As the year draws close to an end, I’m once again emotionally charged as I do with the turning of each new year; looking back at 2013 is somewhat spiritually satisfying, yet sordid in its ways.
The Coming of the Storm
The year started like every other – typical of my stay-at-home mom lifestyle – yet with one significant difference: I was undergoing psychiatric help for postpartum depression. You know what they say about the rainbow after the storm? I think that is how I am living now each day; fresh air in my head and rainbows in my heart now that the storm is finally over. It has felt like a long journey, from the start of my pregnancy with Lisa until she was around 9 months old. The accidental pregnancy came as a joy but reality (and my somewhat unrealistic expectations) slowly turned my life into a painful dread, dragging along the lives and emotions of the people around me…
I don’t remember exactly how or why it happened but I would believe it started when I had to be on bed rest due to a low-lying placenta that was threatening to fully detach itself and kill my unborn child. Forced to stay home each and every day brought on a sense of loss I cannot begin to describe… All the living I was missing out, and how much more I would continue to lose out on after having a third child… Almost all my “good years” had already been given to my first two children, and turning 30 wasn’t going to make things better. I had always dreaded the big three-O, and arriving at it as the main caregiver of 3 kids, still no driving license (let alone a car), no stash of cash parked away, no fancy things to my name… It grew into something I could not live with.
Throw in the handful of (eventually broken) promises Hubs made when we found out about the pregnancy, life seemed out of control and pointless. It was as if I would never get to where I wanted to be.
The Daily Storm
For the first six months of Lisa’s life, I spent most of my time escaping reality through slumber. Whenever I was awake, I would either be yelling or crying. I was always angry, lost, upset. I would look at my beautiful baby girl and feel a mixture of awe and awful. Days blurred, I lost track of time, each day was a challenge on its own.
My marriage started falling apart because I couldn’t let go of what Hubs had promised but did not deliver: the doula he said he would get for me, a vacation, more time and attention for me during my pregnant days. In stark contrast, the reality was him working overseas several days at a time, back to back around major Southeast Asia cities during my pregnancy. One time I had to carry the 19-kg firstborn to the doctor for his HFMD when I was seven months pregnant.
Then when the baby arrived, Hubs left me home alone with my freshly healing third C-section operation and a wailing newborn on the first day I was discharged from the hospital. Imagine that! I was popping powerful painkillers every 3 hours just to not feel like dying. (On this topic, I would like to add each consecutive C-section is more painful and takes longer to heal. True story.)
He said he would take care of me throughout the duration of my pregnancy, but the truth was he did not (and could not). We went through two bouts of HFMD – in Nov 2011 and March 2012 – and both times he was not even in the country. There was only so much a weak-willed woman like me could withstand without crumbling. So we started fighting. Each and every day, there was always something I could bring up from yesterday or 8 years ago that could start a row. I was unhappy and I made sure he knew it.
The fights brought us to the brink of divorce. The in-laws were told, the close friends knew. Everyone told us to mend the relationship, but I was too far gone into my own self-afflicted sorrow. I even went to the extent of throwing him (and his things) out of the house.
Then one day, my mom-in-law handed me a stack of dollar notes and said (in Chinese): “Shelly, be good. Go see a doctor for this. There is something wrong with you emotionally and we are not going to sit and watch you spiral. Before you decide if this marriage should be ended, you should still get yourself better. For yourself and for the kids.”
So I did. And it was the best damned thing anyone has ever told me to do.
Mending The Soul
With my emotional healing, there came a need to heal the marriage that was now basically torn to shreds by my vindictive bitterness. There was essentially nothing really wrong about my husband, just the usual male-oriented carelessness and a myriad of other little issues. As a father he’s great, but as a husband there is often a lack of affection and *ahem* resources. I cannot begin to count the number of things he said he would get for me but still have not. (9 years and counting for some.)
So he took us to Bangkok in February 2013, just the two of us (and Lisa because she was breastfeeding). Finally we went on this “honeymoon” we had talked about so much through the years but never got round to doing. There was always the issue of babysitting and finances. ALWAYS. I came back a new woman. It was like an invisible boulder was lifted off me and I could breathe again. The numbness in my heart started fading away with the completion of one of the many promises we had. Finally, something had been done. There was hope again. Maybe this man isn’t just full of big words and little action. (But sad that it had to take a major emotional breakdown to finally kickstart something.)
