I should blame it on Ace of Base. After all, if it hadn’t been for listening to them over and over (and over) again during the summer of 1993 … I probably wouldn’t have turned back to their Swedish counterparts and get into listening to ABBA again.
Not that I really knew many ABBA songs prior to my post-college years. At least I didn’t think so.
Or I should blame it on seeing “Mamma Mia.” The Broadway musical. And not the Meryl Streep / Amand Seyfried movie spectacular. It’s because of that musical that I realized I knew more ABBA songs than I ever thought.
Forty days ago, my Dad past away. Today, amongst our Filipino-Catholic family and friends, we will be celebrating the 40th day of remembrance.
For those of you that aren’t familiar (or haven’t read this previous post), the 40th day is believed to be the day that a loved one has “finished” visiting his/her loved ones on earth and is ready to ascend into the heavens.
I won’t lie … it has been an incredibly emotional and physically exhausting couple of months. Throw the holidays into the mix and … well, yeah. Let’s just say the hamster on the wheel inside my head has been working overtime.
As I had expected, there are those days where I’m so busy that I don’t have time to think about the loss of my Dad. And then there are those times … usually during the most random moment … where it hits me square in the chest.
My cousin and I, during the initial 9-day Novena period, started to refer to those moments as “Meltdowns.” Something, typically some off-the-wall memory of my Dad, would transform me into a blubbering mess. And although these “meltdowns” don’t happen as readily as they did in the first few weeks, I still wonder when I’ll start to feel a bit better.
I have many stories to share … some of them involving stories of “visits” from my Dad over the past 40 days … yet I feel I’ve got little strength to write by the end of the day. This is obvious, as I haven’t had the inclination to blog over the past few months.
So yeah … this is my sad attempt to start writing again. And maybe when those every-day memories of my Dad don’t hurt so much, I’ll be able to tell you some of those stories.
But for now, just know that I’m around. And I’m reading. And I’m hoping to get back into some sort of “normal” again soon.
Nine days ago, at approximately 7:30 pm that night, a pretty significant hole had formed in my heart. What had been there for the past 38 years of my life was the physical presence of my Dad on this world. And even though (by this time) we had been expecting his “last breath” for a couple of days, it still didn’t help the sudden onset of emptiness I felt in my chest.
I didn’t know what to expect … or how it would feel to lose someone so significant in my life. I didn’t know that my emotions could swing from one spectrum to another in the blink of an eye. After all, how can I have gone from laughing hysterically about a particularly funny incident involving my Dad … to crying inconsolably about that hole in my heart.
Except now, after nine whole days of gathering with family and friends … of praying the traditional Filipino-Catholic Novena following the departure of a loved one … I can finally say that the hole in my heart has begun to fill. And it’s because of all those family members and friends that have come out in droves to celebrate my Dad’s life.
Although not quite to back to capacity, the emptiness that once occupied that hole is now filled with the memories I have of my Dad … of all those special Daddy-Daughter moments. I know that I can look back at those moments and feel my Dad’s presence enveloping me.
But more importantly, that hole is now filled with all the stories about my Dad that were shared with me these past two weeks. It’s been filled with the incredible support I’ve felt from old friends and even older friends … whether it was driving clear across the State just to spend 5 minutes crying with me minutes before the Funeral Mass. Or making an extra trip to Mickey Dee’s to pick up a sweet iced tea and iced latte for me and Hubby. Or even just being there to hug me; knowing that was exactly what I needed at that moment.
So thank you, all my family and friends … I hope you know how much every single kind word** you’ve said and every single kind gesture you’ve done has meant the world to me.
** Special thanks to my cousins … from both sides of my family. You’ve been my my saving grace during those dark, dark moments.
*** An extra-special thanks to my incredibly awesome husband. We joke about me having a thing for “The Rock” … but rest assured, you are my one and only Rock. You are my constant in the midst of chaos.
Alaska (at least Southeast Alaska) is not a giant piece of land completely made of ice, like we were taught in grade school. (You know, Seward’s Icebox?)
Not all Native Alaskans are called Eskimos. In fact, the Southeastern Alaskan Natives are the Tlingints.
Fish & Chips and Clam chowder at a small lunch kiosk on the dock in Ketchican, Alaska is d*mn good!
There’s something inherently beautiful about glaciers and the waters surrounding them. Oh, and it is possible to sail a huge ship through some narrow passages and still be maneuver around glaciers.
