Reading Mali's Infertility and Shame post(I suggest you to read her post before reading this otherwise you'd get lost), here, so many things were re-opened through my memories, my thinking process and emotions. "But the judgements that are made about our inability to conceive or carry to term seem more accusatory, and touch us more deeply, right in the heart of who we think we are, or we are supposed to be." Supposed to be. That caused a flashback of what I had experienced throughout my childhood to young adulthood. Instead of struggling with infertility, I struggled with deafness. Not deafness, itself, but society's medical worldview of deafness. I have heard and read so many words to describe me, Hearing Impaired. Deaf-mute
Disabled Deaf-dumb Oral failure Handicapped And more, even horrible words that I will not include. From those words, I had believed myself: Broken. Unfit. Unwanted. From that belief, reinforced repeatedly with doctors, audiologists, teachers and family, I felt ashamed. I was ashamed of my deafness, always different from everyone. Something to be embarrassed about, because I could not hear. I repeatedly felt like a failure when I could not comprehend the speaking person. Broken- something to be fixed. I had gone through years of speech therapy, learning to identity vowels and spoken words; years and years. When it was realized that I could not understand many spoken words, it was reinforced into me: I failed. I failed the society's expectations of normal. I was supposed to be hearing and I failed. No matter that I was born deaf or that I became deaf as a baby, I was a failure from there. Something not good enough to be accepted in society- To add, I'd like to use Mali's quote, referring to Brene Brown's lecture about infertility: "As she says, we are wired for connection. So we feel shame when we are different from others, when we are not connected, when we can’t do what is considered to be normal." That was exactly what I had felt for decades growing up. I had a grasp that I was supposed to be hearing, yet I was also aware of being different. That led to feelings of disconnection, detachment, alienation, no matter how hard I tried so hard to be like everyone. I felt ashamed of being deaf, not understanding it was an aspect of me. All I knew was I was remarkably different, yet I couldn't find a way to connect to everyone. It was like grabbing at air in darkness, wondering if I'd ever find a hand in mine, leading me out of darkness. Furthermore, after learning SEE (Signing Exact English, a sign system that represent English language in gestures) at age of 11 or 12, that gave me somewhat a connection to communication, opening a pinhole into the visual world. Yet, I was self-conscious, having folks gawk at me, as if I had a second head. I was thankful for the sign language, yes, but I was very conscious of how people reacted to me- "She has to be retarded, she is flapping her hands." "Is she crazy, why is she waving hands- can't she talk?" So I hid. I kept my signing to friends, not much out in public. Even when friends signing at a restaurant caused me to feel anxious, ashamed of our difference, the reminder that we were broken. ********************************************** It was only when I became 28 years old, I started to work with deaf consumers who use ASL (American Sign Language). They were intellectual disabled, some with Downs syndrome, some who had survived through decades of being institutionalized at hospitals for mental ill, just because they were deaf, and some with additional disabilities (diabetes, cerebral palsy, blindness, borderline intelligence, and/or mental disorders.) From them, I learned something valuable, something I would never forget. Deafness is not a disability to them. Deafness is not a handicap to them. It's just a part of who they are; how could they know differently? This didn't stop them from being who they are to be; they didn't have to meet any expectations- they had their own challenges- deafness? Phhshh.. that's not a challenge, that's PART of who they are. They weren't broken. They weren't unfit. They are a community, laughing with each other, loving each other, arguing with each other, all in flying hands in grace and passion. Sign language to them is a gift of language after years or even decades of no communication. That was a breakthrough for me. From there, I started to explore my Deafness. I started picking up ASL, finding it much easier, as natural to me. I visited friends at Gallaudet University (the university for Deaf in Washington, D.C); I got opportunities to read memoirs of Deaf people, such as Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language, BUG, and Seeds of Disquiet, and more... I also saw hundreds of Deaf folks signing in open, so animated. I never had seen so many in one place, hundreds, no, THOUSANDS! No one was hiding, no one was trying to hush each other. No one was saying you're handicapped, or that you're broken. It was world-shattering for me. I wasn't alone anymore. I started to feel confident in myself, and I started more to learn about myself, to embrace this part of me, that had been hidden, but no longer.
