The “Secret” Behind the Gender Reveal Macarons (2014-2015)
A few years ago, I created a one-of-a-kind technique for Gender Reveal Macarons on my original blog which I kept secret for a long time. The outside of the macaron was a conspicuous black color and when broken in half, a bright fluffy pink interior is revealed. At the time, a lot of readers asked me for the instructions and even took guesses at how to achieve this look. I told everyone I’d reveal it at a later date since I wanted to save this secret technique to make one-of-a-kind macarons for my friends and family. Truth be told, I was really hoping I’d have a chance to use it myself to announce my own pregnancy one day, but if only I could get pregnant…. A few years went by and hubby and I were still struggling with conceiving, experiencing a lot of challenges and heartbreak along the way. We tried so hard but somehow everything seemed to be going against us.
“Why Can’t You Just Be Happy For Others?” (2016)
2016 was an especially hard for me as we faced some very heartbreaking moments on our journey towards parenthood. I spent a lot of it crying and feeling absolutely horrible physically and emotionally. Some days, I could hardly get out of bed because my body literally hurt from the emotional pain I was feeling inside. Although I’ve always been the type to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn because I would be so excited to start my day and tackle my to-do lists, I no longer felt meaning in the things that were going on around me. Sometimes in the morning I’d wake up and just lay in bed feeling achy and exhausted. Night time was even worse, there were even less distractions and no obligations I needed to attend to. In the still of the night, I’d be left with nothing but my own sad thoughts that I would start crying uncontrollably. Hubby would try his best to hold and console me but even that had its limits since he actually had to go to work the next day.
During this time it was really hard for me to keep up with personal social obligations. Even harder was when I was expected to attend a baby shower or be in a place where there were to be lots of pregnant women. I would be overcome with immense anxiety prior to and during the event. I felt terrible about feeling that way and I couldn’t understand at the time why I was being such a “poor sport”. Ironically, it was the people around me who were trying to help me the most that made me feel the worst. When I shared that other people’s pregnancies triggered a deep emotional response in me, they would tell me to “just be grateful for all you have” or “be happy for other people”. I was relieved with the next thing that happened which really helped me make sense of my emotions and I no longer felt the guilt of being “ungrateful” or “petty”.
I couldn’t see it myself at the time, but it was obvious that I would benefit from professional help. After a lot of nudging from hubby, I made an appointment with a therapist. Being from an Asian background, I wasn’t quite used to the idea of seeking professional help for mental health. I (incorrectly) thought that everything could be resolved by myself if only I just sucked it up, stopped thinking about it, be stoic, and simply move on.
After just a few sessions, my therapist was able to put everything I had been feeling into perspective and helped me realize that what I was feeling was perfectly normal. She explained to me that I was grieving a sense of loss. Grieving and loss: those two words really helped me finally put into words what I had been feeling the whole time.
Grieving and Loss
I realized that those who have challenges with conception, whether they realized it or not, often go through a process of grief. The word grief is easier for most people to understand in the case of losing a loved one but it is also just as relevant for potential parents trying to conceive. For some couples, it’s the loss of unborn babies and for others who might not have come that far, it might simply be a loss of hope.
Being able to put my feelings into the framework of grief, helped me realize why I was so mad at myself for not being able to bring a baby into this world. Anger and depression are just two of the 5 stages of the Kübler-Ross model of grief . It can be overwhelming to hear about other people’s pregnancies or attend their baby showers because it forced me to face my own losses. It wasn’t because I just “couldn’t be happy for others.”
There’s also the issue of gratitude. Many times when well-meaning loved ones tried to console me, the issue of gratitude would be brought up. My therapist helped me realize it is entirely possible to be happy for others while being sad for yourself. They are not mutually exclusive and I was not being a “poor sport” when someone else’s pregnancy announcement sent me into an emotional overdrive. I can’t recall where I read this but it perfectly sums up how it feels when you are grieving and someone tells you to “just be grateful.” It is similar to saying, “I’m sorry to hear your mom died but at least your dad is still alive. Be happy.” I’m sure my loved ones meant well but in the absence of being told what would help me at that time, they were probably just as lost as me when they tried to come up with comforting words that would help cheer me up. In one session that my husband attended with me, the therapist suggested a coping strategy: instead of trying to “find a solution” for me as most men do when they see their loved ones in distress, he could simply give me a hug and tell me, “I’m here for you,” or “I’m listening”. I felt this method helped us communicate better. Sometimes I wasn’t looking for him to fix anything for me, I just wanted to vent and it comforted me to know he was there to listen to me.