And by the way, Tracy Arm Fjord is not, in fact, an arm. A fjord is long, narrow inlet with steep sides, created in a valley carved by glacial activity.
Glaciers have a blue tint to them because that’s the only color that glaciers can’t absorb. And because of that, I think Crayola should come up with a “Glacier Blue” crayon …
I now know the five different Salmon species just by looking at my hand.
Thumb = Chum Salmon
Index Finger = Sockeye … as in “Poke your eye out with your finger”
Middle Finger (or tallest finger) = King Salmon, the biggest of the salmons
Ring Finger = Silver Salmon
Pinky = Pink Salmon.
And now you know them, too!
I can officially say that I’ve seen a Black Bear with her three cubs and that bears can’t read.
We’ve also seen American Eagles and I think I finally understand the metaphor about the strength and beauty of a “Soaring Eagle.”
The Filipino-American population in Juneau, Alaska is so big that they have a whole “square” called “Manila Square” dedicated to them.
This is probably why the number of Filipinos working on the cruise ships in Alaska greatly outnumbers that of all other nationalities (60% of the staff on our ship alone were Filipino).
This includes a Filipino Executive Master Chef and Executive Sous Chef … who were kind enough to create off-menu Filipino dishes. Like pancit. And Topsilog. And Adobo. Yummmm!
Skagway is actually spelled Skaguay … but only because the postal office didn’t like the way it was spelled.
Skagway was known as the gateway to the Klondike because this was the first stop for most people seeking gold in the Klondike. And from some of the stories I heard (“Soapy” Smith, the thousands of horses killed in stampedes) there were quite a few things people would do for a Klondike Bar … of gold, that is.
According to our tour guide, Skagway is a one-horse town. And it apparently likes to hang out in front of the Bonanza Bar & Grill.
It’s possible for the U.S. Coast Guard to airlift a critically ill passenger onto their helicopter (on our “Day at Sea”) without officially landing on a cruise ship. It may take more than 30-minutes of practice (and circling the ship) before actually airlifting the person, but it’s doable. (The passenger, thank G*D is now stable in a hospital in Alaska … at least as of Saturday afternoon.)
Using the Medical Clinic on the cruise ship (for a pretty big bug bite that caused major swelling and erythema to the surrounding tissue) is much cheaper than seeing your doctor at home; especially for those of us that lack health insurance.
There’s not much you can do in Victoria, British Columbia when you only have four hour to spend there between 7:30 and 11:30 pm on a Saturday night.
It’s a good thing we didn’t discover the 24-hr Buffet until the last night. Otherwise I would have gained even more weight than I already did …
Sometimes all-inclusive vacations (like cruises or other specialty resorts) bring out the worst in people. I think I’ve seen and encountered more rude passengers with an odd sense of “entitlement” on this trip than I’ve had in other vacations past.
Just because pretty much everything is included on the ship doesn’t mean that you need to take all of the cookies or sweets. Or that you have to be incredibly rude to the crew members who are there to serve you. Don’t think that just because you worked hard for this vacation, you should be waited hand and foot … these staff members are working just as hard for a vacation of their own as well!
But overall, we’ve meet some really nice folk … both crew members and passengers alike. If I could, I’d definitely do another cruise to Alaska again. Maybe this time we’d head further north towards Anchorage … and spend a few more days inland, discovering more of this beautiful State instead!
The first time I ever took a home pregnancy test (HPT) was on the morning of first wedding anniversary. Hubby & I had only recently decided that we were ready to start the next phase in our lives together. Plus, Aunt Flo had been missing for over a week by then, so I figured it was time.
I won’t lie … I also thought that the prospect of presenting positive “pee stick” as an anniversary gift would have made our first wedding anniversary together all that more memorable.
But when the test came back negative, I threw the stick away and climbed back into bed to cuddle with Hubby who was still sound asleep. And yes, I was disappointed … but at that time in our lives, Infertility was just a distant diagnosis, which was … in no way, related to me.
I’ve never told anyone this story before because until today, it wasn’t something that I considered very relevant to my life as an “Infertile.”
Hubby had been privy to this story, because later that day he happened upon the open HPT package in the trash and wondered why I took one. But otherwise, no one else in our lives had a clue that we were even “actively trying” at the time.
It was something that Hubby & I, as a young married couple, wanted to keep to ourselves.