The recovery process could not have been possible without the support of my bestie. She would sit through entire nights with me, talking it out with me until dawn broke. She lent me her eyes for a different view of the situation, something that was sorely needed. Through her eyes, I saw the beauty of my accidental daughter and how damn lucky I am to have what I have despite of it all. Sure, things could be better, but it could also be a lot shit worse. Why compare with the grass on the other side since you’re not on there and can’t ever be?
And while I can never regain the precious first 9 months of my daughter’s life that I’ve unwittingly thrown away, I have the rest of my life with her. I’ll be damned if I am going to live it out with guilt and screw that up again. Ironically, while I initially cursed at God for granting me an unwanted child, I now cannot give thanks enough for bringing this beautiful little angel into my life. Daughters are so precious, everyone should have one!
Growing The Mind & Heart
While my relationship with the mom-in-law had been decent ever since I gave her grandbabies, we grew closer than ever after my ordeal. Now we often talk on the phone about everything and nothing. She’s become the mother that I always wished I had! The husband and I have also grown closer and our marriage is stronger than ever. The kids, well, they’re still the same kids except they now know mom has the ability to go “all loco” too just like on TV.
And as the pieces of me starting falling back into place better than ever, there came a change in attitude. I got myself a work-from-home job that pays fairly well, started going to the gym again, cooking for the family, spending more time with the kids, keeping in touch with friends. You know, the stuff that actually matter. I stopped pining over the things I couldn’t have and couldn’t be, and started trying to be a better version of me. I even started a small sum of savings, something I never could have done previously due to my “shopping to fill a void” habit.
With all the little changes that took place over the span of 2013, I have become a better and happier me. Someone who finally has her priorities right: Family, friends, finances (in that order); and no longer needs to be a mean bitch to get her way because she can look past it. To let go is to let myself live happily. I don’t know why that took so long to get into my thick head, but I’m glad I finally got it. I have never felt more carefree in all my years, now that a lifetime of bitterness has been laid to rest. I see with renewed clarity and resolution, especially on the things that matter. In celebration of my (way overdue) wisdom, I got a new tattoo that also serves as a reminder of what’s important.
An EKG-inspired design that reads “love life”: symbolic that as long as my heart is beating, I will love life for what it is.
Christmas of 2013 – The Best One Ever Had
This weekend, as our family of five celebrated Christmas with a Swedish dinner buffet at IKEA and festive partaking at Universal Studios Singapore, I was overwhelmed countless times by the simple joy of us being together. We talked and laughed throughout our 2-hour dinner, despite the oppressive diners who insist in snatching up food and us initially not even having a table. Josh muttered to himself with a smile several times throughout the meal: “It’s a good day! It’s a good day!” Kee had an extra bag of his usual funny antics and was impeccably well-behaved. And Lisa, oh our dear Lisa, was just happily stuffing her face with chocolate desserts and giggling from the sugar high.
At Universal Studios, as we huddled together under the (fake and foamy) snow, surrounded by cheery festive tunes, my eyes welled up. Our children full of glee marveling at the “snow” and I was there to share it with them. We shouted Merry Christmas to each other and exchanged kisses. It was a beautiful moment. This is what life should be about. This is what living should feel like. Sure, there will always be shitty days, but THIS is what I am going to live for.
The boys experiencing “snow” for the first time at Universal Studios Singapore!
Dinner at Chili’s was enjoyable again as well, heaps of laughter and good spirits going around the table. The boys had free flow drinks with their kids’ meals, and Kee was up to his usual nonsense saying he was going to drink “soooooooo many cups of Fanta Orange because can top up what.” We tricked Lisa into eating the mashed potato even though she had made it very clear she hated it and wanted the fries instead. Everyone laughed at her expense, and yet she giggled along with us, even making funny faces to entertain us.
Then to keep the festive mood going, we came back home and opened presents! No one received anything expensive or fancy (Hubs didn’t even get a gift at all *gasp*) but everyone was happy. Josh received an Angry Birds pajama set, Kee got a dark grey hoodie jacket (so that he can look that Darth Vader or Batman he says) and Lisa loved her new dresses and Hello Kitty bracelet. Hubs got me the GUND Boo plushie that I had been eyeing for months but refused to buy because it’s a non-essential. It’s a good Christmas, the best by far.
Merry Christmas & Happy 2014, everyone. I hope the new year brings you spiritual abundance and the best days you will ever live. I know I’m looking forward to more great moments like these!