Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Unit


My mood just plummeted- *snap of fingers* just like that.    You see....

I was going downstairs to walk my dogs, as a neighbor and her husband was coming up.  The neighbor had a baby with her; I was confused since I hadn't seen her around with the baby before. So I politely went 'ahh' and 'ohh' over the baby, and asked her if she was babysitting. She went "oh no!" with a laugh. She wrote, We got her today, we adopted her!  Her name is Rachel.

I congratulated her and her husband, on their new baby.   I walked off, re-broken like Humpty Dumpty, but holding the shell all together until I could get in my safe place.  The dogs hurried doing their business and so we returned back home.

I couldn't cry. I couldn't throw things.  I couldn't even feel anything, but the numbness.

Gotta do something, so I returned to the book I had started this morning, "The Unit" by Ninni Holmqvist.
Easier for me to show you the video trailer for this book, than for me to give you the plot-



The bottom line is that childless women hitting their 50th birthday, (men their 60th birthday), with no family, no productive jobs are sent to a reserve bank for biological material; they have pleasant living, activities and hobbies that make them happy, but the bottom line, they are there to donate part of their bodies- and someday, they have to give their 'final donation.'

Reading it (actually for the second time, since I had originally read it when it first came out in 2008), I found the term "dispensable" over and over in the book- not having a family, not having a productive life/employment, and not needed in society, hence to pay off was to be dispensable (by biological material donations), I couldn't help but think, "To be childless, is to be dispensable."

I'm not going to finish this book.  I don't want to do anything but lay down on the loveseat and watch "the Beauty and the Beast", with a bag of chocolate kisses, and not think of anything for the rest of the day.

So I'm doing that.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Turning the page

Books

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways...

Books have been a mainstay of my life long as I could remember.  Family had said that they could always know where to find me, "Just look for her at the bookshelves" or "at the library."  There are childhood photos of where they'd catch me reading while stirring the chocolate creme going for the pie or of other foods, watching a movie (yes, a movie AND a book), hiding in the tree house with several comic books, and even a photo of me reading while in a bathtub (I was maybe 6 or 7.)    Sometime I think a book was handed to me every time  I was dragged along with family to visit other relatives or friends, because if there's no book in my hand, I usually get in mischief.  Literally.  One time, there was no books at a house of a friend who lives in Pueblo, CO; so I wandered deep in the desert (and no one had told me of the dangers in the desert, imagine that!)   So family called for me- of course,they forgot I can't hear them.  I came back as the police arrived, and I didn't understand the big deal. I didn't have the heart to tell them that I had found a rattlesnake, (I didn't pick it up, thro I like snakes), or of climbing up and down rocky hills. The scare of me missing was hard enough on the family.   There's a lot of stories that came out of what trouble I found myself in, when there was no books.  Ha!



Unlike the majority of IF community, I did not struggle with IF for years. The main reason was that I did not try to get pregnant for years until last year. You see, through years, despite one miscarriage, I thought I will have a child or two, there wasn't any question on that.  Infertility never had entered my mind until last October, when the doctor said the tumor was not in my stomach, but in the uterus. And that was with confusion, just one question "Can I have children or not?" Simple as that.  I did not think about eating healthy, mindfulness, medical interventions (IVF, fertility shots, etc), not yet.  Visits to the OB-GYN did not have answers to the significant question that was becoming my obsession, Can I have children or not?   Only when the reproductive oncologist stated just before Christmas, that the uterus has to be removed with the tumor in the lining, and that there's no chance of bearing children, none.  I went through the holiday in numbness, very much emotionally detached from family, watching my toddler cousins opening their presents, and congratulating my brother and his wife expecting their first baby, while someone inside my mind was screaming, wailing, scratching her arms bleeding, wanting a bottle of vodka to drown in.  I stayed detached long as I could, trying to stay fatalist, "so, that's that.  Shit happens. Deal with it."   Not easy, and not healthy.

I ordered two books, Lisa Manterfield's  "I'm Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood" and  Beverly Barna's "Infertility Sucks!"   They collected dust on my nightstand. I love books, but those two books, I avoided.  Half-heartedly, I put some IF books on my Amazon 'wish list,' just in case. 


