I recently read a book by Oprah Winfrey called the Super Soul Sunday and after that felt compelled to write this blog post. I know that this topic is the most anticipated and long overdue but for this entry’s sake, let’s called it a ‘thorn’ subject.
In her book, Oprah interviewed Michael Singer who is an author of Untethered Soul. He shared his view that we all have this ‘thorn’ in our lives that neither we nor anyone else could touch. Everyone maneuvers themselves around this ‘thorn’ carefully ensuring that no one gets hurt. Meanwhile, you are busy policing those who let their guard down and casually brush up against your ‘thorn’, again and again.
Well for me, my friends, my ‘thorn’ is my fertility story.
My husband and I are married for about 8 years now. And for as long as those times, we have been trying. And of course, those (uninvited) questions keep coming up: So when is the baby coming? Few years later, it quickly became: For real, when is the baby coming? Yes, you could argue that they have our best intention at heart. But for me, if they really do have our best intention at heart -they won’t ask. Before you jumped out of your chair and waving that defensive flag, I am going to tell you, here is why. Our story is ours. It is personal, delicate and intimate. And as much as we want to get pregnant tomorrow, somehow the world seems to forget that getting pregnant is not like buying flowers for your flowerpot. They appear to think that accomplishing it is as convenient as ‘you want it, you have it’. I am sorry but life does not work like that.
Plus, there is God. And if you’re a believer of God, you know that His time is never too early and never too late.
It became very apparent to me that this subject has become my deadliest ‘thorn’. The following are why this has come to be. Every walk of life would have opinions about my uterus. That perhaps it is either too cold or too warm, lack of feng shui or imbalance of the great yin and yang. That I should drink less cold water, cold tea leaves, fried food and the last straw was that I was too ambitious and that career should wait. While you are debating whether I actually made those up, I am going to tell you more. That along this extremely personal journey of ours, some would drop the occasional ‘don’t be too sensitive’ talk –as if they have lived long enough and knew it all. Some even casually suggested that we (and I quote) “learn from other (family) members” who seemed to popped babies with a blink of an eye. And just like that, he brushed himself against my ‘thorn’. Please elaborate, how can someone ever ‘learn’ how to get pregnant? Sorry, are you referring to penetration? Perhaps, somebody just forget that I am the doctor here. And please, if you think that talking about penetration is vulgar but talking about my uterus, is not?
On top of that, there is social media. That keeps updating you with babies pictures, your friends’ babies pictures, their 36th months birthday party, their first steps, first time they sleep in their own room, first day of school and without fail, keeps reminding you that 4 years ago, your colleague had a baby boy! Oh and not to forget, someone just had a positive pregnancy test at 4 weeks! Yippie!! Now, I am not dishing people who uploaded such important events in their Facebook/Instagram. I do not believe that the whole world should stop and tip toed around me just because I don’t have a baby. But I am just describing that even seeing such updates in your timeline kinda hurts a little. It is not quite as touching the ‘thorn’ but it feels like a tease at the same time. You genuinely want to feel happy (for them) but deep down you know that you are not having problem with being happy. You’re just having a problem with being genuine – to yourself.
It is extremely painful for me to remember this now but the first time my own mother ever asked ‘why’ was when I lost my first baby. In January 2014, I lost my first baby. I saw it on the black and white screen that the heart rate was 78 and I knew that our time (together) was short. I opted for a natural way to deliver the tissue and to those who know, it is nothing short of the pain of giving birth in itself. But how could I called it merely a ‘tissue’ when I saw the heart beat and it did makes me a mother, albeit for 10 weeks? I never had a baby to cradle or a cake to blow on a Mother’s day, but damn I’m sure that I am a mother. Except I am one of those who can’t upload a baby picture but instead I wrote this in my Facebook timeline: Sometimes the sweetest smile, conceals the deepest pains. Sometimes the brightest eyes, withhold a thousand cries.
Every single time I read that in my timeline, it transports me to those dark times when the tears wouldn’t stop and no matter what I tried to tell myself, I cannot seem to let go. But really, how hard could it be to let go of something that does not want to stay. Or more accurately, something that cannot stay. Well, I am at a much better place now so I can tell you from my heart that it was not easy. For so many years, I was trapped in the past and played the victim card. With time, my ‘thorn’ became so enormous and it was padded with so many cushions that later, it materialized into something else that I barely recognized -my ego.
