Quack, Quack, Quack

Quack, quack, quack. I followed the sound and looked out of the window: a little toddler was wiggling on the sidewalk with a pair of new sandals. He was little chubby, tried to balance his weight from one foot to another. He looked like a cuddly duck. Followed him was a woman in her 60s, 10 steps away.

“Be careful! Slow down, Cary,” said she.

Something sharp pinched me. A grandma? A grandson? I would never have a chance to…

Quack, quack, quack. The noise was closer, under my window. The cuddly duck stopped and looked up. I took a step away from the window. A cloud just moved above me and a wound inside opened up. I went back to my room to lick it.

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A Pair of Walking Shoes

“Honey, are you ready?” He called again from the car.

No response.

He slammed the door open and walked into the house.

In the entrance, he found her sat on the floor, staring at a pair of old walking shoes, with tears running down her cheeks.

“What happened?” asked he.

“Shoes… Blood… Baby…” She could not put the words into a sentence.  Memories of her lost baby captivated her.

It was summer of 2013. She was happily pregnant for six months after a long journey of IVF. On night of 26th of June, she started to have frequent urine and in the evening after she wipped herself, she saw a drop of blood in the toilet. They rushed to the hospital and were sent to the birth center. The nurse checked her vital signs and said, “the baby’s heart beat was weak.  We are sending the doctor.”

Had another urge of going to the bathroom, she put her walking shoes on, and slowly moved to the bathroom. After she got up, more blood came out. This time they were thick with clumps. They were on her shoes.

“I am scared, very scared” she said to him.

The next morning, her baby died. She suffered Preeclampsia and almost left this world without knowing what happened to her….

“I am so sorry,” he wrapped his arms around her. They both sat on the floor and stared at a pair of old walking shoes, crying.

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Back to Zero

“Mom, why does not Li’s family have any kids?” I cannot help asking mother about our neighbor when I was little.

“They just do not,” Mother put it simply. “Maybe they cannot. I do not know. They sure are a good couple.”

Of course, mother’s answer did not satisfy my curious mind. From time to time, I stop by at their door and peeked inside. Unlike everyone else, their apartment was always clean and quiet. Sometimes, few students would come to study, as they were both teachers. It sure felt different to me. Why some married couple would not have children and it may not be their choice. I never thought this would become my reality.

Becoming a mother is natural to many.  For me, it is a quest of five years, from have to have-not. In this journey, I had endured many lows and highs.  On my lows I dragged myself in and out of infertility treatment clinics, from U.S. to China, from western surgery to eastern herbs, from IUIs to IVFs, from one time to three time treatments. I was determined. I believed as long as I gave my 100%, I would succeed, like most things in life. Why not?  Isn’t what nature intended? But, I was so wrong.  Pre-eclampsia robbed me clean, took my child away, and threw me back into infertility.  After five years, I am back to zero….

Maybe I was peaking into my life, when I was little.  Maybe I were her, 30 years later.

(National Infertility awareness week 4/19-4/25)

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The Best Weapon

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Mad as a Hatter.”

I have a brother, few years younger. He was a favorite child in the family.  Being naughty was his best work and he got all the attentions from my mother. I hated that. I kept thinking there was something I could do to get noticed, better looking, better grades or all around better. But, whatever I did it was not enough: Father was rarely home; mother catered to my brother at her every waking moment and was exhausted.

I wished I could have a big brother who would protect me and play with me. That feeling never left me. Instead of growing up, I became a shell, hosting an inner child inside who constantly looked for approvals from others to validate her judgment and feelings. Although she was insecure, she was kind and sweet.

These all changed, when I lost my premature baby, Kevin, to Preeclampsia. That day, the inner child walked out on me. I became a hollow body. I screamed, asking why and why me. I begged, wanting for have both children returned to my body. But, there was no use. My wounds were bleeding. Exposed under the eyes of unconcerned strangers, they added more deep cuts to the fresh ones.

Crushed and suffocating, I shouted, “It is time to face the reality. I would never have a big brother! The best weapon is I.”

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Save Myself

Jane, a close friend of mine since college, is a mother of three. Her first child is already in her teens and through her second marriage, she has two kids, a three year old and 7 month old. These days, she is tied up.

I never thought she would be a motherly type, as she always appears to be demanding and career driven. After her 2nd child, she decided to quit her work and to devote her time to the family. I admire her for that. She knows what is important and when to do what in life.