The Deaf community worldwide from youtube
I became an advocate for communication, especially with what I have seen with the Deaf consumers and friends I worked with- so many families had put them aside all because they were deaf- "if they can't speak, they are not desired." I saw children close to families that sign to them. I saw children close to families who go out of their way to make sure there's communication between them, not putting all the burden on the child. Hillary Clinton is right when she refers to raising children from her book, "It takes a Village," as in using ALL tools, from parents, to teachers, to ways of communication, to awareness of variety of enriching resources, not limited to doctors and audiologists only. That awareness became important to me here, to see that no children should be reminded that they are broken or that they are unfit all because they are born different.
I am not broken at all. With that in mind, I embraced the whole of myself, as a woman, Deaf, survivor of trauma. No longer do labels define me anymore. ************************************************** Experiencing going in and out of doctors' office in late 2011, I was starting to feel something familiar to me. I didn't want to feel that, so I kept myself busy, denying it all, both infertility and the feelings-that-shall-not-be-named. When realizing in January 2012, that I cannot have children at all, I had to face the familiar feelings..
Broken. Shame. Singled out. Shame of being broken, being different... again. How bitter, yet familiar it tasted in my mouth. Mali's quote "So it makes complete and utter sense that we want to feel as if we belong, to connect to other people. It also explains why we blog. Because we want to speak to other people in our situation, we want to feel normal, and we want to help others feel normal." (she nailed it!) I blog for many reasons, including this reason: to connect with other bloggers/readers who are in the same boat, and to feel normal again. However, there's one main reason- I want to tell you, dear readers, that there is a Deaf infertile woman, me *raising hand in air* - writing about her experiences. I am hoping to reach out to other Deaf women who may struggle through the same experience: the horrible, unthinkable infertility, in its many versions (PCOS, cancer, endometriosis, many others). I'm hoping in many ways this would help readers and even me, to the point that we are not alone, even when we have different methods of communications, cultures, and worldviews. I might sound selfish for saying this, but feeling ashamed, feeling disconnected is somewhat what I was accustomed to, and I don't want to continue experiencing this. Hopefully with writing as a Deaf woman living with CNBC (childlessness not by choice/infertility) and struggling with finding herself again in the new world, would help publicize that even infertility is not something to be hidden even in the Deaf community, and something not to be ashamed, but to knit closer the circle of us, even with ones with flying hands.
A few days before the first anniversary, I up and went to call a friend on videophone- I told her I want to get out of here and spend time with y'all. She smiled, "come hop over here!"
That very same hour, airfare was bought. Plans were made, both tentative and set for 11-days holiday.
I will be with my dearest friend, R. We have met at a school for the Deaf in New Jersey, she's younger (a bit) than me, but we are both young spirits and old souls, parallel. I find that we balance each other well. She's very much adventurous, risk-taking, and outsdoory, while I'm much introverted, thinking things before taking actions, and philosophical. But then again I find myself adventurous, throwing caution to air, trying new things, and she would find herself sitting in a corner and read a book. So, as you can see, what a wondrous friendship!
There were moments when we'd sit in silence, and the world is right. Other times, we'd be walking at 2am, laughing under streetlights, and everything is good. Yes, of course, even friendship is without arguments! What I love about R is that we'd have disagreements, give our say, and still let it go. I still remember one time when I gave her something of my art; it was an anxious moment for me, not because of her, but of me letting something go. I joked about giving it back to me if something happens, or if she doesn't like it. At one point, she snapped out and told her she didn't like what I said, with the implications that I couldn't trust her. I was flabbergasted- I didn't realize the context of my message to her. I was angry then, but I sat back and thought long. I walked the grass labyrinth in the field. I realized there was two messages here- I was angry at her for bringing something up that I wasn't ready to hear- (especially with me starting to think something was wrong with me reproduction-wise), "I was belittling our friendship" and angry at myself, as well, realizing that we are looking at one thing in different ways... I was putting myself down, thinking that no one would love my art, no one would appreciate it- and hence I was sabotaging unconsciously by joking left and right that if R didn't want it, she can give it back. I felt bad about that.
