Monday, September 6, 2021

My Infertility Story

 Recently I started watching/following a young couple, Reid and Cari, and their family on You Tube.  They live in Honolulu, HI.  They also started a Podcast talking about different subjects.  I haven't listened to all of the podcasts, they've done 7 so far.  Today they shared their very personal story of their journey regarding infertility.  I was very interested in listening to it, so I did.

I have my own story of dealing with infertility and so I thought maybe I should share my here it is...

I struggled with my monthly periods during my teen years.  I was always regular, however dealt with very painful periods.  There was a time after I graduated from high school that I was having very painful cramps and so my mother took me to the family doctor, a Chinese doctor.  It would be the first time that I would have a pelvic examination.  He told my mother that I had "pus bags" on my ovaries and told me to use a hot water bottle on my stomach and it should pass.  So I did and I did have some relief after a few days.

I married the first time in November of 1961.  A few months later my then husband took me to the clinic on base at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA.  I was 3 months pregnant.  Unfortunately that pregnancy would not last and I lost that baby.  I then began to experience all kinds of problems with my monthly periods.  I went as long as 7 months without a period and was not pregnant.  We were living in Pasadena, CA by then, doctors I went to could not figure out what was wrong.

In 1965 we moved back to Oceanside, CA where we bought our first home.  I was still having problems with my monthly periods.  In 1967 I was referred to a gynecologist who specialized in infertility and menstrual problems.  First, he advised we needed to find out why my menstrual cycle was so messed up.  He wanted to do some exploratory surgery.  I agreed and so the surgery was performed.  The exploratory part was done first.  I was put on my stomach, resting on my knees and elbows and a scope was inserted through the vagina...a very awkward position,  There were 4 nurses helping to hold me in that position.  It was discovered that both my ovaries were enlarged and covered with cysts.  (This may have been the "pus bags" my family doctor mentioned back in 1960).  There was a lot of fluid there also.  My fallopian tubes were clear which was a good sign.  I was immediately turned over, given a general anesthesia and surgery was performed.  The cysts were cleared away, a wedge section of each of my ovaries was removed and the fluid cleared.  The prognosis was that I should begin to ovulate, have regular periods and hopefully then be able to conceive.

I was put on birth control pills to see it that would help with having my monthly.  As long as I took them everything was fine.  As soon as I went off of them, the problems returned.  In late 1968 I was referred to another gynecologist that also specialized in infertility and menstrual problems.  He had me start taking my temperature every morning before I got out of bed.  That was to see if and when I ovulated.  We did that for a few months to establish a pattern.  In January of 1969, I was put on Clomid, a fertility pill, for 5 days.  I continued to take my temperature and when my temperature spiked (that meant I was ovulating), we were to have sex.  After the 5 days, I went back to the doctor and had my blood taken.  We had to do 2 tests, the first one came back negative, the second one was positive.

And so the long journey had come to an end (of sorts), I was finally pregnant, February 1969.  The pregnancy was full of apprehension and uncertainty.  I had to have a hormone shot each month, one every week towards the end, just to ensure that I was able to carry to full term.

In November 1969 I delivered a beautiful baby girl via C-section.  Even the labor/delivery part was full of problems.  She was definitely an answer to my prayers.

Reid and Cari talked about the emotional ups and downs they have experienced in their continuing journey.  I can certainly relate to that.  There was utter frustration and disappointment when each month passed and I was not pregnant or was not having a period.  I resented friends who were pregnant and avoided being around them.  There was one family who lived across the street from us.  They had a son and daughter.  The husband went to Viet Nam and soon after he got home, they were expecting another child.  I spent every day at their house and was with my friend the day she went into labor.  After their daughter was born, I was there at their house spending time with their baby.  I became so attached to her.

My marriage ended a year after my daughter was born.

When I met my present husband I was relieved when he shared he was not interested in having more children.  His youngest was 8 years old at the time.  I had had a hysterectomy about 3 years before meeting him.  My menstrual problems continued after my pregnancy, I was divorced and had no plans for another child and so having a hysterectomy seemed like the perfect solution to take care of the problem.

Over the years I have known other women who have had similar problems as I did.  The emotional toll can be unbearable at times.

I am so grateful to the two doctors who helped me with my problems.  My Denise is so precious to me.  I am so absolutely blessed to be her mother.  My prayers were answered!

In closing, I should mention that I was the first Clomid patient in North San Diego County.  It was also thought I was going to have twins due to an enlarged uterus.  Taking Clomid did sometimes result in multiple births.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Mother's Day, 2021 - The Women in My Family

 On Sunday, May 9, 2021, Mother's Day will be celebrated.

I got to thinking about the women in my family, the mothers...and I wanted to acknowledge them this year.

Starting in the Chung-Hoon Family:

Mary Kuamo'o, my great grandmother.  She was born in 1800 and died in 1896.  She married Chung-Hoon, my great grandfather, who arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1850 from China. She was the mother of my grandfather, William Chung-Hoon, Sr.