After my baby loss, I was afraid of losing my friends too. Fortunately, most of them kept in touch, especially the close ones and the ones who know me for many years. She is one of them, kept calling to check if I have been taking care of myself. Few times she even offered to come from east coast to see me. Due to her responsibilities at home, I declined. But, I know she really meant to see her hopeless friend. I was very much touched by it. Not even my close relative offered to come.

One day, she called again, after almost two months of not hearing from her, “Jasmine. I am sorry… I have to tell you something… I hope you do not hate me for this.”

“What, dear?” I asked.

“I am pregnant again,” she said.

“That… that is, a, good, news.” I labored each word.

“This is so not fair,” She explained. “I think of you, wanting to having a child and go through so much trouble and many heartaches. I did not even plan for this. I got pregnant. This is so not fair. I feel guilty.”

Right there, not only was I relieved to hear the truth of her not calling, but also I appreciated her directness and sensitivity to her friend’s ordeal.   I would feel the same way, if I were she. She said it as it is. Yes. It is unfair for me.   Yes, I feel jealous. But, it is fair to her, as a fertile and wonderful mother. Through this turmoil, I have learned to stop comparing my misery to others’ fortunate events. It is not something I could control. Why making the comparison to make myself more miserable than it has already been.

“I am glad you told me. I know you are a good mother. There are so many children born every minute. I cannot feel upset and sorry for myself all the time. It would not have my Kevin back.” I held my tears back as I said it.

As for today, we discussed my future plan or lack of it. “You cannot go through IVF again. You need to live YOUR life,” said Jane.

I stumped. My life? What is my life? I do not know any more. I do not know who I am. For the last five years, I was either in IVF clinics, being pregnant, or back to the hospital losing my baby. After I gained enough strength to face the reality and rebuild my life, I was hit with job rejections.  Like being slapped three times, left and right, from infertility, infant loss to jobless. How much more can one endure and for how long?

“I know,” I replied. “I am not prepared to do anything yet. I just want to get my job started. The baby stuff has been haunting me ever since Kevin passed away. I need to bring this to a closure at some point… But, not now. Right now, I need to SAVE myself.”

Yes, to save myself is the only thing I can do at this moment. There are so many ways to save oneself and everyone chooses a different path. Going right back to IVF could be one. But, the mere fact of thinking of needles and operation table gives me the chills down to my spine, not to mention the risk I put myself in. I need to take off my mind off it until I can face it again!

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It Is Your Decision

When my little cousin, Xuan, was born, I was excited. He was a beautiful child with big eyes, long eyelashes, and silky skin. I used to gaze at him in his baby carrier for a long time and thought he should have been a girl. One day, I was left alone with him for a short while, when we were in the countryside.   Even though I was 12, I thought myself as a big sister. I took him out and bundled him up in blankets. He looked like a pretty doll. I was going to carry him to see little ducks. He might like that. I thought. As we turned the corner, out of nowhere, a crazy dog came running after us. I got very nervous and hurried my steps. But, with Xuan in my hands, I could not running fast enough. As l was looking back at the dog, fast approaching, I tripped. Xuan flew out of my hands and landed face down. He screamed and scared the dog away. When I picked him up, his lips were bleeding. He got a permanent mark on his lip and made his upper lip thicker; I never got to be in charge of him again.

When he got older, he told me, “Sis, I like my lips. It is sticking out and cute.”

“I dropped you when you were a baby. I still feel bad.” I confessed.

“No matter, Sis. I do not remember any of it.”

He was kind and gentle.

He died of brain tumor, at age 18.

It broke everyone’s heart. But, no one talks much about him in my family. Occasionally, when my mom was alone she would tell me, “Poor little Xuan. If he would be alive, your uncle and aunt would have been much happier.”

After they lost their son, my uncle and aunt, adopted a girl and had another son. Now, these two kids are all grown and in their teens. When I saw my aunt during the Chinese New Year, she opened up to me, “Jasmine, I am so sorry about your loss. I know how you feel.   You know what I have been through…. Your Kevin is with my child, Xuan. You need to take care of yourself and your husband. With or without a child, make a decision and make sure it is YOUR decision. Do not let anyone force you.” I nodded in my pool of tears.

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I arrived early, and picked the same seat in the café and sat down.   Everything was the same, the décor, the smell. A year and an half ago, three of us gathered here for the 1st time, right after we found out that none of our implantations was successful.

“I cannot believe it did not work. Everything went so well,” Emmy started.

