27 July 2010, by Tan Yi Lin
I’ve been agonising over what to blog about for most of this month. Inspiration hasn’t exactly been very forthcoming, mainly due to the fact that I’ve been really busy at work organising the Big Carnival @ Marina Bay and setting up the new Marina Bay City Gallery in time for the official opening of the new waterfront promenade (yes, this is shameless plugging for Marina Bay here!)
The event ended on 18 July. We zipped off to Koh Samui for six slothful days during which I continued agonising over my long overdue blog entries over pad thai and green curry chicken. Dan helpfully suggested that I look inwards (instead of my Facebook page and the Glee marathon on the computer) and pen down my thoughts about anything baby-related, from IVF to injections to child-rearing to baby names. But my post-event brain activity was at an all time low, so none of that attempted thinking came to any fruition.
Ironically, at my first day back in the office today, work – the very thing that fried my brain cells to crisp for most of July – presented the content and inspiration for this blog entry.
It is oft said that parenthood involves making huge personal sacrifices. Everybody knows that.
But even before we have properly embarked on our journey towards parenthood (i.e. we haven’t yet passed the point of no return – it’s not too late to decide against having children), I am starting to feel the brunt of sacrificing opportunity after opportunity that comes my way, for someone that doesn’t even exist yet.
Never mind having to decline two invitations to join the bachata and pole dance student performance teams. Or the obvious decline of a reasonably-trim figure once pregnancy kicks in. Or having to start putting aside hard-earned salary into an education fund. I’ve long accepted that all this has to be – and will be – given up.
Today’s sacrifice had to do with my job. I’ve never thought of myself as a very career-driven or ambition-crazed employee, intent on clambering up the corporate ladder. But today, I was offered the opportunity to be part of a 3-person team to represent the organisation at a placemaking and urban design workshop in Sydney in early September.
Such workshops are only held twice a year. Officers are assigned to these overseas work trips on a rotation basis – meaning, once you’ve gone on a trip, it is very unlikely that you would get to go again anytime soon. I had just attended the workshop in Melbourne in September 2008 – barely 2 years ago. I was not meant to go to Sydney so soon.
But I learned that my Group Director had specifically requested that I go, as she needed somebody experienced and familiar with these workshops to accompany the Management – and possibly the incoming CEO – on this trip. Was I honoured to be selected and given this rare opportunity to attend the workshop again? I definitely was.
But there was a snag: with Dan and I starting on IVF treatment this coming Thursday, I was scheduled to be pregnant in early September. I would have just come out of two weeks bedrest, not knowing how stable the pregnancy would be. Traveling by plane and running around on site-visits for 3 days wasn’t an option nor a risk that I could take.
What was an option, however, was the possibility of postponing the start of the IVF treatment for a month, from end-July to end-August. This would allow me to travel to Sydney and back before the precarious egg-extraction and embryo-implantation processes took place.
I mulled over my dilemma at my desk for a good half day. Knowing that my big boss had handpicked me for the overseas assignment made a difference. I’m not ashamed to admit that it fanned my ego quite a bit – it made me feel good. And the chance to hobnob with the new CEO over meals at the Rocks and Darling Harbour? It would definitely raise my visibility amongst a whopping 800 staff within the organisation.
On the other hand, how long more could I afford to postpone dreams of parenthood? Granted that it would only be a month’s delay – what’s one more month on top of the nine that we’ve already been trying for? And it’s not just 3 ordinary days in Sydney that were at stake here – it was 3 days with alot of potential for a brighter performance review come November (just after the trip!) and with that, the possibility of a pay increment or higher performance bonus.
It was a painful decision to have to make. Painful, but not difficult because I knew what I had to do – what I wanted to do.
I went to my immediate supervisor – and informed him that as much as I would have loved to attend the workshop in Sydney, I would have to turn down the assignment. And no, I added, I was not willing to postpone my scheduled medical treatment for the trip. Sorry (I really was feeling rather sorry – for myself inclusive!)
I’m not entirely happy with my decision. I’m still feeling a bit bummed a good 12 hours later. And rather disappointed to have missed out on yet another great opportunity to achieve something for myself. But the negative feelings will blow over soon, I know.
Because I’ve made a choice that I can live with.