That was a catharsis there for me- I was trying to set it up for R to fail me, as my uterus was failing me, as the world was failing me. I felt like someone should have smacked me in back of my head, and go "Do'uh!"
I am grateful that R is straightforward that sense was knocked into me- sometimes I like to think that she is common sense for me during times I find myself vulnerable.
There are small things, small gestures, that might be not a big deal to you, but hey, I was craving to eat at a NJ diner (New Jersey is famous for its diners!), and she took me there on the first night back in November. I know due to a health issue, she couldn't eat certain food- but that didn't stop her from enjoying the diner with me. She also was there for me during crisis- she up and drove crossing states to stay with me at the hospital after the hit & run. She came to spend time with me after the surgery- a pillar of strength throughout it when I was too tired to be strong.
I made a blanket last December; looking at it, I thought it looked like a hug blanket- big enough to wrap oneself in, yet not tripping you over. I immediately knew who deserved that blanket. I sent R the blanket, and turned out she is grateful- she had lost a cherished blanket, made by a relative, and here is a blanket made of the same fabric from me! I didn't know of her blanket- what a coincidence- but then again there is so many coincidences in our lives.
Infertility, grief, rage, dreams of children, she hears it all, and "heart" (ASL sign, as in taking it to heart) all- as I hear and heart of her joy and hiking on the AT (Appalachian Trail- one day I gotta share her experiences being a Support Service Provider(SSP) to her Deaf-blind friend Roger walking the AT, all the 2179 miles!) and Ireland travels. I wince as she describes of her getting a physical injury as she smiles at my delight of getting Cadbury eggs.
Now, I'm going to spend time with her for 9 days, to see some other dear friends, to sample chocolate raspberry lava cake, to get a labyrinth tattoo, to walk among crafts, and to laugh and to live. To live in colors, instead of gray.
After airfare and plans were worked out and bought, suddenly I could look beyond the day, the first anniversary. The sky looks bright, I see birds in the trees, and I smile, a burden swept off my back. Life is possible after the anniversary.
This image describes me and R perfectly- let's knock the world down!
Currently, I'm reading a book, "Throw Out Fifty Things" by Gail Blanke. At face, it looked like something for me to declutter my life, especially with me feeling I have so many things I don't need anymore.
The book addresses emotional decluttering, putting an emotional attachment to each item in the place. One wouldn't realize it until you have it in the hand, ready to put it in the box to donate to Goodwill; I remember when I got this, in Inner Harbor, Baltimore, with friends... remembering the memories.
*snap* You're hooked. You could not let the item go, after all. It goes back on the shelf to collect dust...again.
For me, it's items I had saved so much from when I was a child, when I had dreams of having children, and what I would teach my children, as the poster up here shows, of Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin had saved his doll, Hobbes to give to his daughter. For me, I had preseved my childhood book "Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett, pages worn and faded. Two Breyer horses, awaiting little hands to play with or pretend being real horses; the horses with chips from when I played with them somewhat tough. My dad's book "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" printed in 1939, when he was a little boy. A stuffed Teddy bear that my grandpa had given to me before he died.
There are so many things tied to memories...
Dreams of having children, and to pass to children, what I had enjoyed and loved.
So reading the book, only on the second chapter (despite that I had started last November, would you believe that?), "Throw Out Fifty Things" is harder to read than to read "Peace and War" emotionally. My mind is able to read, detached from emotions, yet I can hear the inner mother within me, saying
(in a firm tone, no less.)
I skipped many areas of the book and focused on the three rooms I can easily determine what to get rid of....
The bathroom, the living room, and the kitchen.
Into the donation box; unopened piles of soap, many packages of pads/pantiliners (thanks to Costco almost two years ago- hadn't a need after the SURGERY), many self-care things I had gotten from family for many Christmas or birthday- (who needs that many bath bubble bottles??!-17 really?!), brand new jars for preserving, extra pots and pans, so many cookbooks, shampoo and etc. Many empty frames collecting dust in the hutch's drawer (this was the hardest thing for me to do.) A lot of decorations from the living room- including many ornaments- One or two is enough, instead of 20 items to shout out my love for things British.