Even though I was reluctant at first, I finally realized that just a few sessions with someone who was trained to help cope with overwhelming feelings and problem-solve was of great benefit to me in the long run.
If you are or know someone who is coping with difficult emotions, know that it is perfectly alright to reach out for help.
Finding a Registered Psychologist
Most extended health plans cover registered psychologists, check with your plan to confirm coverage. You can find one on British Columbia Psychological Association.
“People Who Love to Eat are Always the Best People”
I really needed a diversion from family planning, babies and children so every night I’d go online and just browse for gorgeous food photos and baking recipes. It was so relaxing scrolling through Instagram looking at beautifully styled buttercream cakes or scrumptious creations from local restaurants. (Mind you, this was back when Instagram was used as a creative outlet rather than a sponsorship opportunity.) Pretty soon I met a community of like-minded individuals, some of whom I ended up becoming good friends with.
I also started working more consistently on my Indulge With Mimi blog – baking and producing recipes. It was (and is) really nice to have something creative and positive to focus my efforts on. For all the feelings of failure I felt while trying to conceive, I felt a sense of mastery every time when a reader would write me a simple note of gratitude because a recipe worked out well. It made me really happy and for that, I am so grateful!
It meant so much for me to have a space in person and online where I wasn’t questioned on if and when I wanted to have children, what my plans for the future were etc… Julia Child said it first and I’d have to agree with her that, “People who love to eat are always the best people.” 🙂
“What Did You Think Life Was Going To Be Like?”
I had never felt so helpless as when I was going through infertility. Although we had an amazing support network, it was a real scary thought knowing that no matter how much my family and husband loved me, I simply couldn’t control nature.
I remember sitting on the sofa and sobbing uncontrollably on hubby’s lap. By now, this was nothing new for the both of us. One thing that stood out that day though was when he asked me why I was crying so hard. He pointed out that we were already very lucky to have our health, and be surrounded by such great friends and family. Intellectually, I understood what he meant but emotionally, I just wanted to lash out at the world, at God. Between some very violent sobs I mustered that, “I never thought life would turn out like this!”.
He asked me, “So what did you think life was going to be like?” Without hesitation, I pointed at all the cute and colorful macaron towers that I made which were displayed on the living room mantle, “Like that!”. I was referring to a self-created fantasy world of sweet things like macarons and teddy bears, where no one was ever sad or had any problems. Throughout my life, I had expected I’d do well in school, go to university, start a career, get married, become a doting full-time mom, watch my kids grow up and then grow old gracefully myself. Looking back now, I can see how idealistic and entitled I was. I eventually learned that nothing in life is really guaranteed and I am not owed anything simply for being alive. My expectations from a “normal” life was, in fact, a privileged life that many people in this world work hard everyday to attain and maintain. Life isn’t always easy, there’s loss, inequalities, disabilities and pain – some of the things I had been very lucky not to have experienced on a life-changing scale. And because of that, I was unable to see how fortunate I already was.
A Lisbon Sunset
Near the end of 2016, my sister invited us to join her family in Lisbon, Portugal for the holidays. I normally would have welcomed the chance to visit Europe again but this time, I wondered if I was even up for it. I still felt like crying at home everyday and if I were to be on holidays with my extended family, where could I hide if I wanted to break down again? Hubby encouraged me to go and have a good time without dwelling on such a frivolous first world problem. In retrospect, I’m glad I went in order for me to heal in a very cathartic way.
When we landed, the beauty of Lisbon immediately captured my (and my camera’s) attention. I found every little detail of the city so beautiful and even the modest parts of town harbored great pride in presenting itself with style and thought. I marveled at how even a simple doorknob on a door in an unpretentious neighborhood was sculpted into a little lion’s head. Consistent with the way most other Europeans lived, the Portuguese people seemed to really love and enjoy life. It made me seriously consider a life lived abroad with such passion and conviction – even if it had to be without children.
