Infertility is difficult to deal with, not to mention a sensitive subject to discuss. This courageous lady steps up to share her own IVF journey in the hopes of helping others in a similar situation.
WORDS RACHEL KWEK
Why her and not me?” Adeline recounts how she constantly struggled with this question, especially when she learnt about yet another pregnancy on Facebook. The jealousy was intense, she admitted, and it didn’t matter if the pregnant person was her friend. “It might sound extremely crazy and self-centred to you, but trust me, unless you have gone through the whole infertility thing, you will not, and cannot, understand what it’s like.”
She said she would look at every woman and wonder if she was pregnant and could tell when someone is because of the strong “pregnancy radar” that, in her opinion, every woman with fertility issues somehow develop.
Adeline and her husband, C, were extremely optimistic the first time her gynaecologist suggested that she try Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) in 2009 because she had heard about the higher success rate for women below 35 like herself. IUI is a fertility treatment that involves placing sperm directly into the uterus during the ovulation period. This process maximises the number of sperm cells that reach the fallopian tubes to fertilise the eggs, thus increasing the chances of pregnancy. Thinking that she would be pregnant soon, Adeline refrained from buying clothes and shoes for two weeks while she anticipated good news since she thought she would need to get them in bigger sizes. Her husband had tried to moderate her expectations of getting pregnant on the first try, but she said she had stubbornly refused to listen. And when her period came that month, she was devastated. “It was so hard to go to work and act as though everything was fine and dandy, when all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and cry.”
Though she understood their intentions, words of encouragement from her well-meaning friends often ended up making her feel worse. They would tell her things like: “Maybe God doesn’t want you to have a baby yet. If it’s not happening, there must be a reason for it.” and “You’re still young, why don’t you try for a while more before going for IVF?”
Adeline’s faith was waning and she stopped going to church for a while as she felt exasperated that her prayers were not answered. C didn’t push her when she didn’t want to go to church, and reminded her frequently that even if they never had a baby, she would still have him. The intense longing to be pregnant fed the gnawing emptiness inside Adeline. “He told me that if it really bothered me that much, we could look into adoption, but I refused to consider it, because I really wanted to be pregnant and give birth to our child.”
Taking a Break
When eight eggs stubbornly refused to be fertilised on the third failed IUI attempt, Adeline decided to take no-pay leave, because she and C thought that the stress from her job might have been a factor in the unsuccessful attempts. C also quit his job to pursue his MBA. The couple took a break from the jabs and scans and travelled to Europe where they tried to forget about trying for a baby and enjoyed time with each other. Adeline said, “In a fairytale, this would have been the time I got pregnant, but since we live in the real world, I didn’t.”
One Last Try
Not willing to give up, Adeline and C decided to give IUI one last shot. Adeline was injected with more drugs than usual and managed to produce thirteen eggs. “I was so bloated that people thought I was five months pregnant, and many people asked me if I was pregnant (which really didn’t help). Again, I let my guard down, and dared to hope that I would be able to conceive this time round, because I was well-rested and happy. When I first saw the blood stains, I hoped that it was from implantation bleeding, but deep down inside, I knew the IUI didn’t work.” The nurse at the clinic suggested a pregnancy test, which raised her hopes a bit, but the result was negative. “By then, I had seen so many negative results that I should have been immune to them, but each negative result just made me feel even worse. I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to give C a baby, and there was a lot of pressure from my mother-in-law too.”
Renewed Hope: Going for IVF
Determined to have a baby to call their own, Adeline and C spoke to a friend who had conceived through IVF and consulted her gynaecologist. A battery of tests later, the doctor recommended IVF and the couple decided to take the plunge.
They got themselves emotionally prepared by undergoing a mandatory pre-IVF counselling session and a briefing on the entire IVF procedure. Adeline was put on the pill for 28 days and C helped her with the two injections she had to self-administer daily. “It was really tough for me to stick a needle into my belly each time. It made a big difference to me that C was more involved, and I appreciated being able to squeeze my eyes shut during the injections, instead of fretting over whether I’m doing it right,” she recalls
However, she had Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), a situation in which too many ovarian follicles develop in response to the medication given to stimulate the ovaries. This caused her a lot of discomfort; not only was she experiencing painful cramps, she could not urinate properly as well. Adeline was disappointed that only 16 of the 26 eggs revealed during a scan were extracted as the rest were empty. Hopes that the pain would ease after the eggs were harvested for IVF quickly vanished as the pain only intensified. “I have a terrible fear of vomiting, and would usually try my best to suppress the puke, but this was so bad that I couldn’t even swallow the anti-nausea pill, and had to rush to the toilet. That was probably the worst night in the entire process, and we were worried that my OHSS would be so bad that the embryo transfer couldn’t be done.” The following day, her doctor told her that all the eggs that underwent the normal IVF procedure were not fertilised. It was through this procedure called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) that directly injecting sperm into the eggs yielded six viable embryos. Two of them were implanted into Adeline’s womb on that day itself whereas the other four were frozen for future use.
“The two-week wait after the embryo transfer seemed like forever, and was made worse when C had to travel then. I stayed with my parents, who were extremely supportive through the entire process,” Adeline shares. “I worried constantly, especially when I didn’t feel pregnant at all.” She started developing cramps about one week later, and each time she went to the toilet, she would pray fervently that she wouldn’t see any blood. After a blood test, Adeline and C anxiously awaited news.
Adeline was alone at home when a nurse called and said, “So erm, you’re pregnant.”
She had waited for so long to hear those words. She called C immediately to tell him, and that night, she insisted on buying a pregnancy test kit to verify that it was all real. A show of two lines sealed the deal.
The Wait is Over
Noah was born on 23 July 2012. “Getting pregnant was tough, and staying pregnant was also a challenge.” Adeline says. “I experienced bleeding on a few occasions, causing C to cancel a few of his work trips, and had to be put on bed rest a few times.” She kept reminding herself to stay positive and credits C for being a strong pillar of support throughout her pregnancy.
“Looking back, it must have been really tough for him too, as I know we both really wanted a child, but he wasn’t able to show how affected he was by our infertility, simply because he had to be strong for me, the one who was barely holding it together.”
Adeline, who now blogs about Noah’s antics on Growingwiththetans.com, had her reservations about sharing about how difficult it was for her to conceive Noah, but she hopes it will help couples facing a similar situation.
“Nobody wants to go for IVF. We would much rather be able to conceive naturally, like everyone else, so please, don’t ask us if we are sure we need it.”
Adeline and C are keen to have more children now that Noah is older, and Adeline plans to go through IVF again soon using two of her frozen embryos.