During that time, I escaped through books, as I always have.  There are so many worlds out there that infertility does not exist.    Instead, there are mystical worlds of Laurel K Hamilton, Anthony Piers, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Charles de Lint, Chloe Neill, Nalini Singh, J.R. Ward, Anne McCaffrey, Wendy and Richard Pini;  I fled into their dimensions.


I wanted so badly to stay in the worlds, never to return to Earth and reality. 

Unfortunately, that was not to happen.    Someday I had to face reality, and that's what I'm doing right now...attempting to adjust to the new reality of being childless, not by choice.  

Now it has been four months since the surgery.  I had been reading Lisa Manterfield's book on and off- I rather like it so far. I found unlike other books that I could devour in a day, this book I have to put down after certain statements or paragraphs. The book would be lying there awaiting for me to pick up again; which happen now and then. I'm at half-way, (good for me).     

Yesterday,there was a book market, ten of thousands used books,waiting to be picked up and taken to new homes.  With cash in my pocket, I gathered so many books in joy, expecting to see old and new friends in pages, to rejoin and explore worlds of magic, love, horror, and geek.  



Almost against my will, I found myself at a table with pile of books, with a sign, "Infertility."  With a sigh of resignation, I started to look. I quickly gave up after looking at many books, finding them offering cures, memoirs with women finally becoming mothers, of holistic alternative self-cares ("Mindful eating will help you get pregnant!"). Bottom line; they were offering hope.     

I didn't want hope.   I want to figure how to accept the reality that had been thrust upon me. 

I hurried away, with books in my bags to the cashier.  Waiting in the line, people-watching, with the sun turning my skin red, I stepped on something. I looked down, to find that someone had dropped a book. I picked it up, with difficulty (try that with three full bags of books, and some extra hardcovers in your arms).  It's "Grief Recovery Handbook" by John W. James and Russell Friedman.  I held it, half wondering what's in the book, and half waiting for someone to come and say "that's my book."  

It was then my turn at the cashier, to pay with cash.  I looked at the book in my hand, and said to myself, "what the hell.. might as well buy it."  

Back at home, I skimmed through the book.   Something I think I'd like to read.    

But not now.   Later.  When I feel ready.  


I am beating a hasty retreat to Lore Leigh's world of The Breeds.  

****************************************************************
Funny.....  (not ha-ha funny-    odd funny)     The day after I wrote this post, I got three books in mail.  I had ordered many books (I tend to order books for myself off the Amazon wish list- it seems to grow, not reduce in numbers! anyway...) in a variety of topics- paranormal romances, infertility, memoirs, sci-fic, natural disasters, graphic novels, etc, from Amazon and their smaller shops that sell on Amazon... I ordered three books related to infertility/childlessness, among ten other books.  Guess what showed up today at my door?   Yup, THOSE three books only, no other books yet.    
I got "Falling for Eli", "Adopting on your own: The complete guide to Adoption for single parents" and "Do you love someone who is infertile?: What can you do to help her, what to support her and what you should never do or say."

Odd coincidence, eh?  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

2 days old

With tears in my eyes, I read of a local baby's obituary- he was born and then died two days later, in the hospital.  I felt my heart heavy for the parents, especially with reading about family; listing aunts/uncles, cousins, grandparents, dogs.  Telling hint of having no other children. 

A thought came up in my mind, Thank gods I never got to see any baby of mine to be born to die later.  Might as well spare myself of that heartbreak with not having an uterus.

I felt a part of myself going *gasp*, J- you did NOT think that!

Then I felt terrible for thinking that.

 I cannot imagine how painful it can be for the new parents to see their baby born, to die later on-  there might be a medical condition, there might be a reason why the baby could not live long.  Might be that the baby had no chance to live out of the mother's womb, or that there was no way to fix his body- we'd never know.   

Nevertheless, I admire the new parents who lost their baby-  perhaps they knew the baby will die. But they welcomed the time limited to them to love the baby.  They had the strength and love for the little life, with its short existence on Earth.

My heart breaks for the parents, yet I envy them for having a child to love, even if it was just for two days.    Insane, isn't it?