It’s only natural that most couples wish to keep their decisions on family-planning a secret. Okay … maybe not so much a secret, but more of a discussion that happens strictly between the couple.
After all, it really should be no one’s business to know what’s going on in a couple’s sex life. Right?
But what happens when love and marriage don’t automatically lead to the proverbial baby carriage? And what if months — nay, years go by without having anything to show but a garbage full of negative pregnancy test?
What if you had spent thousands of dollars for an infertility diagnosis and work-up? And then turned around and spent even more money on trying to “fix” the medical problems so that you could produce a biological child of your own?
Should a couple still keep their family-building plans and the infertility diagnosis a secret?
What if you and your spouse had to continuously be poked by various needles and prodded by various health professionals, month after month, just to determine when the optimal time was to reproduce? To go home and have a romp in the bedroom (stress-free, of course)? To collect a man specimen in the comfort of a sterile clinic? To have to sit nice and pretty in those G*d-awful stirrups? Only to be disappointed month after month …
Would it still be inappropriate for a couple to talk about how infertility has affected their lives?
What if you or your spouse were done pursuing the medical route of infertility and decided to adopt? What if you spent an additional thousands of dollars in order to be scrutinized by adoption agencies, local and federal government officials? Just so these agencies can determine if you were “worthy” enough to be parents?
What if the Birth Mom/Family decided to change their minds at the last minute? Or what if the country you decided to pursue an international adoption decided to close their doors on all adoptions?
Would now be a good time to talk to loved ones about infertility?
And finally, what if you and your spouse thoughtfully and thoroughly considered all your other options to build your family … and after years of disappointment and heartache, decided that living child-free was your best path in life?
Would it be okay for the couple to comfortably discuss this decision with any random stranger who asks if the couple has any kids?
These are difficult questions to answer. I know; as I’ve had to dissect each individual question with a fine-tooth comb. I’ve had to determine how each answer would affect the rest of my life and my relationships with those I’ve felt close to at one time or another.
The truth is, each person … each couple and/or the family & friends that are affected by this couple’s infertility … will have different answers. That’s because each person’s journey through infertility can be different than the person standing next to him or her. Even if they were sitting next to each other at an Infertility Specialist’s office.
I find it sad that society deems “family-building” discussions as a private issue amongst infertile couples.
Okay, let me reword that last statement: I find it disappointing that society deems “family building” discussions as inappropriate when it comes to Infertility.
While I do think that there are certain discussions and decisions that should be left private amongst the infertile couple, I do think that other conversations should be okay to discuss with other people … other family members and friends and other infertile couples.
Because if anything, Infertiles can be the worse when it comes to openly talking about their experiences and emotions when it comes to building their family.
There’s an article in SELF Magazine’s August issue that outlines this exact issue.
This article (aptly titled “This Woman Has A Secret”) found that a recent survey indicates that 61% of infertility patients hide their struggle to get pregnant from friends and family.
And seeing that 1 in 8 American couples experience infertility … well, yeah. That’s a lot of people that aren’t talking about the heady emotions that can be associated with the inability to reproduce.
Along with those questions I previously posed, other common concerns that an infertile couple can experience include the fear that their life will be eternally empty. Or the sense that the couple is damaged or broken.
Both amplify the shame already incurred by the couple; as they likely feel different from being different than other “normally reproducing” family and friends.
Both make the couple more embarrassed to talk about these struggles and associated emotions with their loved ones.
It’s a difficult thing … wanting to talk about a person’s (or couple’s) individual journey through infertility. It’s ten-times more difficult, given the shame that’s associated with infertility.
As the SELF article points out, it gets even more exhausting when an infertile couple:
… become slaves of their monthly cycle; often unable to leave town even for a weekend getaway due to daily monitoring for hormone levels and egg counts. When month after month a couple fails to get pregnant, their lives stall and the question of whether or not their family will expand looms over decisions about the car they buy, the house they live in, the clothes they purchase.
And this, along with many other reasons, is why many infertile couples choose to keep their “family-building” struggles a secret. Why they continue with the facade that “family-building” discussions should remain personal, as society dictates.
After years of keeping my struggle a secret … of burying the emotions I’ve felt for so long … I believe that it is extremely important to talk about these issues. And I think it’s important for an individual to find their own outlet or support systems.
