I’m writing this post exactly on 4th May 2015. The first day of the last month of my last decade before it becomes the new.
In exactly a month, I’ll be entering my next decade. My fifth decade. I’ll be turning 40. Oh boy, this may make me sound like I’m reluctant to grow older or admit my age proudly. The truth is, I don’t know how a soon-to-be 40 is supposed to feel. All I know is that I still feel 25. The age I first got married to my soulmate and then became a mother for the first time. It’s like time has almost stood still for me in my heart. I still feel youthful.
But of course it’s a different story everywhere else. Now I’m going to recount my life for the past 10 years and be accountable for it. The lessons, the pain, the happiness and the joy. The decade that I really feel has taught me a lot and to prepare for what I think will be an even more exciting decade to come.
I’ve been pregnant 4 times this decade and have given birth to 3 beautiful children. I’ve also pushed my body to its limit with each pregnancy. I don’t know why I do it but each time I do, maybe it’s to prove to my husband and myself, that I’m no passenger in this marriage of life. I’ve taught too many exhausting belly dance and fitness classes with Baby no.2. We bought and ‘double-handedly’ rebuilt 2 houses during both my Baby no.2 and no.3 pregnancies. I carried too many heavy loads of tile glue and machinery and what not to built what I deemed were our dream homes. I cried myself to sleep so much during those times when the body finally could let its screams of tiredness be heard.
I also went under the knife for the first time in my life after baby no.3, not for the cosmetic surgery I presumed I might one day consider. It was for a potential life-saving and altering surgery on my neck. It was to remove a cyst inside that has been growing bigger over the years to the point where they had to remove part of my tongue, my hyoid bone and the right side of my thyroid and most of my left. A 30 min surgery turned into 4 hrs and a day stay in the hospital turned into a week. My body learnt the meaning of perseverance having to breastfeed a young baby with various tubes across my body while in extreme pain. This is also the beginning of my lifetime life changing disorder: hypothyroidism. For the rest of my life, I will have to depend on some tiny pills to get back some functions you and I never used to think about. I gained weight I thought a fit and exercise loving person like me never would. I have thinning hair and brittle nails to fight from this decade on. All these has been easy.
This is the harder part of this decade. I know I am a mentally strong person yet I have to admit, I had 3 episodes of depression and mental breakdown. My version.
After baby no.2 I came down with Post-Natal Depression 2 months after the rosy days. Maybe it was living in a house of horror (renovation was on going, we were living in a tent in our garden in England) that got to me but I remember crying and running into the car with the overwhelming desire to end my life that night. It was my husband’s swift decision to run after me and pull the key out that saved me. He couldn’t decide if I was being overly emotional or just dramatic. I told my health visitor that things were rosy still yet I was furiously reading up on this issue. I knew what I was feeling wasn’t normal of me.
The second episode of depression came with baby no.3’s pregnancy. It was winter in the Netherlands and it rained non-stop for 3 whole months. We were again renovating a house we just bought. I wasn’t sure if it was purely SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but I knew better the signs this time. I confided in another expat life coach my feelings and made her aware to check on me. There were days when I just wanted to lie in bed crying yet I had 2 children to take care off and clients to see. My thoughts were as grey as the days. I tried really hard to stop the negative thoughts from permeating my head space. A UV light board I convinced the husband would make the best Xmas present to me became my best friend at home. It went everywhere I went in the house. Things only got better when the weather improved, the house looked more ready and it seemed to disappear when I made a crazy decision to return to my home land to deliver baby no.3.
When things were looking up in my life, depression came again 3 yrs ago, courtesy of a contraceptive, an unplanned pregnancy and the lack of Vitamin D and the as-yet undiagnosed hypothyroidism. It took my very sympathetic and very patient French GP in our next land of expatriation to deliver the news to me. He made me realised that my past health professionals have all failed me. The contraceptive’s side effects and my severe deficiency in Vitamin D coupled with the newly discovered hypothyroidism all can cause depression yet it was the unplanned pregnancy with baby no.4 that made it worse. Not only was I not expecting to be pregnant when my career was taking a turn for the better, it was the prospect that baby might never make it, made it all even bleaker.
I had an 11 yr old daughter whom I was supposed to be homeschooling due to our rural location yet there were so many days that the osteoporosis syndrome (brought on also by the Vit D deficiency) made me just want to slinker away and slip off into oblivion. What is there left to celebrate when you are told your baby’s chance of survival was only 20%?
The silver lining on this dark cloud was that I had just graduated as an NLP Master Practitioner. I knew the signs even better this time around and I had ‘tools’ to help hypnotise and trance myself into positivity. I can safely say NLP saved my sanity this time around. Though on hindsight I realised I should have seen a mental health professional anyway instead of trying to be strong for everyone. This time, I was served the ‘triple whammy’, that I see now my decision to insist the family move back to Asia was my muddled brain talking and not the rational me. I wouldn’t have made that decision had I been a different person talking.
Statistics say 3 out of 4 pregnancies will have the mother suffering some form of depression. Be it mild or severe. Well, I’ve been that statistic. 3 different forms of depression with 3 of the 4 pregnancies. Yet I’m thankful. I’ve learnt so much of this feeling and this ‘disease’ and the stigma associated with it. It has actually helped me be a better coach and counsellor to my clients. I have walked in their shoes.
