The long goodbye

Just the other day, I went through the contents of my bedside drawers.

It’s a simple Muji chest of drawers. The topmost drawer contains my toiletries like a box of tissue, lip balm and assortment of body lotions. The one below it holds my essential oils. The third one holds odds and ends like light bulbs and power plugs.

It is the last drawer that I have not had the – for a lack of a better word – guts to clear out. This last drawer had once held my hopes and dream, and was also the home to my pain. It contained my Puregon injection pen, the remaining needles, cartridges, syringes and alcohol swabs. They were neatly stored in a little bag, left untouched since I discovered that I was expecting Aidan. My books on fertility and IVF were also housed there.

I never threw them out. I suppose at the back of my mind, I always thought that I would have to rely on them once again. You can say that even though I left infertility behind me as I embarked on the journey of becoming a mum, infertility has never left me.

Even when we were hoping to add to the family, my subconscious was preparing me for the jabs and hormonal lows all over again. We went through blood tests again. I didn’t dare to go through the drawer or put them into the bin because I believed that I would most likely be using them again. I was being pessimistic and pragmatic at the same time, let’s just say, and I didn’t want to have to go through the whole cycle of trying and hoping and then having my dreams fall flat on me all over again.

And then Two came along, unexpectedly. Which left us as gobsmacked as when we first discovered that Aidan was conceived.

And yet it has taken me 36 weeks to finally clear out that drawer and throw everything out.

Like I said, infertility has never left me and I don’t think it ever will.

Because, you see, every time I look at Aidan, I marvel at the child that he has become, the blessing that he has been, the bonus that we have never expected to receive. Things could have gone oh so differently indeed, we never take that fact for granted.

Even with Two, I feel exactly the same way. Look, pregnancy is physically hard for most of us. But I also know that being pregnant is a privilege, something that many women long for but may not attain. So I always remind myself that I have no business complaining about how tough it is when there are others who would literally die to be in my shoes.

We remember. All the time.

There are still so many of us struggling out there. And every time I hear their stories, my heart breaks a little. Because I have been there, I know what it’s like and I know how fucking painful it can be. I remember crying in the bathroom, crying in my sleep, crying when watching TV. I remember not wanting to go near a pregnant woman because I hated that they are glowing and that I was so bitter. I remember how I could only confide in a few girlfriends because they were going through the same journey as I was and they were the only ones who truly, truly understood.

Nothing like infertility to bind you together, really.

I don’t know if anyone is still reading this blog, since I got pregnant and became all bright and shiny (HA HA HA). But if you are someone who chanced upon this place while goggling “infertility Singapore”, know that there is someone who is thinking of you and praying that you will get your happily ever after – no matter what form it takes.

It’s all the same

I haven’t written about infertility for a while now but it’s always hanging at the back of my mind. Even as we think about having a sibling for the littlest of us all, the possibility that we will have to go through all that heartache again is something that has never left my thoughts.

Recently, a friend of mine confided that he and his wife had failed to conceive after a series of IUIs. Luckily for them, they conceived their two kids after one shot at IUI respectively. Well, I use the term “luckily” very loosely and reluctantly – if they were that lucky to begin with, they wouldn’t be needing the help of artificial reproductive technology (ART) to conceive in the first place. But in the world of infertility, getting it right the first time around is considered extremely fortunate indeed.

Anyway, given their age, they have decided that this would be their last shot at having another child, despite their strong desire to add another little one to their family. He teared while sharing the news with us and it was patently obvious that the decision to give up was not an easy one to make.

While sharing this story with two other friends who also went through IVF, the first reaction that I got from both, on separate occasions, was: but they already have two, they should consider themselves lucky.

It’s true, and yet as I watched him wipe his tears, I realised that the pain of secondary infertility is no lesser than that of primary infertility. The longing for a child is not lessened by the fact that you already have children. While yes, it may help the heartache fade away easier, it’s still painful nonetheless.

Sometimes, I find that those of us who have gone through infertility tend to be a lot more judgmental. Unconsciously, we compare the amount of trauma and hoops that we have had to jump. To be honest, I am guilty of that myself too.

You went through one IUI? Pish, that’s nothing compared to SEVEN.
I had to go through 3 IVFs to conceive, you are so lucky to get your baby at your first IVF.

The thing is, ultimately, all infertility survivors are champions. Full stop. Every journey, every experience is different. Some are stronger than others, some are still searching for that happily ever after. But in the end, we are all brave, brave souls because we dare to take the unknown by the horns and wrestle for a different future.

We are all strong people because we DO something to solve the problem. We try and we try and despite the tears and the heartbreaks, we try and try again. Every little Clomid tablet that we take, every raging headache that we suffer from due to the influx of hormones in our bodies, every experience with the freaking speculum, every indignity that we willingly go through – we do it again and again.

So no matter how many IVFs we had to go through, or how many times we crumbled at the tell-tale sign that our efforts did not succeed, we are all brave and strong.

We wrote on this ema early in our journey while on holiday in Tokyo.

Sad/Mad

My mood has been as grey and hazy as the dreadful sky recently.

I found out that two of my friends lost their babies: one saw a straight line at the screen of the ultrasound machine instead of a heartbeat while the other’s little one died after a battle against a congenital condition.