But first and foremost, I think it’s very important to keep an open communication with your Spouse/SO. Because if there is anyone else who should know what you’re going through, it should be the person who is traveling down the infertility journey with you.
For Hubby & I, it’s a path that we took together, hand-in-hand. We made it a point to talk about each of our concerns openly and honestly (yes, even the scary parts) so that we knew where we both were at emotionally. And if one person was even slightly ahead of the other person, we’d make an effort to “wait” until both of us were both “on board” before making any major decisions. There was no pushing or prodding; there was patience and understanding that both of us dealt with our issues in very unique manners.
If anything … that was my saving grace in our journey together. Hubby was my rock — my torch, so to speak, lighting my way through the darkness. And I hope that he can say the same thing for me as well.
As for other support systems outside of the couple … It’s difficult to find support out there. I know; I’ve tried.
I’ve sought support amongst my loved ones; my friends. But it’s honestly hard for them to completely understand what it’s like, unless they’re walking in your shoes, your path.
But after years (and years) of dealing with Infertility, I’ve finally learned to turn this experience around by educating others about my journey. And I did this by debunking statements (like “just relax”) and myths (like “just adopt and you’ll get pregnant”) whenever they would surface in those inevitable conversations.
This is because I believe that the more an Infertile person openly discusses their experiences, the more that the general population will understand and learn to empathize with the Infertility community.
I hope that this is a lesson that other Infertile couples can learn from my own experience: Talk openly about it now, so that others can be more empathetic to the Infertility path.
I’ve also tried to find support in an Infertility Support Group.
For me, that was not my cup of tea. My experience mimicked how another person in the SELF article so aptly stated, “Everyone gets up and tells their success stories. Infertility treatment isn’t always about success.”
But … that may not be the case for every support group. So please … you should still seek out an Infertility support group before passing any judgment. It just may just be the perfect outlet for you.
Finally, (and only after a major catastrophic life event) I tried some individual counseling. And that planted the seed that allowed me to talk about my Infertility and the emotions that came with those struggles.
My advice for an Infertile person trying to find the right therapist? Talk to your Infertility Specialist and ask for a recommendation. If you’re not currently seeing a specialist; call one in your area and ask. Chances are, the Front Desk staff or the RN in the office will be more than willing to give you a recommendation. If not, check out RESOLVE’s website for a list of professionals in the area.
There’s one more outlet for support that I want to point out. And this outlet, I must say, has been the most therapeutic for me.
After much encouragement from my therapist, I sought out support from online communities. I started out by reading message boards and eventually sought out personal blogs. From there, I stumbled onto Mel’s list and found an entire blogosphere of people that I suddenly felt I could relate to.
Suddenly I wanted to share my story. I wanted others to know what *I* had gone through in my journey. And, because there wasn’t enough representation from the Asian-American/Filipino-American community, I wanted to let those Infertile individuals/couples know that they weren’t alone.
And, as the Asian-American culture typically simultaneously praises Motherhood and yet frowns upon discussions leading up to Motherhood, *I* wanted to have an outlet for where I can point other family members and friends to read when the inevitable, “What? You don’t want kids?” questions came up.
The support I’ve received from the three years I’ve now been writing on this blog have been overwhelming. Not only have I met the most incredible people who get me (and understand my wacky sense of humor), but I’ve found support in old friends and family that I might never have found any other way.
So yes … if anything, I encourage writing a blog as an outlet for your Infertility issues. I encourage you to write about your struggles, your emotions … your biggest fears and worst nightmares and post it for the world to see. I encourage you to be honest, as well.
But most importantly, I encourage advertising it to your friends and family. Because we all know that keeping secrets from your loved ones (whether big or small) can ultimately be frustrating and tiring for all involved.
So why not let the secret out?
I write this to let other Infertile couples know that they do not have to suffer through these struggles alone.
I write this to encourage other Infertiles to talk about their experiences to others.
And I write this to ensure that those now-parents – those who suffered through Infertility on their way to parenthood – continue to share their struggles of Infertility … regardless of how busy their lives may be, now that they have children.**
I write this to make sure that Infertility no longer remains a secret.
** This was the only beef I had about the SELF article. For all that it said about the importance of “letting the secret out,” the last sentence in the article is what soured me the most:
Working behind the scenes [of supporting the Infertility community] is one option, but [Lisa] says, ‘I’m sure my volunteer efforts will be for schools or parks. Once I have twins, I’ll have a lot less free time.”