My sister planned many great places for us to visit and I ended up enjoying the comfort of spending the holidays with my family. I rarely have “defining” moments in life but there was one pivotal moment on our trip which helped shaped my outlook for the next few years.
After a day out visiting the resort town of Sintra on the outskirts of the city, my sister planned for our driver to take us to see the sunset in Cabo de Roca, the westernmost point of Continental Europe. The half-hour drive we made from Sintra to Cabo de Roca was a hilly one and daylight was quickly escaping us. The sun seemed to be setting faster and faster as our driver sped up even more so to bring us in time to the viewing site at the most western point on the continent. By the time we got to the cliffs overlooking a totally unobstructed view of the North Atlantic, the dark orange sun had already dropped close to the horizon. We stumbled out of the car and ran across a large patch of grass towards the edge of the cliff where we could see the sun dropping below the horizon at the Westernmost point in Europe. The entire sky was at first bright and then became almost completely dark within just minutes of our arrival. The fact that we almost missed such an incredible sight by such a short amount of time was really humbling. I saw it as a sort of metaphor for what had been a very turbulent few years for me. No matter how hard I cried and how much I wanted the world to stay unchanged until I was ready for it, the world was literally continuing to turn – with or without me. There were so many things I couldn’t change about the past few years and all I could do was to keep moving forward like the sunset. It wasn’t lost on me that life is so short and so precious. If I had chosen to stay home and sulk during the holidays, I would have missed that special moment to experience something greater than myself and my own problems. I knew at the moment I had to keep going, keep moving forward. I finally felt in a very authentic way – and not because someone told me – that there were still so many wonderful things to experience in life that didn’t include having children of my own. I realized life could still turn out alright if children were not to be in our plans.
A Childless Life (2017)
A funny thing happened at what was supposed to be the end of our trip. Due to the weather and a misunderstanding at the airport, we ended up having the opportunity to extend our vacation with a week-long layover in London. I ended up ringing in the new year in the city, revisiting a few of our favorite London landmarks and taking a short trip out to the countryside town of Bath and Wiltshire where Stonehenge is located. I had a great time and it made me think that maybe I could finally be rid of the crazy last few years of my life and start anew with new adventures in 2017.
No, You Don’t Always Achieve Everything You Put Your Mind To…
Although I was trying to feel hopeful again, I also knew I had to reset my expectations to avoid more disappointment and heartbreak. The old saying, “If you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything,” didn’t really seem applicable in terms of what we were going through… there is just no denying nature and science. I thought a lot about that phrase and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how entitled it sounded. Regardless of how great that motivational quote seemed to be when printed on a fridge magnet, there were going to be times in life when I wouldn’t be able to achieve something just because I put my mind to it. Being of a petite stature, I can’t imagine ever being able to join the NBA one day merely because I trained hard and persevered. There are things in life that one will simply never achieve even after trying one’s very best. However, the most important thing to realize is that it’s okay. In North American culture, it’s so easy to be emotionally coddled by participation ribbons that we don’t hear often enough that it’s perfectly okay to fail at something and then find happiness in something else. Having said all of that, I don’t think the quote is totally misleading but perhaps, it is more fitting to revise it to, “If you put your mind to something and keep an open mind, you will eventually find happiness.” And that’s what I tried to do in 2017.
In keeping with the different stages of grief – this time, acceptance. I finally felt I was ready to accept the possibility of never having children of our own. In my fertility support group, one member shared that since she had been trying to conceive for several years already, she would try for another year and if it didn’t work, she would devote the rest of her life to her charitable works instead. I remember telling myself that I would never “give up” like that. But after coming back home from Europe, my mindset began to change. I no longer viewed not having children as “giving up” but more like “moving forward”. It was time to be kinder to myself. I knew I had tried my very best already and accepted that some elements were outside of my control. I knew I already did everything I possibly could in order for me to move onto the next phase of my life and have no regrets.