Alo K. Akina, my grandmother.  She was born in 1874 and died in 1935.  She married my grandfather, William Chung-Hoon, Sr.  She was mother to 3 daughters and 2 sons, one of them being my father.

Harriet Maiakaala, my great grandmother and mother of Alo K. Akina, my grandmother.  She was born in 1856 and died in 1893.  She married Goo Tuck Ching Akina who also arrived in the Hawaiian Islands from China.  She was mother to 6 children.

Hulihe'e Family:

Bernice Kealoha Hulihe'e Chung-Hoon, my mother.  She was born in 1914 and died in 2002.  She married my father, Ernest Ha'akua Chung-Hoon.  She was mother to 6 children, I am her 3rd child.

Kaliko Chun Tai Ah Tai, my great grandmother.  She was born in 1866 and died in 1923.  She was married to Poyga Kuapalulu Hulihe'e, my great grandfather.  She was mother to 4 children including my grandfather, David Hinai Hulihe'e.

Kalei Kauho'okahi Lolo, my 2nd great grandmother.  She was born in 1823 and died in 1900.  She was married to Kupapaulu Hulihe'e.  They were the parents of Poyga Kuapalulu Hulihe'e.  She was mother to 8 children.

Napia, my 3rd great grandmother.  She was the mother of Kalei Kauho'okahi Lolo.

Rubina Ake, my 4th great grandmother.  She died in 1899.  She was the mother of Napia.

Camara Family:

Evangeline Camara Hulihe'e aka Angeline Jacinth, my grandmother.  She was born in 1896 and died in 1990.  She was married to David Hinai Hulihe'e, my grandfather.  She was mother to 6 children, my mother being the oldest.

Maria Moniz, my great grandmother.  She was born in Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal and died in Kealia, Kaua'i, KOH.  She was married to August Jacinth Camara.  She was mother to 8 children.

Gertrude deJesus Sousa, my 2nd great grandmother.  She was born in 1852 and died in 1938.  She was married to Manuel Moniz of Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal.  They traveled to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1880's with two children.  Ten more children were born on the island of Kaua'i.

To complete the picture, I, Violet-Elizabeth Chung-Hoon Townsend, born 1942, am mother to Denise Noelani Bledsoe Lane, born 1969.  Denise's daughter is Rebekah-Elizabeth Noelani Lane Cross, born 1993.  Rebekah's daughter is Esther Hope Cross, born 2018.

A heartfelt Thank You to those mothers of my family who came before me.  Happy Mother's Day to my daughter and granddaughter...and someday my great granddaughter will follow.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Leaving Home --- The First Year

On January 13, 1962, at 11:55 pm, I boarded a World Airways airplane at Honolulu International Airport.  The flight would take me to Oakland, CA where I would meet my new husband.  It was the beginning of married life for me to a young Marine.

It would be a very long 13 hour flight landing in Oakland at 1:30 pm the afternoon of January 14, 1962.  Because it was January, everything looked so dreary.  I immediately wanted to go back home.  The only good thing was that John was at the bottom of the steps waiting for me.

My mother had made me a new outfit to travel in...a beautiful powder blue wool dress with a powder blue coat made out of velour fabric.  My grandmother had given me money with instructions to go to Liberty House and purchase a pair of black patent leather pumps, a black hat, black purse and gloves.  It was a beautiful outfit, yet I had been so uncomfortable while on the plane and having to sit for hours.  Smoking was allowed on the plane during those days and I was absolutely miserable from the smoke.

Grandma had also sent a bouquet of red anthuriums to deliver to her sister, Ida, that lived in Oakland.  John had a couple of uncles that lived in Castro Valley and he had borrowed the car of the uncle I would be staying with.  So after finding a pay phone to call Aunty Ida and getting directions, we drove over to her house.  Most of her family gathered at her house for Sunday dinner and so I got to meet family members I didn't know.  I had met Aunty Ida once when I was a young girl.  We visited for a little bit then drove over to John's Uncle Charles's place.  Charles and his wife Alice lived in an apartment over a dry cleaners.  It was just a 1 bedroom apartment and not very big.  Charles and Alice were just a little bit older than John and I.  John was 20 and I was 19.

My first dinner in California was tacos.  I had never had them and wasn't too sure what they were.  It took one bite to decide I didn't like them.  Alice had put some hot spice in the meat and I could not eat them.  I had never had ice tea either.  I drank lots of it that night to cover the burning of my mouth.  I decided then I did not like Mexican food and I still don't like it although I probably eat more of it these days.  I even will fix tacos once in awhile.

Mom had lots of relatives in the Bay Area.  There was one cousin who lived in Hayward, Julius and Mary Alfaro.  Julius's mother was my grandmother's younger sister.  I had met them when they traveled to the islands on a vacation.  Mom wanted me to visit them, which we did do the 2nd Sunday I was in California.  We had a lovely visit.  Mary  asked me what I would be doing with myself while John had to be in Oakland.  I told her I didn't know.  So she told me she would come over and pick me after she dropped her children off at school and I could spend the day with her.  I was so relieved when she told me that.  The first week I had been at John's uncles was absolutely miserable.  He was laid off from his job so he was home during the day.  They lived on the main street through Castro Valley where a lot of businesses were located.  I went for a lot of walks that first week so I wouldn't be in the apartment all day.  Alice was going to beauty school so she was gone all day.  She would be so irritated when she came in at night and I was very uncomfortable being there.  

