or even wondering if it’s the right day, or wondering if there was even a right day. Do it, don’t do it, who cares.

I’m done wondering if, on certain days, I can take that sip of wine, or if I can have sashimi for lunch, or if I should have that cup of coffee. I’m done wondering if we should book that trip months in advance because what if I shouldn’t travel when I’m -…

I’m done.

Maybe I’m a wuss for giving up so early in the game, barely two years in. But I think I need to do this. At least for a while, I need to let go. I need to think about life again, without non-would-be kids in the picture. I need to enjoy what I used to enjoy, without that desperate desire and expectation of the ‘greater’ joy from having kids looming over our lives.

I’m still going to feel hurt when friends get pregnant. I’m still going to be vulnerable. But at least perhaps I can find better comfort from other things.

Falling, again.

So, I meant to post something on 7th December. I started writing some, and then I stopped and somehow couldn’t continue with it. This has been a particularly difficult one to write, because – well, because it’s been too complicated to describe what I’ve been feeling!

Why 7th December, anyway? Because that day marked our fourth wedding anniversary. This year, I feel… many things. I’m feeling positive, negative, neutral – all at once. Is that even possible? Like I said, it’s complicated.

And why post today? I guess something had to happen to push me to pour out my thoughts and feelings, but more on that later. Let me attempt to be coherent.

Back to 7th December, it was a pretty good day mostly. We had taken the day off from work, grabbed lunch at Ikea, shopped for home stuff, and had a very good dinner at our favourite Japanese restaurant. It was a nice comfortable day, spending time together.

The day didn’t end too well, though. Obviously such a day is expected to end in bed. But, I couldn’t. I simply couldn’t. I retreated into my mind cave, and just stopped responding like a normal person would. And I couldn’t vocalise to the hubs what was wrong.

What was wrong? Well, that day was CD60 of the cycle with the second attempt with Clomid. It was obviously an anovulatory cycle, but not only that, an entirely screwed up one with no period in sight for days and days. So I was at a point where I thought I’d made peace with this whole no-baby thing, but I was at the same time really frustrated. And I just didn’t want to do it until the period came and gone. At that time, the thought of doing it was nothing close to love-making, but was something emotionally very painful.

And I couldn’t bring myself to say it to the hubs, because his response would only make me feel deeper guilt. So I simply shut myself off.

Fast forward to one week ago, I finally started bleeding at the end of 66-day cycle. Of course, up until then, with the delayed period, and bloated-ness, and tiredness, and BFNs, I still had a little strand of hope. Because Google shows you extraordinary stories that makes you think what if

And, oh, I BLED. CD2, I could barely function at work with the cramps and flow, and almost had an accident (thought it was going to start flowing down my thighs…). CD3 (thank God, a Saturday), I stayed home because I needed to get to the bathroom every two hours. I thought it’d never stop! I couldn’t fathom how could there be so much in me. By CD3, my life resumed to normalcy.

I have one last round of Clomid, but I’ve decided not to take it. Clearly, it hasn’t helped me at all, and seemed to have made things worse. Looking back at my post-obgyn entry, I want to laugh. Laugh at my foolishness. OF COURSE, it wouldn’t work. Not for me.

What now? I don’t know. I’m still a messy ball of “complicated”. I’m really really really sad that we are still childless. And it’s beginning to feel like this will be so for some time. Yet I’m also grateful for the freedom we still possess.

I’m really sad that it feels like life hasn’t moved on for us, like we’re stuck in a two-person family limbo, while others have moved on. Other than one childless couple with whom we are close friends, others who might have struggled with fertility have indeed had their long-awaited children. I feel like I’ve somehow failed at life and at marriage.