I was ready to explore other options in life that didn’t include children and this time I wasn’t doing it “out of spite.” In the past, when I thought of a childless life, it would have a “reckless” undertone to it but now I envisioned a productive and adventurous child-free life. Looking around me, I started to admire the eventful lives led by some of the childless couples we knew. Without children, hubby and I could travel whenever we wanted, live in a tiny house (I was obsessed with all those Youtube videos lol) and have the mornings to ourselves to sleep in until whenever we wanted. Basically, the last few years of our lives without children which I took for granted.
Where Does Courage Come From?
I remember a conversation I had with my aunt when I was having the toughest time mentally. I couldn’t understand why I felt so low and I wondered where along the way did I lose the confidence I thought I had in myself. She pointed out, “Courage doesn’t come from attempting things you have a reasonable expectation of succeeding. That’s not real courage.” That was exactly my problem.
I’ve never really undertaken something with such “high stakes” yet with such an unknown prospect of success. I also had to get over that excruciating “all or nothing” aspect of achieving a viable pregnancy. Unlike training for a race – even one where you might lose – at the very least, you can see yourself improve every time you train. In time, you might see yourself running for longer, you’re faster or healthier. With pregnancy, either you’re pregnant or you’re – not. It’s a roller coaster of emotions that women trying to conceive go through every month.
I always thought that courage comes from within and in many ways, I had to work through all the difficult emotions I had alone. Simply because it’s not always practical (or nice) to wake up your friends and family in the middle of the night because you’re sad or scared. However, in other ways, I can also see the wisdom in Simon Sinek’s powerful message about courage – he proposes that courage actually comes from other’s belief in us.
I was lucky to have so many friends and family support me through that time. Our families never gave us any pressure to give them grandchildren and always supported our decisions. Through their loving example, it further reaffirmed my desire to one day have my own little family. My friends were also super supportive, they provided the type of support that a peer is best equipped at giving – a sympathetic set of ears without embarking on any lectures about life. I especially appreciated the effort to keep in touch with me from two of my closest friends living overseas. They always took the time to reach out the old-fashioned way by calling me long distance. Many times I thought I wasn’t up for talking but somehow after their calls, I always felt more upbeat and relieved of my burdens. I was also fortunate to have met two other girlfriends from my support group whom I grew to rely on and they on me. They knew exactly how I felt at every stage of my journey because they were going through it themselves. And somehow, advice from someone who was in the same shoes as me was much easier to digest than from someone who wasn’t. I am so happy I took the step to join a support group. Through supporting each other and being supported, I think we all found the courage to keep on going on our respective journeys.
If you’re dealing with something difficult in your own life, try talking to a non-judgmental family member, a supportive friend, a mentor or consider joining a support group.
Conversely, if you’re watching a loved one go through something difficult, don’t underestimate how much a check-in phone call or text can mean.
How to Keep in Touch with a Loved One Going Through Infertility:
Check in with them via text or email or better yet, a phone call or in-person meet-up if time and circumstances allow. Ask them open-ended questions like how they’re doing to let them know you care without asking specific ones like, “Are you pregnant yet?”, “When is your next doctor’s appointment?” or “What were your test results?”. Prospective parents often put so much pressure on themselves that they don’t need to answer to even more people in their lives. Wait times for results or doctor’s appointments can be so long that these type of questions can cause even more anxiety for prospective parents. Besides, if they receive undesirable results, some couples would rather be left to grieve alone. If they choose to share their problems, try to listen without feeling the need to offer advice.
How to Let Others Help You When You’re Dealing with Infertility:
This is counter-intuitive but in retrospect, some women actually wished they had told less people they were trying to conceive. Once they told others around them, they felt even more pressure when others would kindly follow up with them.