It was great being with Mary during the day.  She taught me how to cook a few dishes and taught me things like how to set a table, table manners and lots of other fun things.  Her Italian neighbor Anna would come over sometimes and loved visiting with her.  One morning when Mary came to get me she walked up to the apartment and knocked on the door.  Usually she would pull into the back parking lot and honk and I would walk down to her car.  When I answered the door, she told me "get your things, you are going home with me".  She told me that she was not happy with me being there with Charles alone, so she was taking me home.  John found out where I was when he got his weekend leave and hitch hiked to Castro Valley.  Charles told him where I was.  He actually was relieved Mary had come for me.

I was so homesick.  I missed my Dad most of all.  And I missed the type of food we ate at home.  I was not too much into "haole" food. 😀  It was such a huge adjustment, being so young and immature did not help much.  But it was my new life, I agreed to marry someone who would take me away from all that was familiar to me and I had to learn to adjust to my new life with all the unknowns.

I would be at Mary's until John was released from the Naval hospital.  He had a medical condition while he was stationed in Hawai'i and was sent to the Naval Hospital in Oakland for treatment.  He reported in to Treasure Island for a few days while he awaited his orders to his new duty station.  His orders were to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA (north San Diego County).  He had to report in at 1600 (4:00 pm) on a Wednesday (don't remember the date, it was early March) and so we packed up our few belongings, loaded them into a Chrysler car that we bought for $150 and left about 8:00 pm on a Tuesday night to drive to Oceanside.  We drove down Highway 101, through San Francisco and down the coast.  Soon after leaving the Bay Area we hit very thick fog and just had to creep along not really being able to see the roadway very well.  By the time we got close to Los Angeles it was early morning so the driving became easier.  

We arrived in Oceanside about noon on the Wednesday and immediately bought a newspaper so we could find an apartment.  The first apartment we looked at was across from the beach and the Pacific Ocean.  It was a studio apartment for $50/month, with a deposit of $50.  We had about $100 and so we were able to convince the land lady to waive the deposit.  The apartment was upstairs in the main building.  This property had been a motel that was turned into apartments.  It was a large complex and most of the tenants were military.  We were able to move right in.  We had two rooms, one being the living room/ had a sofa bed...and the other room was the kitchen.  There was a bathroom between our studio and the one next door and we had to share the bathroom.  I wasn't sure I was going to like that, however it turned out to work rather well.  Our neighbors were a great couple.

There was a window in the kitchen that looked out to the street and the ocean.  One day I was standing there looking out and asked John if I looked hard enough, did he think I could see Hawai'i.  He laughed and said to look all I wanted.

Our neighbor on the other side of us had a lot of people coming and going.  We would discover that she was a "lady of the night" and it was young Marines coming to visit.  

John had 13 months to do until he was discharged from active duty.  That year we spent in Oceanside was fantastic.  We lived in the studio for a few months then moved into a 1 bedroom across the hall.  John's buddy from Hawai'i had been transferred to Camp Pendleton and he spent a lot of time with us.  He wanted to get out of the barracks so we rented the bigger apartment so he could share it with us.  John had put in for housing on base so we were in the 1 bedroom just for a couple of months.  We were able to get a trailer on base for $42 a month.  It was the size of a small travel trailer but it worked for us.  Brent would sleep over once in a while, sleeping on the couch in the living room.

After we had been there for a few months, John got orders to go to Mau'i TDY with another guy.  We packed me up and I went to stay with one of my sisters in Simi Valley, north of Los Angeles.  I was going to be there for a month, had to sell our car and then go home while John was on Maui.  I was able to go home, however soon as I got there, he told me he had orders to return to Camp Pendleton.  I had to stay at home for a month before I could return to California.  I spent Thanksgiving with my family that year and our 1st anniversary apart.

Unfortunately that marriage would end in October 1971.  There were too many strikes against us to make it work.  Our only child was born in November 1969.  He left when she was 10 months old and it took a year for the divorce to be final because we got back together for a few months.

In our Bible Study at church we are studying 12 women of the Bible.  Yesterday we talked about Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The theme of her story was her courage.  She was a young girl, a virgin, when she was visited by the angel Gabriel, with the message that she would bear a child.  She showed such courage...being willing to accept what the message meant for her.  Since yesterday was the anniversary of my coming to a new place, I thought of the courage it took for me to walk onto that airplane and go to a new place, begin a new life that I was so unprepared for.  I've also thought of the courage it took to live out the days of being alone with a very young child to raise.  It was a huge struggle and there were times when I thought I couldn't do it, yet I kept on going.  That took courage.

A constant in my entire life has been that I know I have someone who has always been with me, guiding me a long the way, holding my hand, surrounding me with gentle arms and huge amounts of love...that someone being my Lord and Savior, Jesus.