Into the recycle box; magazines, aluminum cans (I had saved a lot of Cafe Du Monde chicory coffee cans, in thinking that I'll make a nifty wall decoration with them like I saw on HGTV), and so many papers I had saved from high school and college (I thought I would have used them for work or parenting advice for myself.) Many magazines will go to collage art box at where I work- kids can use them for art therapy.
Despite that I had gotten rid of so many books last year and the year before, I still managed to get rid of more books (63!) with reminding myself that it is very much likely that I'd not read them again. I love the books, but would I find myself reading them again? I'll need to remind myself to use my Nook more often. There's very few authors that I'd not mind reading again, like Laurel K. Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon, J.R. Ward and Kresley Cole. Those novels I'm keeping.
Soon I'll be dropping the stuff at the shelter for survivors of domestic violence- they would appreciate the self-care items, especially the romances and fiction books!
For the children stuff, the childhood stuff, dreams...?
Not going to touch with a ten-foot pole.
I'm listening to the inner mom, for now.
I'll get there to the point I'd be ready to re-evaluate the childhood stuff, and that means looking again at my dreams. Some day.
I was writing a post (now in draft), when something nudged at my mind.
Whoops.... First anniversary of this blog way past. 2/2/12. Only eleven days before the hysterectomy, to remove the uterus and the tumor(doctors presuming it cancerous, turning out to be a football-sized non-cancerous fibroid.)
Amazing how time flies when one was in a daze all through the year.
Basically I'm ignoring February.....earlier today I talked about this day "March 13" and that day "March 15"..and the friend kept reminding me "you mean February 13 and February 15, next week, right?"
Several years ago, when I was working and a client came seeing me for depression and grief. She also was struggling with infertility issues, and wondering if she'd ever get pregnant.
I said "what's wrong with adoption? Why don't you adopt?"
I didn't realize how harmful that was to the client.
The client had shut down on me. I was wondering why.
It was only after I started seeing doctors in and out, about the tumor in my uterus, looking into surrogacy and adoption as throwing ideas around as back-up plans (privately), and then I encountered people telling me "go adopt, what's wrong with adoption?"
That's when I realized the mega-message under that statement "why don't you just adopt?" In other words, I was telling the client that she is a failure for not having the capability to carry a baby. I also was implying that she is giving up too easily about adoption when I did not realize the complications about adoption (both international and national).
Sometimes I think about this person, and if I had another chance to see her, I'd tell her
"I am sorry. I did not understand what it is for you to live through this."
While folks prepare to get ready for the Superbowl watching (on February 3rd), I'll be away at my favorite spa, for me time, much overdue!
What to expect:
Body massage with hot stones
Meanwhile, there'll be herbal teas and a healthy and delicious sandwich during a break-
Afterwards, I'm off to see the movie The Hobbit (with open captioning). I'll then be picking up Chinese food (General Tso chicken, Moo Shu pork, and crab/cream cheese rangoons), and watch the Rome (season 1) DVD I got from Amazon last weekend that Sunday night.
During this time, one can say it's a good time to be childless. One doesn't have to worry about kids.
Sometimes you need to give yourself a break from everything and focus on yourself. Sometimes you need to be selfish and say "enough", and take care of yourself. Go Thelma & Louise; it's your time!
For me, I have four February weekends packed with activities, with some 'me time' and other times with friends. On a little note, a good friend is moving here, yah!!!! Road trips for us, with weird, natural and unusual sightseeing! We both have long lists what to see/experience, so we're gonna compare and develop a plan for future road trips!
The bottom line is, the final part of the first anniversary should fly by. And yes, I have a plan B for when I find myself not in shape to do some of the plans- a new blanket I finished for myself, hot dark chocolate (from the Joe Trader store), and a pile of new books I got, and some phone calls with dearest friends.
On a little note, I saw this video on Youtube, and I got a kick out of it-