Thursday, June 14, 2012

One day in the year

Today is my birthday-  it's bittersweet for me here.  

  In Washington, D.C, I would have gone to the museum of Native American or American Art, going window shopping in Georgetown with some friends,then to go to a Vietnamese Miss Siagon restaurant, talking with the girls at Caribou Coffee 'til the closing time, and being out 'til the sunrise.



In New York City, I would be going  to the MET or the Cloisters to get our hit of generous art, and for lunch, to the Chinatown to eat at Royal Seafood (for Dim sum), and then walking the labyrinth barefoot in the Battery Park, at sunset, and finishing it at the Chocolate Room in Brooklyn at night.




In Denver, I could find myself at the Tattered Covers bookstore in the morning, go British by drinking tea and munching on cucumber sandwiches at Denver Tea Room, gather comic books/graphic novels from All in a Dream comic shop and walk down the street to the Chessman Park to read them in sunshine and discuss philosophy with friends in comics. Enjoying my favorite dish- homemade spaghetti and meatballs at Piccolo's.   Then we'd watch the sunset go down the mountains, at my favorite spot at the Cherry Creek Dam.  



There's a lot to do in many cities (like London, Chicago, San Diego, Houston, etc) that I know and loved.  I know what to do on my birthday for each location. There are friends that I'd find myself hanging out with. 

Not so here.  It's harder because close friends are away.  I'm terribly proud of one friend walking the Appalachian Trail- by end of July,she'd have finished the 2184 miles of the trail with her deaf-blind friend (who'd create a record of being the first deaf-blind individual walking the whole AT.)   Another friend is on her dream trip in Ireland.  A couple of friends are finishing up their thesis/dissections this summer (and defending their findings soon! Rah, Rah, you go girls!)   Ah, there's one other, but we had not been friends,(I think), beside she'd be busy with the baby coming soon next month, in which I didn't want to deal with any reminder of what I lost, on my birthday.

So I'm off to an all-day training today-the topic is on self-care (risk of burn-out and vicarious trauma). I can't help but find irony in it.  

Yup, I'm feeling sorry for myself today.   

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mark of honor

I have been thinking, of bearing up with pain inside me, why not have it out on my skin?  


Tattoo.  


I looked, and I looked...    there's no childlessness symbol, as there is for eating disorders, cancer, HIV/AIDS, military branches, etc..     nothing-   here's an infertility symbol I found on Internet search:






However it's very much for resolution of infertility (after medical interventions), motherhood, finding hope going through infertility, etc..  You can get the context from this:

Fertility & Hope

"Featuring words to fortify the spirit. A spiral to symbolize the journey and the creative life force. The heart represents life and the heart that is full of love for our future children.  A wonderful gift to encourage someone you love going through the emotional roller coaster of infertility."

All to give hope to the individual who is going through infertility, in and out of doctor's offices, IVF, etc... "one day you'll have a child."

Granted, I'm writing all this on a day when I'm going through anger.  All that fluffy, bunny-cute, sunshine-warm, white clouds-happiness?  PASS.



Okay- what about childlessness,   not by choice?  Not speaking of child-free or childless by choice, but childlessness, with grief, the anger, the acceptance and the heartbreaking journey all through it? And one day,  accepting it as a path walked less, but still a PATH you walk on.


I have been talking with an artist- she is aware of what I'm going through.


So, I'm still mulling.




Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Children of Men

While reading "Let's Hear it for the Boys....and well...their Boys", I knew the blogger is right about the invisible spouse when it comes to infertility, especially if the man is infertile. And with the Father's Day coming up, I thought it's a good time to address male infertility-after all, we women deal with stress and re-hashing our grief on Mother's Day.


Basically, male infertility never entered my mind while I started to realize that I cannot have children.  I didn't use the subconscious excuse to blame the male, after all I'm single.   I had the opportunity twice to get pregnant and I seized it; in all, it didn't work out. Back then, I can't even point the finger at those guys because they have children of their own.  So unlike many fellow infertility/childless bloggers, I'm not married or with a partner.  So I did not get to experience the male perceptive of infertility personally.   However, several guys had opened up to me after I started to disclose about wanting a child and not being successful.   Many women tell me that how their husbands would not talk with them emotionally about either going through infertility or childlessness; yet men open up to me- I hadn't yet figured out why.   Let me use this chance to share my experience with male friends giving me permission to divulge some of their insights, putting it all into one, to protect their privacy. To make it all simple, I had assigned a name: Joe.




