Pregnant after multiple miscarriages, Ferlyn tells the inside story of how her only child did not come easy.
WORDS RACHEL KWEK
Married in June 2011, Ferlyn was elated when she found out she was pregnant for the first time in September 2011. Little did she expect that she would lose her first baby and a few more before she finally had a child of her own to love and raise.
The First Pregnancy
Suffering from a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome meant that Ferlyn could not ovulate and had to rely on fertility treatments in order to conceive. She was surprised that her first cycle of clomid, a fertility medicine that causes the pituitary gland to release hormones needed to stimulate ovulation, helped her conceive. Everything went so well and she did not have any morning sickness.
The OSCAR test (to detect any foetal anomalies) and another detailed scan showed no cause for worry. So when Ferlyn started to have some mucus discharge at 24 weeks pregnant, she brushed it off thinking that it was common in pregnancy. Several days later, she thought it could be a urinary tract infection and consulted a doctor. That night, she went into labour without even realising it. She recalls not being able to hear her foetus’ heartbeat when the doctor who first examined her asked her to. As she was wheeled into the delivery suite, she heard the earlier doctor tell the doctor in the suite what would make any mother-to-be’s blood curdle: no foetal heartbeat was found. After an ultrasound scan, the latter doctor confirmed her worst fears. Her baby had died.
“I was quite calm at that time. Perhaps I was too shocked to react,” Ferlyn says. The nurse who helped deliver the baby asked Ferlyn if she wanted to carry him. She wanted to but her husband stopped her. Suppressing the fear she had, she received her baby from the nurse. That was when she broke down. She recounts, “My heart sank. I cried so hard that I couldn’t even see my boy even though we were so near. Tears just keep flowing and flowing. I blamed myself for not going in earlier.”
In the hope of recovering from the loss of her child, Ferlyn was eager to conceive again soon. Though she conceived again three months later in May 2012, it turned out to be a chemical pregnancy – a very early miscarriage.
Hopes Raised and Dashed
After the chemical pregnancy, Ferlyn took a break. It was not until April 2013 that Ferlyn and her husband decided to go for a fertility treatment called superovulation intrauterine insemination (SO-IUI). Superovulation is a procedure through which two to three eggs are stimulated to mature and be released from the ovaries. This procedure is usually carried out together with intrauterine insemination, to increase the chances of conception.
As if to make up for what she had lost, Ferlyn found herself expecting triplets. However, her doctor told her that one sac looked small and would most likely not grow. A subsequent scan revealed that only two of the three sacs grew. She and her husband were contented to be blessed with twins. Like during her first pregnancy, she breezed through the first 21 weeks of her third pregnancy without any morning sickness or discomfort.
During her twenty-second week, she had the same mucus discharge she had during her first pregnancy. Fear set in. She monitored the situation and consulted a gynaecologist. Ferlyn was horrified to learn that her cervix was 2cm dilated. She underwent a cerclage surgery to stitch up her cervix but she had an infection and her contractions couldn’t be stopped. Sadly, Ferlyn lost her twins – a boy and a girl – when they were 22 weeks and two days old in early September. “I didn’t know whether they were alive or not. My girl was still in her sac. I asked if she was moving but the nurse didn’t even bother to open the sac to check,” she says.
Since she first conceived in September 2011, Ferlyn had lost five children over three pregnancies.
Trying for the Fourth Time
The multiple losses had dented her confidence to carry her baby to term. Ferlyn says, “After the loss of my twinnies, I didn’t feel the urge to get pregnant like when I lost my firstborn.” What actually prompted her to try for a child again was the onset of her menses. Owing to PCOS, her ovulation (and thus period) was as infrequent as twice a year and she could only start on a new SO-IUI cycle when her period came.
After some serious thought, Ferlyn went back to her gynaecologist to start the SO-IUI procedure. The situation was far from ideal; her follicles were growing very slowly despite her being injected with the same dose of medication that had led to the conception of her twins. Although a higher dose was initially given, her doctor decided to halt the treatment to lower the risk of multiple pregnancies. While she tested positive for ovulation subsequently, scans showed the absence of mature follicles. Eventually, they had to abandon the fertility treatment cycle as there were too many follicles growing at the same rate (at least six or seven). By this time, she had already spent between $10,000 to $15,000 on fertility treatments.
Finally, a Ray of Hope
She was told to try naturally. Two weeks later, her pregnancy test came back positive. “My hubby and I were so thrilled! But at the same time, I was so worried that history might repeat itself,” Ferlyn says.
Not a day went by without her worrying about how her baby was doing inside her tummy and whether she would be able to carry it to term.
Every time she visited her gynaecologist for her routine check-up, she was so afraid to be told that her baby had no heartbeat. Her blood pressure was constantly high and at 13 weeks pregnant, she was deemed to be at high risk of developing pre-eclampsia. At 14 weeks pregnant, she had a cervical cerclage put in place to prevent pre-term labour. She had to be put on bed rest in view of her susceptibility to miscarriages and that added to her financial strain. There were also people who said nasty and insensitive things to her. She was on medication to prevent pre-term labour and pre-eclampsia and shares, “At one point, I had to take 21 pills a day just to keep this pregnancy going.”
While Ferlyn’s worry of getting pre-eclampsia did not materialise, she was admitted to the hospital at 30 weeks due to high blood pressure. Into the thirty-fifth week of pregnancy, a scan revealed that not only was her baby in breech position, he did not grow between the thirty-fourth to thirty-fifth weeks. Taking into account these observations and the pre-term contractions she was experiencing, her gynaecologist decided that the time was ripe for her to deliver her baby. Damon was born on 9 October 2014 at exactly 35weeks, weighing in at only 2.065g at birth.
Learning from Her Arduous Journey to Motherhood
Losing her babies not once but thrice has affected Ferlyn profoundly. “To me, life will never be the same again. There’s always a part of me that died together with my babies,” she says. She reminds herself that it is alright to cry and to take as long as she needs to grieve. Adding to her belief in the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, Ferlyn says her rocky road to motherhood has made her feel that she has grown up a little, learned new things and learned to see things from a different perspective. “It’s at times like this you know who will be there for you and never give up on you,” she says. She credits her husband as the greatest pillar in her life and believes the constant support from her family and friends, that had enabled her to get up on her feet in the past, would continue to give her strength on her new mum journey.