“I knew I lost her. Three days after implantation, I had a nightmare. The day after, I spotted,” Pam said.

“I had high hopes,” I said.  “This is already my 2nd IVF. I flew all the way from the US to be here in Shanghai…. What went wrong? What are we going to do?”

No one said a word. I reached for the frost on the cake. It tasted bitter.

“I am done with IVF,” Pam broke the silence. “This is too hurtful and unnatural. I am going to give myself few months to rest and try the natural way. My Buddha will give me a child. I will start meditating and praying.”

“I do not know much about Buddha but I still have two embryos left and will have to go back for implantation in a month or two. What about you, Jasmine? Are you going back to the US? Do you have more embryos left?” Emmy turned her head asked.

“I do not have any left. I do not know what to do. I have to call my husband tonight to discuss,” I replied.

“You should try another cycle since you are already here,” said Emmy.

“I am not sure.” I shook my head, “Do I have more left in me to go again? If I do, I would have to go to another clinic. I do not have faith in this one and the doctor there.”

“Agree. I do not think I was treated with enough care,” Pam complained.

We started venting. Toward the end, we held each other’s hands and vowed to keep going. That night, I felt the wound of losing another hope hurt less.

Fast forward, a year and an half later. Pam gets what she has wished for, a daughter from her Buddha. Emmy has a daughter, after another IVF. I, after the 3rd IVF, lost my baby to preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome.

“Nice to see you again, Jasmine!” Pam and Emmy came together. They both looked cheerful, as if bathed in spring blossoms. After chatting about their precious daughters, Emmy asked, “What happened, Jasmine? How did you lose your pregnancy?”

I choked a little and uttered each word with difficulty, “I, lost, my baby.” I reached out for napkins and continued, “I was at gestation 27. On the night of 6/26, I started with frequent urine. At 7:30, blood came. Joo and I went to the emergency room right away. The baby had weak heartbeat. 45 minutes later, I was on the operation table. The baby had to come out. I had placenta abruption, lost lots of blood and almost died. But my baby… When I saw him for the first time, he…passed….” My tears soaked the napkins in my hands.

No one said a word. I reached for the frost on the cake. It was bitter just how I remembered it.

“Did that hurt?” Pam asked.

“Of course, it did,” Emmy jumped in. “She had the entire operation done but her baby died. It must hurt.”

I said nothing and waited to be comforted.

“I am preparing to have another child,” Pam broke the silence.

“I am thinking of the same thing. My baby daughter needs a sister or brother to play with,” Emmy said.

As they were exchanging tips of having another child, my heart stopped beating. Like someone poured a bucket of ice water over me, I felt so cold. Any warmth I had for them, just left me. I looked at the exit door, wished I was not sitting here.

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Fair and Square?

A little girl sings:                                              

“Dresses and laces, the pettier the better;

Pearls and diamonds, the shiner the better;

Candies and chocolates, the sweeter the better;

Homes and houses, the bigger the better;

The world is fair and square, for I have been told;

Though it rains and snows, my dream will shine through it all.”

An old lady chants:

“Tops and bottoms, the simpler the better;

Bones and hearts, the stronger the better;

Veggies and fruits, the fresher the better;

Friends and friendships, the truer the better;

The world is NOT fair and square, for I have lost my child.

Though it still can be beautiful, through the reflections of my broken heart.”

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Journey In Numbers


Born, 6/26/2013,

Deceased, 6/27/2013.

On that God forsaken day,

I cut open my chest,

Took out the broken heart,

Locked the pieces away…

633 days,

20,000 words,

70 posts,


I opened the locker,

Held out the pieces,

Sat down with grief to reconstruct

A human heart,

Through writing.

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Beauty Before the Storm

For 15 minutes nothing made sense. It was so quiet! Deadly quiet! It was surreal.

As I looked out the window, what’s real was this sight in front of me — The sunset showered everything with a golden glow: Cherry flowers opened their small pinkish mouths drinking the golden rays; The neighbors’ houses soaked in golden color and became castles in the Disney land; the river off the path shined with golden ripples; the bare hill from far looked like a bold man suddenly grew full hair, a color of auburn. And yet, there was no single sound interrupting this picturesque view. Birds must have retired from singing business after an exhausting day; squirrels and rabbits were hidden and enjoying this from their own backyard; dogs were tiptoeing….

I felt little unease. Is this the beauty before the storm?

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