*********************



So, while in emotional chaos after the surgery, feeling sorry for myself, I hated the world.  Friends kept reassuring me that they are there for me; family was telling me how much they love me.  My heart literally was closed to them, rolling around in the mud of guilt and self-blame.

A male friend, Joe, in whom I had known in college, emailed me privately; he stated while he cannot entirely understand what I was going through due to being a man, he does understand this type of loss.  "I cannot have children either."

That statement snapped me out of the murk.  He can't have children?  

I confess, I automatically assumed that means his wife cannot have children. I realized then of my fallacy, of looking to the woman for the fault; after all we have heard it so often throughout society. "The woman is barren, hence the man seeks other relationships where he could father children" and "the man has the right to divorce if his wife cannot bear children" are two of instances that come to my mind.

We did not have a chance to talk until a month later, when he clarified that he is the one who cannot father children.  Joe explains that he has low semen, and he is also on medication to maintain a health condition, which complicated his fertility furthermore.



He explained further, how the inability to have children did not hit him in depth in the beginning; he viewed it abstractly. He admits that he doesn't let it affect him emotionally sometimes.  When I heard that, I thought "he was in shock and denial", and then I wonder privately "Is it because of society's expectations upon men not to react emotionally to situations like this?"  I asked some of Joes that question.  One explained "I never had seen my dad cry ever in my life.  He did not express happiness or anger; he just was," in which Joe had gone through therapy at least to let go and show affection.  "But in this situation, I can't.  I don't want to.  It hurts too much, and I'm afraid if I let go, I'd never recover. I have to be strong for my wife and myself."




Joe admitted that it was much later; when he experienced emotional stress (guilt, anger and grief) when he realized especially after his wife expressed her frustration about not having children.  His sister had children, and so did his wife's sister.  Going through the testings and frustration had tested the marriage immensely, especially with the fact that she is capable of having children.  For a while, the relationship was shaky, in which Joe explained, "She basically had to decide if her love for me can negate her desire for children. I couldn't blame her."  What helped stabilize their marriage is that they continue going to couple therapy with a therapist who is familiar with issues of infertility and childless marriages.  He acknowledges, "While I do not know how other marriages survive this challenge, I can imagine how infertility can put a great amount of emotional and mental stress on the individuals involved."



Absence of children is noticeable at holidays. Christmas is a sore topic for him, especially with the holiday being centered around children/childhood. While Joe could see the joy on his sister and brother-in-law's faces as his nieces and nephews open their presents and play, it re-open his wounds, "I couldn't get to play Santa Claus,, I'd not have children that'd experience Christmas as I did in my childhood " and so he finds himself living vicariously through his sister's children, although with some difficulty. Hence Christmas is bittersweet for Joe, compared to other holidays.  "I also don't look forward to Easter, because a lot of parents bring their children to church. I see them bending over to hear something from the child, and I find myself looking at my wife. I see in her eyes, the heartache and the anger, and I feel I failed her."



It is even so confounding that Joe and his wife are very spiritual.  He is of the Evangelical branch of Christianity, in which children are very much desired, basically expected; "Children defines the who of we are, and of God's love upon us.  If we don't have children, we are not of God."  When I learned of that, I asked him, "what about adoption or surrogacy?” not realizing that it is as a sore topic for him, as it is for many of us women going through infertility/childlessness.  He glared at me, and said "It is not something I am willing to think about. I prefer children from my own body; how can I love another father's child?"   He admitted, with the Bible promising children, "like Isaac prayed so much, and God replied with births of Jacob and Esau, so that means I need to pray harder."  It is even stressful; with the focus of the American society- "you don't see that much in other advanced counties- just here. So with religion AND the society's expectations." 