As you know now, I was only prepared to be a mum to 3. Not 4. I conceived my no.2 a month after losing an earlier pregnancy in the 1st trimester. I had morning sickness for all of 6 months and couldn’t even smell the kitchen less it brought on a bout of fresh pukes. I only could eat between the hours of 3-5 am (yes AM as in the early morning) and developed severe lactose intolerance during those 6 months. I lost so much weight during those 6 months that I was referred to a specialist. And when my appetite came back, I could only eat mangoes and some fruits.
With every 4 of my pregnancies, I also developed very low blood pressure and low glucose level. I used to have fainting spells with no.3 that the German midwife in Holland would prescribe me ‘medical grade sugar packs’ to carry in my handbag.
As you know the story of my no.4, her labour pushed my limits of pain tolerance to the maximum. 4 days of ongoing labour contractions before she made her appearance, taught me that a woman in labour really is a superhero in disguise!
I love my kids to death. I’ve recognised that they’re all their own individuals and as unique as each of their own conception places. Singapore, England, The Netherlands and Italy. I would move mountains to see my children happy and flourish in their own space. That was one reason for me to decide to move to Asia as I can see I couldn’t satisfy my eldest daughter in her educational needs at home. As an Asian mum, their education is very important to me yet I’ve learnt as a Scandinavian spouse, that education takes a back seat to general learning. It’s all about the enthusiasm.
I insist my kids go to bed every night at their prescribed early hour and a story must be read before saying good night. I don’t have a dream I want my children to live to except they find their own talent and passion and be kind to others around them.
I have also learnt that despite my children being important to me, I’m more important than them. Yes, I need to look after no.1 so no.1 can look after 5. You may not agree with me but my experience on this last 10 years have confirmed this ideology. A happy mummy makes happy children.
I have also discovered that I enjoy extended breastfeeding all 4 children despite thinking as a singleton that 2 months was plenty. Breastfeeding suited the lazy me. Yeah, lazy to me is not having to worry about bringing extensive kitchen collection just to bring the baby out of the door. All I needed for baby can be contained in my designer handbag.
I have also learnt what it is to suffer watching your children suffer. My no.2 had severe tonsillitis every month at age 1.5 with 2 weeks fever (and rapid weight loss) that came with it. It broke my heart to see her having to go for surgery at age 2.5 to fix the problem. I felt sorry for no.3 when I found out he had intestinal egg allergy meaning be could just watch his siblings eat all the nice cakes and cookies. I learnt feeling guilty that my no.1 had undiagnosed (mild) scoliosis discovered at the late age of 11.
I’m still learning as a mother. People used to say you parent just as your own do. I can see that I’m becoming like my mother in this sense: I’m extremely happy to have my children bring their friends home and I get to cook and feed them and get to know them better through their friends.
I still think of myself as a full-time mum who just happens to have her own business and wants to grow her own passion for her own life’s purpose.
I used to hate parts of my school life yet I discovered I thoroughly enjoy learning. Learning to the mind is like what food is to the body. It is part of my spiritual growth. I feel a little strange if I don’t try to learn something new every day.
I have ‘secured’ a few more educational titles to my name in this last 10 years. I guess it was all a slow progression to achieving my life’s purpose. As much as I loved performing and teaching belly dance as a form of therapy, I knew I couldn’t sustain the love for it if I kept going further. In the course of my work as a certified holistic therapist (having gained those different therapy diplomas) most people with physical pain are actually suffering from mental and spiritual anguish. This was the reason why I knew I had to upgrade myself to becoming a certified Life Coach and Master Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner. It became the natural progression that my spirit and mind were looking for.
With all the houses we’ve bought and fixed up, I’m glad that the ‘stingy’ me who doesn’t want to pay expensive workmen meant I’ve successfully learnt to do tiling (bathrooms and kitchen and floor), some plastering, electrical work (did my own bathroom underfloor heating and lighting) and professional spray painting. All these physical learning has also flourished my spirit. I realised that men don’t have to be the master of this domain and that women can be just as good! (judging by the disbelieving look of our Moroccan electrician when seeing the finished work in the bathroom!) I wished more women discover these strength about themselves.
I have also learnt to forgive my own past transgression towards myself and others in my life. I have truly decided that I can only be kind and peaceful to others if I ever hoped to see more kindness and peace in this world. This was also the decade I decided to speak more intimately with a God I believed in. I decided to ‘abandon’ religion and seek faith. This is one of the reasons why I am always optimistic and cheerful- my faith asks me to only share love and peace.
I am still learning what it means to be a good friend, sibling, wife and mother. Every day, every year, learning opportunities present themselves to me. I also believe I am lucky. Lucky to me is recognising when opportunities present themselves and to strike when the iron is hot.
This decade has seen me living in so many different cities and countries all over the world and in just as many more homes. I really am thankful for all the people and opportunities that have been part of my third decade. This decade has really prepared me to start my new company 7th Tribe Pte Ltd. I will be working with others who wants to become peaceful and happy Global Citizens, jus like myself.
I pray that God will keep the lines of communication open with me. I pray that I will always keep knowing when opportunities are presenting themselves to me. I hope that my health will be as good as I can imagine it to be and that my mind will stay sane in the insanity of this world.
Have you also gone through something similar to what I’ve gone through? I would love to hear your thoughts down here!