I came across this article by Straits Times correspondent Li Xueying – Loss and love on the journey to parenthood and it instantly reminded me of our own journey. While it was not marked by miscarriages, it was also filled with multiple losses in the form of periods arriving each month. Any person who has faced infertility will understand how heartbreaking it is when you realise you have failed multiple times and you start doubting yourself and your body’s ability to sustain a pregnancy.
My family has a history of uterine fibroids and I had open surgery in 2010 to remove multiple fibroids. My gynae recommended that if I wanted to have children, it was best to start soon after as fibroids have a tendency to return within 5 years in 20% of women. I was 30 and knew I had 5 years before my fertility would decline significantly as well. So after I recovered, we started planning to have a baby.
One thing to note is that doctors in Singapore cannot assist couples who are not married with fertility treatment. IUI and IVF procedures are strictly reserved for straight married couples who have proven fertility problems. Essentially this means that to access fertility treatment including things such as fertility medication, ultrasound scans and IUI, you need to travel out of Singapore.
Since we knew no other couples who were in the same boat as us, we had to make it up as we went along. We did online research and found out about all the available methods. By March of 2011, armed with our mountain of research, we started trying.
It took us over 15 months to get pregnant. Along the way we tried everything from turkey baster method at home to IUI (Intrauterine insemination) to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medication). It didn’t help that we did not have sperm on tap as most straight couples do. So I needed to be very sure of my ovulation day so we could do insemination on the exact days.
I woke up every morning at the same time so I could take my basal body temperature and track my ovulation. When that didn’t seem accurate enough, I bought a saliva test kit, multiple ovulation sticks and even tried fertility tea. We eventually ended up starting a ecommerce store to sell ovulation sticks and pregnancy test sticks because we were spending so much on it every month. I peed on so many sticks that I became an expert on aiming my pee on a tiny strip of paper.
There were a couple of times where I thought I was pregnant and we saw a faint line on the pregnancy test strip only to have it disappear when my period arrived. Each time that happened, I felt such a keen sense of loss that the tears would just keep flowing. I was fortunate enough to find a great support group online with a lovely group of ladies who were all facing the same problems. As each person in the group got pregnant and had their babies, I was beginning to think it would never happen for us. We were a few months away from doing IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) when we finally got pregnant with Zoey.
Some time ago, I toyed with the idea of writing a book about our journey and tested it by writing a short paragraph. I am sharing it here. Please give me your thoughts and comments.
I rushed into the tiny toilet stall, flinging my bag onto the steel hook behind the door and pushing my MUJI carry on against it.
Just 30 minutes before the flight and I still had a long walk to the other end of the terminal. As I pulled down my pants and sat down on the toilet seat, I was greeted by an all too familiar sight of red streaks.
My period had arrived.
It was a false positive after all.
I slowly unrolled some toilet paper and folded it into a neat rectangle. My hands heavy, reluctant to be part of this reality. Maybe if I ignored it, it would go away. My mind wandered as my body automatically stuffed the bunch of toilet paper down my undies, stood up and tried to flush away the disappointment.
A whole year since we started trying for a child and we were nowhere close to it. Even this entire trip had yielded no results. Unable to even see the doctor, no clomid prescription, just a vague whisper of a line on a pregnancy test kit, now blown away by the appearance of the unwelcome guest.
As I made the journey across the large terminal, navigating between shops filled with luxury goods and tourist souvenirs, tears started filling my eyes. The fear creeped up, bubbling from the deepest pits of my stomach to rise and lodge itself in my throat. What if I could never get pregnant? As I blinked the tears away, I texted Irene “Managed to check in, rushing to the gate now. Btw, got my period :(”
Her reply made me feel a little better “It’s ok dear, we talk when you get back and see what else we can do ok?”
I couldn’t wait to board the plane and get home. I needed to grieve in a safe place. And that place was in her arms.
This is as far as I got. I hope to eventually write this book and tell the story of how we finally were blessed with little baby Zoey.
Photo taken on the day we found out I was truly pregnant with Zoey.