Encouraged to expand on that, Joe expressed his perception about the children in western society (United States); "We are socialized to have children, to want children.  Unfortunately, our society is programmed to expect children.  The core issue is that we have a biological imperative to bear the next generation.  If we don't have children, we are viewed as different, carrying the stigma of infertility on our foreheads."  He continued on, with explaining feeling women have it "easier" with being infertile.  "After all, you can talk about it and you get support from each other.  I have seen women without children being able to be aunts or mothers like Sandra Bullock.  I get the feeling when we (men) admit we can't father children, we are viewed as less than men- and so who wants to admit to that?"  

He added, "There is so much focus on childless women, so men living with infertility fall between the cracks. Issues of masculinity, male identity, potency, (especially with society's expectation of "being a man") and many immature and self-centered men bragging about their virility, patting themselves on their back. It can be hard to have self-esteem and maintain a healthy level of confidence at times like this, but that's okay.  We need to remind ourselves that there are so many men out there that either chose not to have children like George Washington, Jay Leno, Leonardo da Vinci, William Blake, Ron Reagan, George Takei, they didn't have biological children. We still admire them; they made contribution to society in different ways. We can do the same."  

I asked a last question, "What would you like to let guys know who are going through the same situation?" 

"Despite not having children (either by choice or no choice), there is no reason for not having a happy and fulfilling life and marriage.  If you feel you're overwhelmed, do look for support, especially if you are married!  Recognize there will be good and bad days (especially with children-centered holidays), do what you need to do for yourself.  Know it is okay to be infertile and it is okay to talk about it."  It is easier when you know of other guys who are in 'the same boat' as you;  Joe added, "I know some who are like me, so we go out and play pool or golf.  We don't talk about it (a lot) like you (women) do, but I know I'm not alone, among close fellow friends who get me."  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Roller coaster ticket

Coasters can be fun, serious...  who hadn't ridden the Incredible Hulk Coaster (in Florida) or Bizzaro (Mass.)? They are quite brain-blowing, heart-attacking and nerve-wrecking and LOVING all together.  Friends who rode with me claim that I laugh like a hyena all through the scary and fast rides.




I even laugh on those rides, X Scream and Insanity, two of rides which are on the top of the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas.  If you hadn't experienced those rides, I'm telling you, a lot of folks PISS in their pants; wondering if their ride would be the 'oops-my bad' error while flinging them off the roof. Me, I laughed hysterically that it hurt my facial muscles and stomach.  

 



Now I have been on a roller coaster of horrible emotions, all plummeting, and wondering when I'd get to the upper rail or at least end of the ride.  

Starting off the ride, there was laughter and eagerness, readiness to have a child, with a curve of puzzlement. 

Then, at another downward curve of the ride, I encountered confusion, hope and fear when going through tests and more tests. Tried to protect myself with indifference, thinking they are wrong. 

 Plummeting down, despair and numbness were found when finding out that I can't have children.  
Sorrow and rage realizing I truly can't have children out of my body.  

Disheartened and bewildered I felt going into the surgery. Denial and apathy right away after surgery, feeling nothing it's not real, yet knowing it did truly happen, with the red line of the hysterectomy cut onto my stomach. 

Shame and guilt thinking I had wasted all this years on dreams when I should have tried getting pregnant sooner.  Cruising through powerlessness and grief with the knowledge of having no uterus anymore to nest a baby within.  


Through the roller coaster, going uphill, with anticipation, hopes and laughter, some sunshine and warmth..before going down back into the dark fog. Realization that it was all false masks, misleading people and myself that things are getting better, I got over it.  What a deception of self! 


Now, I ride with passengers of resignation and surrender, holding my hands.  I know there is another curve with flashes of anger and denial coming up soon, when will there be end of those curves?





I want to get off the ride, and I can't.  I have to ride it to the end.  

and I ain't laughing anymore.  





Ain't Fair

I just read an article this morning, and I'm pissed (pardon my language).  

I can't bear children, due to not having an uterus anymore.   That's a fact.

This woman had a son and she forgot him on top of her car after being high on pot.   That's a fact.

This baby is not safe with the parents, especially with the mother not realizing until much LATER that he wasn't with her.   The baby seems to be overlooked; drugs are more important.

What's wrong with this picture?!