12 March 2011, by Tan Yi Lin
I’ve been a bag of emotions recently.
Mostly, it’s blogs that set me off, forcing me to blink back tears when I read them at home or in the office (ssssshh… come one, a little surfing wouldn’t hurt productivity at work.)
No, it’s not the baby blogs that give me a bad case of wet eyes and sniffles. It’s the blogs of people who don’t have babies – or rather, who can’t have babies and are reaching out to all avenues of hope to have at least one. Just one.
Heck, I even tear when I read my older entries about the IVF process – tears of gratefulness. And I think to myself – how did I get so lucky?
“Lucky?”, you may ask. But didn’t I manage only to conceive through IVF? Most people wouldn’t consider having to spend thousands of dollars to go through countless self-injections, oral drugs, twice-daily suppositories (aka V-pills and ass-pills), bloating, mood swings, repeated scans (up to V) and the most horrendous of all – the awful waiting and hoping, as being lucky.
Sure, for some of us, dreams can only come true with an extraordinary amount of effort. I used to get incredibly snappish with people who reacted to our decision to take a year off work to backpack the Americas with an envious, “Wah, so lucky!” Luck had nothing to do with it. Did we land ourselves a free year of travel? No. Did we strike top prize in a lottery? No. Did the money just fall from the sky and land on our lap? No!! We dreamed up a plan, committed ourselves to making it a reality, cut back on our expenses and saved money like mad for a few years, then went out and lived the dream. Even then, we skimped as much as we could and lived on US$5 Footlongs from Subway and US$1 fast food promotions. Of course, it couldn’t have been done without a huge amount of support from family and friends. But don’t ever belittle our efforts down to luck.
It’s the same with trying with conceive. We found out a few years ago that it wasn’t going to be easy for us. But we knew that if we really truly wanted a child, we would have to suck up our situation as it was and work extra hard to get one.
And we did. And we are lucky. We’re lucky because a good doctor spotted a problem with my plumbing during an operation to remove an ovarian cyst. We’re lucky because we knew what the problem was. Lucky because the doctor gave us a clear time-frame and solution – if we didn’t conceive in 6 months, to consider IVF straightaway. Lucky because other than blocked tubes, everything else was fine. Lucky because we had the financial means to pursue IVF. Lucky because I reacted well to the fertility drugs and the doctors managed to obtain 4 usable embyros – 4 chances for us. Lucky because I suffered no physical pain. Lucky because although the first round of IVF failed, the second succeeded. Lucky because one tiny embryo fought for its life and is growing quickly into a tiny human today.
Yes, that is all some people ask for.
And yet, that is what some people are denied.
The blogs I read speak of countless attempts at – and disappointments with – IUI and other forms of fertility treatment. I only went through two awful periods of mental torture during the dreaded Two Week Wait for pregnancy test results. Imagine going through that 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 20 times month after month after month. Imagine the frustration of not knowing where the problem lies – even though the test results show that you’re normal and healthy. Without a specific problem, there can be no straightforward solution. You just try whatever is offered to you again and again until you – and the doctor – are ready to accept that the method has failed.
I read some letters that someone wrote to her unborn child. By ‘unborn’, I don’t mean a foetus. Or even an embryo that was conceived and lost. I mean a future child, one that has not yet been conceived even, a child-to-be. I know of pregnant women to write letters to the child they are expecting. I can’t even bring myself to that level of emotion. I just stick print outs of each ultrasound scan into a scrapbook, date it and write stuff like, “Today, you are the size of a raisin/plum/apple/avocado.” But long and frequent letters to a baby-to-be that is currently nothing more than a fraction of hope and intense desire? It’s heartrending.
Wonder why these people don’t just give up since it’s so damn difficult? Because you can’t. If having your own children is truly what you want, you can’t just sit there and do nothing and damn your own dream to fail. You just try. Because there is no other way. Because the harsh reality of a life without children, without the experience of being a mother, without the chance to have your own family, is just too hard to accept. So you try. Again and again and again. Whatever it takes.
So to those parents who tell me, “Pregnancy is the easy part. Wait till you become a mother”, or “You think this is hard? You’ll know soon enough”, or “You have it good now. Your life will be my life in a few months time”: You know what? Boo you. A big fat boo to you. Don’t think my life – and the so-called ‘childfree = carefree’ lives of all these couples who are trying so hard to conceive – has been any less difficult than yours. And to men out there, if you think a woman is amazing for simply delivering you a child, think about some of these women who have to first get over the crushing emotional blow of learning that they cannot conceive naturally; who look fertility treatment straight in its scary face and just get on with it; who suffer the mental agony of waiting and hoping for that 33% or less chance of success; and despite all that, bravely suck it up and STILL look forward to childbirth.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not referring to myself and looking for respect or compliments or praise. I told you already, I’m already lucky and I don’t need anything more (except maybe an occasional seat on the MRT would be nice.)
Now, I hope on the behalf of others.