If you do share your conception plans, be clear about how you’d like your loved ones to follow up with you. You can say something like, “I will share with you as much as needed and I hope you can just listen.” “I don’t have any news but as soon as I do, you will be one of the first people to know”
A Year of Transition (2018)
In the late Spring of 2018, I found out that I could possibly be pregnant. I was going through the dreaded “two-week wait” until my period or hopefully, lack thereof. It was dreadful trying to control my emotions which were swaying back and forth between pessimism and optimism. All the doubts built up from the failures of previous years kept creeping up on me. On the other hand, I tried not to let my mind wander to the other end of the spectrum. I knew it was a dangerous exercise to start imagining how happy I would feel if I were to find out I was pregnant. I tried to tell myself I was still in this marathon, to stay focused and keep swimming towards my destination. Perhaps I’d cross the finish line one day and receive a medal at the end of it but I’d never truly know how I would react in a situation until I experienced it for myself. There was no point fantasizing about how sweet victory would be and my resources would be much better spent on staying focused and keeping my head above the water.
Two weeks couldn’t come soon enough. On the test day, I got up early and went to the lab for my blood test. A few long hours later, I was told that my hCG hormone levels were great and I was indeed pregnant (!) It was good news indeed but surprisingly, instead of feeling delirious joy, I felt a bit terrified at whether or not I’d be able to carry this sweet baby to term. Even though I should have, I just would not let myself be happy – not yet anyways.
When the time came around for our first prenatal check-up, we saw our baby on the monitor as a tiny little blob on the black and white screen. It was interesting enough but what really arrested my attention was when the doctor let us listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Bu-bup, bu-bup…that beautiful rhythmic sound engulfed the entire room. It was so sweet and truly unforgettable.
After everything we went through to get to this point, it felt like we received a special gift created just for us. If it were a few years earlier, I’m sure I would have wanted to tell the whole world about the pregnancy but having been the one on the sidelines for so long when others announced their pregnancies, I knew how overwhelming it could be. We were so happy with our little growing baby that we felt content keeping our precious news to ourselves. In the end, we only told our family and closest friends about our happy news and knew that should anything unforeseen happen, they would be the ones we’d want to rely on to bare the burden.
Crossing the Finish Line (2019)
Although my road towards this point wasn’t an easy one, I was blessed with the gift of an easy and healthy pregnancy. Thanks to hubby’s hard work supporting the both of us while I focused on my health (both before and after I got pregnant), I had the opportunity to experience a dream pregnancy. I had all my days free to cook healthy meals for the baby and me, go to prenatal yoga, have prenatal massages and do everything else recommended for a healthy pregnancy.
In the Spring, my healthy little Bibi was born and she was absolutely perfect with a full head of hair! I felt like we had finally crossed the finish line together. I know there will be many more waiting for the two of us and I’ll try to be right by her side through all of them. If anything, these few years taught me that it’s important to enjoy the journey instead of dreaming about the destination because you just never know where life will lead you.
Not Everyday is Good But There’s Something Good in Everyday
On our first date in a restaurant overlooking a beautiful view of False Creek, hubby and I discovered our shared desire to have children one day in the future. Little did I know the long journey we’d have to take to get there. In a marriage, I realized that sometimes you may be called upon sooner than expected to make good on your wedding vows to love each other for better or for worse. In the last few years, hubby and I stood by each other through some of the most difficult moments in our lives. In no way is our marriage perfect (like all marriages) and I can see how much this particular issue can test even the best of them.
In addition to our fertility issues, we were in a years-long legal battle during that time which consumed a lot of our time and resources, both of which would have been better spent on the former. Coincidentally enough, the lawsuit finally got resolved during my pregnancy and everything seemed to fall into place at the same time. Looking back, I’m so thankful that with the love and support of our family and closest friends, we were able to find happiness and meaning in our lives even during those difficult years. Now everything else we have is just the extra icing on the cake.
I want to thank you readers as well. When I was feeling down, my Indulge with Mimi blog gave me the ability to give birth to new life, an ability that eluded me in real life – albeit in the form of cute macaron bears. At first, blogging and baking were a creative outlet for me which I would work on in my free time when I wasn’t focusing on my health. With support through your loyal readership, my little blog grew to become a full-time job for me. I’m happy to say that I plan on producing even more delicious content for you over at Indulge with Mimi as I continue on my own personal journey here. Thank you for helping me become a #mommyblogger and for showing me that “people who love to eat are always the best people.”
With much love.