Yet, as I reflected a few weeks ago too, I acknowledge that as a Christian, we have a hope far greater than any desires in this life – an eternal glorious life with God, where all the sufferings of this life will be a mere speck when we enter into His glory. I know I need to remember and hold steadfastly to this hope, even as I know I will forget sometimes…

So… What now? I still don’t know. Even with godly reminders and occasional moments of “making peace”, I still just as vulnerable to conversations about pregnancy, pregnancy announcements, even subtle/not-so-subtle hints of pregnancy… I’m constantly nervous to hear pregnancy announcements from other married couples. Even if I am in a relatively good place emotionally, these moments still come on to me like a blow to the stomach, a stab to the heart, a ripping of the soul. My younger cousin’s not-so-subtle hints through his social media posts. Bumping into an old friend with her 5-month old and talking about a possible gathering with the rest of the group (all already with their first child, except me). And the thing that prompted me to just let it all out here – tonight at a friends’ gathering, a pregnancy announcement.

It was apparently unexpected, unplanned, they “didn’t think it would happen so quick”. And right after that moment, there was a natural separation of guys to the games corner, and ladies to the chat corner, and I couldn’t escape from that. I have to say, I’m proud of myself for inwardly telling my heart and mind to get over it, stop trying to run away, look up and face it head on, be genuinely happy for something that is a good thing. It still hurt very deep inside, but I managed.

Am I really okay? I expect I’m going to have a delayed reaction. Even though I feel relatively neutral now, I know I will crash at some point. I feel like I’m constantly walking near the edge of a cliff. Somewhat okay, but give me a push, and over I will go. When that happens, I only hope that instead of falling to unspeakable depths, I will be able to climb back up again.

Meh.

On the way to my niece’s one month celebration (aka baby shower), where relatives and friends will gather.

I’ve just realised that my apprehension to such gatherings is no longer just about whether people will probe us with unsavoury questions. Just the fact that we are flanked by my siblings and their children speaks the obvious, that we must be having problems conceiving. Unless, we were one of those millenials who wish to live our lives free from the burden of parenthood…

People don’t even need to ask or say anything anymore. They just need to see.

This means that instead of avoiding people or conversation topics at gatherings, I really just want to avoid gatherings, period.

Let me just hang out with the babies, no adults. I’ll be content with their cuteness and inability to talk. Hah.

It’s a sign.

I have never come across a clearer sign than what we’re going through now. The sign that says, “Now is not the right time. Just, stop.”

Let’s recap. We went to the doc. We got some Clomid. It’s been three cycles following the appointment.

1st cycle: Clomid-assisted attempt #1

  • Negative opks from CD11-15
  • Didn’t test from CD16 onwards because I wasn’t able to, and didn’t think I ovulated anyway.
  • Felt like mayyyybe ovulated CD16-17 – was very crampy.
  • Dtd CD12. Failed dtd CD14. No dtd CD15-17 because hubs was tired/mysteriously injured his back. Dtd CD18.
  • Spotting CD23-32 until period started. Sign of low progesterone?

2nd cycle: No clomid. Didn’t matter because hubs was going away from CD14-28.

  • Dtd CD14 (the surprise homecoming)
  • Assuming ovulation could happen naturally around CD17, wondered if this would be one of those stories where the little boys survived for days…
  • …Of course not. It was a 34-day cycle.

3rd cycle (which is now): Clomid-assisted attempt #2

  • No dtd yet.
  • Anticipating possible ovulation around CD17.
  • Marked CD14-23 as “IMPORTANT” on our shared calendar, AND verbally informed the hubs of what it meant. (Don’t plan anything major or potentially tiring.)
  • So far, so good. Let’s do this again.
  • Hubs’ workplace just confirmed a job assignment. He will be out of the house CD17-19.
  • Are. You. Freakin’. Kidding. Me.

I am so ready to just stop. Give up. End this. Maybe that’s what we are meant to do.

Vulnerable, together

As part of my work, I scan for relevant news in my field, and hence do a lot of reading. Today I came across this article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and it really moved me.

An OB/GYN’s Personal Story of Pregnancy Loss

I guess it was both heartbreaking and comforting to know that such loss is so profound and so human that nothing (not professional knowledge, experience, or any form of wisdom) can save a woman from experiencing deep and irreversible sorrow. We will all be vulnerable… but at least we are all in this together?