Monday October 8, 2012
Hanging on to hope
By S. INDRAMALAR
Hope gives us the strength to press on as we negotiate unexpected twists and turns in our journey through life.
SOME women yearn to be mothers: their hearts melt every time they see children (both naughty and nice) and they thrive on the challenge of someday bringing up their own brood. Sharon Teoh was never one of these women. In fact, she knew quite early on in life that she did not want to have children of her own.
“I never could stand children who are noisy, disobedient and hyperactive.
Unfortunately, this describes most children in the world. Having had a lot of exposure to seriously naughty and disobedient children while I was growing up – nephews and nieces as well as children of friends – I was certain I would never have any of my own,” Teoh shares.
Her stand did not change even after she got married. In fact, when her then boyfriend Ryan Tan proposed, Teoh made sure he knew she was serious about not wanting children.
“He really loves children and he still wanted to marry me. I must say that was really something,” recalls Teoh who is from Johor Baru.
She also informed both her parents and her parents-in-law of her decision so that they would not harbour any expectations.
Life, however, had other plans for Teoh.
After she got married in 2006, Teoh moved to Kuala Lumpur where her husband was based. She tried to get a job but was unsuccessful for months. A year into her marriage, Teoh and her husband were offered a joint venture to set up and manage an education centre in Khon Kaen, north-east Thailand.
“We decided to take up the offer. We were required to be in Khon Kaen for a year, with the possibility of an extension should we not complete our tasks within the year. The education centre in Khon Kaen is something like a tuition centre but it includes a kindergarten and nursery for young children. Our job was to set up the English Department of the centre and to train the teachers to teach English. We were not involved at all with the kindergarten or nursery,” she says.
The couple left for Khon Kaen in January 2007.
Teoh immediately started drawing up the syllabus for the centre’s English Language programmes, while Tan worked on marketing both for the centre and its programmes.
However, things do not always go according to plan and Teoh ended up doing the very thing she least expected to – working with children in the kindergarten!
“Soon after we arrived, I learnt that our business partner needed help in the kindergarten as they were short of teachers. I agreed to help but after a couple of months, I regretted it. It’s hard enough working with children ... but try working with children who don’t speak or understand English! I thought of giving up but then I saw how much the other teachers appreciated my help and I stuck on.
“I learnt to speak Thai and when I saw that I was actually helping (both the children and the teachers), I pushed myself to carry on.”
Eventually, Teoh began to enjoy working with the kids.
“They changed me. I can’t explain it ... maybe it is their child-like innocence or the purity of their actions that touched me. I don’t really know what it was but I started to like being with them. They were still naughty and disobedient but all that didn’t bother me anymore. In fact, apart from just working with them in the classroom, I decided to photograph them as they played outdoors. I took action shots of them having fun. I developed the photos and gave them to their families.
They were so excited to see themselves on film. Their parents were happy because no one had ever done that for their children,” she shares adding that many of the children were from low-income families.
After the year was over, Teoh did not want to come back to Kuala Lumpur, and neither did her husband. They tried to find another job but were unsuccessful and pretty soon it was time for them to say goodbye to the children.
It was not an easy thing to do as Teoh had become attached to them and vice-versa.
“Saying goodbye was painful and I was heartbroken to leave them. The children asked me why I was leaving and one mischievous boy asked me if I would stay if he behaved himself. I had to hold back my tears,” she shares.
Upon her return to Kuala Lumpur, Teoh continued to think about the children she had left behind and she called the other teachers a few times to find out how they were.
And then it hit her: she wanted to be a mother.
“I had the urge to have my own child. I thought that maybe I could be a good mother, after all. I told my husband about my feelings and he was very happy. So were my parents and in-laws,” she says.
Unfortunately, Teoh had an obstacle to get past before she could conceive. When she was in her 20s, Teoh discovered that she had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
“Multiple pea-sized cysts were found in both my ovaries. I was told that my condition was mild. And despite them being diagnosed as benign, I was told I probably couldn’t conceive.
In the beginning, this didn’t matter to me as I didn’t plan on having children. The only way to remove the cysts was by way of a laser operation which would cost RM6,000 per ovary. It was too expensive and I decided to wait. To prevent further growths, my gynaecologist placed me on birth control pills after reassuring me that there were no major irreversible side effects. I was to take them until I wished to conceive,” she says.
Upon returning from Khon Kaen in February 2008, Teoh visited another gynaecologist to check on the condition of her ovaries. To her surprise, there were no traces of PCOS at all.
“Upon conducting the scan, the doctor asked, ‘What PCOS? Nothing!’ I saw the scan and noticed that both my ovaries had absolutely no spots, unlike the previous scan. I was thrilled. I assumed the medication had cured me but the doctor explained that there was no cure for PCOS and that the medication was just to prevent the spread.”
Today, Teoh is the proud mother of two healthy children – her daughter Shervon is three, and her son Reynold is one. She is certain that it was divine intervention that got her the job in Thailand and cured her of PCOS.
“Teaching and being with the children in Thailand was a life-changing experience. It changed my mind about having children.
When you are fixed on something like I was, something major has to happen to change my mindset. Being in Thailand opened my mind and once that happened, well, I guess God removed the obstacle. I share my story, especially about the PCOS, because I don’t want people to give up hope. There is always hope. And though all of us will have different experiences, we should never give up hope,” she adds.
Teoh says that she has become a lot more tolerant.
“Thankfully, my daughter is really obedient and well-behaved. Since her brother came along, she has been seeking a little more attention but even if she misbehaves, she will listen when corrected. I really feel very blessed to have them.”
Motherhood is incredible
I never thought I would be a mother one day. My two children are the best things that have happened to me. I guess everything happens for a reason. If it weren’t for my experience in Thailand, I would have missed out on the joy of motherhood. That’s how life is. You never know what comes next just like some of the incredible experiences I came across on www.projectlis ten.com.my that touched me. It’s amazing and I really hope more people will be able to share their life-changing experiences.