In the meantime, six months after I lost my first baby, I got pregnant again. This time I ensure that I cruised the road as if I am giving birth next week, I ate only what the books tell me to eat, I sat on my bum all day even at work, I do not take a single medication although the morning sickness hit me hard and I was in that bloody online forums with other American women in a discussion thread called ‘OMG, I am pregnant, what should I do?’ Exactly 10 weeks later, I had my own Obs Gynae professor, who taught me in medical school, performing my ultrasound. He was extremely calm and extremely present when he said: I am sorry, but you lost your baby. Pause. As he was trying to be the best physician, I was trying to be the best patient. By that I meant –not kicking, screaming and crying. But I did, ten minutes later, in the arms of my beloved former boss, who also happened to be the hospital’s Medical Director. She gave me a 6 weeks leave within a 24 hours notice. Later, I had a natural evacuation of ‘tissue’ at the night of 1st November 2014 when I was wrapped up in extravagant clothes, attending a wedding. Looking back (with these stupid tears fogging up my eyes), I was reminded by what Ekhart Tolle said in his book The New Earth: Have you ever been to the biggest school on earth? You have. We all have. It’s your life.
Now, back to this amazing book taken from Oprah’s interview in Super Soul Sunday. It says that a thorn will remain a ‘thorn’ until you are ready to let it go through you. Not by pulling it apart or plucking it out. But by allowing it to perform a spiritual awakening within you -which is to recognize that these are your feelings about certain circumstances in your life. But they are just that –feelings. You however, are a spiritual being created by God and made capable of understanding these feelings, to observe and then, to move on. And you have zero responsibility to react to it.
Just like that, I learned to let go and free from my very own ego.
While I am still having your attention, I would like to highlight few issues regarding any fertility journeys. I know that there are so many women who had miscarriages and never spoken a word about it. It is extremely natural to hide that part of us -the darkest, unglamorous, unwanted. But the primary rationale is because we are too afraid to feel vulnerable. So it is only right that everyone who lost someone they loved should be given whatever much time needed –to cope, to adapt and to afford the luxury of forgiving oneself (although really, you know that losing your baby is not your fault). So, this leads me to the second point, which is: not everybody wants to share their stories. I know a lot of keyboard warriors out there want to say their piece, which is along the line of: well, only if we know what happened to her or only if she told us her story -we would have acted differently. Well, this is the part where I stand up and rejoice, metaphorically.
Warning: you are not going to like what I am about to say, but here it goes. Since when did we ever know a personal story about someone else except our own? And since when that it becomes someone else’s responsibility to share their intimate stories just because you wanted them to? What is the real purpose of your question? Or do you have one of these, what I called -universal plug-ins: well, I am just asking (when are you having a baby). To that I would like to reply: how is your sex this morning? Is it any good? Well, I am just asking.
Hang in there. I got you. Stop shaking your head and try to tell me the obvious that these are two completely different questions. I had to bluntly put it as such because the truth is; they both are equally intimate questions. Do you know that for women, asking them such question rips them naked, exposes them to vulnerability in a place and time that is decided for them? I bet you do not know.
Next time around, before you ask of anything, examine the purpose of your questions. All you know, she could be injecting herself with hormones everyday, surrendering to multiple probes into her vagina on weekly basis to ensure ‘it’s okay down there’, bravely talking to her specialist she literally met 5 minutes ago about her sex life, buying a dozen of pregnancy tests even when she knows she is not pregnant but ‘just in case’, signing her life away in a consent form as they had to put her under general anesthesia to ‘know why’ or that she just came out from crying in her room before you managed to say – well, I am just asking. It is just a question.
Hokayyy guys. I know this has been a rather emotional write-up but nevertheless this is true to the exact experiences I had and I do not want any mothers or mothers-to-be out there are made to feel what I felt. I wanted to lift this inner curse for you as it has for me. It dawned upon me when I used the expression of ‘trying to conceive’ that God has given me the chance of trying, trying and trying again. As you know, you only lost the battle when you choose to stop (trying). Even the brilliant Einstein did say: Success is 1% genius, 99% persistence!
P/S: I sat on this chair, writing this up, occasionally blowing my nose, and ignoring the tears that intermittently came without warning -five hours straight. I would appreciate if you could share this with someone who you think could benefit from it. Spread love, not hate!
Xx Sophie Voon