My heart broke. I ended up crying at my desk.

I wish there is a world where babies don’t die and everyone who wants a baby can have a happy, healthy bubs in their arms. I wish that I didn’t know anyone who has ever lost a baby.

But, as P shared with me, all the babies who have left us are now twinkling stars, watching over us in the calm of the night.

**********

I was chatting with my girlfriend over Whatsapp during a particularly dull meeting and somehow, the topic veered to the anger over being infertile.

We’ve long gone past the stage of being angry and wondering why that chain-smoking, coffee-drinking lady with bad tattoos can get pregnant simply by breathing and we can’t. Well, I couldn’t. Until I could.

She, on the other hand, has experienced two losses after two successful IVFs. Her story is another story for another day but suffice to say, she and her husband have gone through enough infertility anguish for 10 couples. Or more. They are moving on to another round of expensive treatments and damn if it isn’t successful.

Anger aside, we both agreed that this infertility scar will forever be engraved deep in our minds. We’ll never react to news of our friends being pregnant with the purest and sincerest joy because a little niggling voice at the back of our hearts will feel sore. And that even if we have kids, we will always be reminded of what we had gone through and just how far we have come.

It’s true.

Not a day goes by without me taking a long, sweet look at my little man and saying a little prayer of thanks. To whoever made this happen, to my baby boy for being here with us, to the beautiful ending to what could have been a long-drawn and deeply painful journey. Even on days when he wakes up for the nth time in the night and I am trying desperately to keep those heavy eyelids up at work, I feel no sense of resentment. Simply because he is here. With me.

And that’s all it matters.

The girlfriend says that she doesn’t dare to hope anymore and that she feels like her glass is not half empty but COMPLETELY empty. But I know that’s not true. Because if her glass is really devoid of hope, she wouldn’t be putting herself through IVF all over again. There is a glimmer of hope in there.

All it takes is a sperm and an egg and a spark.

Let’s hope that this works.

The long and winding road

This morning, I received some bad news.

A dear friend of mine, who has been on the same infertility journey as I have been, found out that her latest IVF attempt had failed. When the text came in, I was sitting on our bed, playing with our little man. He had been crying and I was trying to make him laugh by pulling him up from a reclining position to a sitting one. It was a hot morning, the air-conditioning wasn’t switched on and his hair was matted to his head. He hadn’t had his bath yet and carried that slightly sour, sweaty but still oh so wonderful smell. Husband had just stepped out from the bathroom and was smiling at the sight of his wife entertaining the little one.

I read the text and my heart fell, remembering that feeling of the world shattering down upon me only too well. I thought about their past struggles and the heartbreaks that they had been through. I thought about how much they deserve their slice of happiness too. I thought about how that used to be us and how we are no longer on that exhausting, pain-riddled road.

I closed my eyes and kissed the top of Aidan’s head. I breathed in the smell of him and told him that I love him, that he was the miracle in my life.

Because he is indeed a miracle.

Nobody, nobody would have ever imagined that we would be where we are today. If you had told me a year ago that I would be cuddling a baby everyday – MY BABY - I would have laughed in your face. I was broken, and I was trying to pick up the pieces and move on. In my most terrible nightmare, I believed that I was destined not to have a child.

And here we are today.

What had kept me going was the belief that things happen for a reason, and that everything had its time and place. I don’t know why they have to go through these trials and tribulations but I believe that they will get their happily ever after.

I just know it.

The joys of a new life

This morning, I switched on my phone to find a text message from my friend P: “It’s a girl!”

Such glorious news! I almost jumped for joy, except that I was at the bus-stop and my bus was approaching. Plus, the belly doesn’t allow me to do anything that’s gravity defying these days so I settled for tweeting instead.

P and I found each other on the Internetz shortly after we had announced the pregnancy. Throughout our pregnancies, we exchanged notes and, to the chagrin of our husbands, updates on sales for baby and maternity wear. We were both proponents of hypnobirthing and she was one of those who constantly gave me encouragement about gearing towards a natural, drug-free birth.

Earlier in the week, P was facing the prospect of having to opt for an epidural. I know, in the end, what should matter is that both mother and child are safe. But I also know how much she was looking forward to having that natural, drug-free birth and was hoping and praying that it would go the way she had envisioned. It did and that made the news even sweeter.

Congrats P and J on your little girl! She’s a lucky, lucky child.

**********

In December, I woke up with a strange dream. In it, friends of ours announced their pregnancy. I remember being genuinely happy that they were going to be parents, but also feeling slightly bitter that they were able to conceive just like that.

Later in the day, I related the dream to Mr Thick, telling him about the “pregnancy” but stopping short of mentioning my feelings. He proved that he may be thick in girth but not thick in the brains when he asked, “And…?” The man was perceptive enough to know that there was more to the story than I was letting on. Sheepishly, I told him about how I felt in the dream. He didn’t say a word but simply smiled and gave me a hug.

It just goes to show that even though I am on “the other side” now, I can never relinquish my identity as someone from that side. Yes, I feel truly embarrassed by that green-eyed monster that rears its ugly head whenever I hear of people who just bloody breathe and get knocked up and I try my best to beat it down.

Clearly, I have to learn to be a more gracious person.