Sunday, 31 May 2015

The movie 'UP' became personal

Remember the 'UP' movie animation?

The childhood friends got married, and they decided to have kids. But they couldn't.. I remember that when I watched it in 2009, for that short 3 minutes at the beginning of the film, I cried for the couple, for not being able to have kids, and subsequently for the man who lost his wife when they grew old. My heart really ached for them.

4 years after that movie, it became personal for me. As I watched the short clip again, I couldn't help but tear again.. I am not sure if we would be like the couple in 'UP' in future..

Infertility issues are not talked about much in society. Pixar and Disney had done a good job including some realistic elements into the cartoon and increasing the awareness of infertility.

Some comments hurt

I'm back at my laptop writing to vent some frustration.. Went to lie on the bed after playing some computer games with the guys, only to find myself in despair.. I guess I was partly affected by the comments made by people who knew about my miscarriages.. I know that everyone meant well, but some comments just didn't help.

Comment #1 (made today)

I had told someone that I wasn't that hungry near dinnertime as I had some chocolates beforehand. The person frowned and said "You have to build up your constitution. Eat healthy - more fish, vegetables."

Thoughts: I have always had a healthy lifestyle. I avoided fatty and oily food. I ate more fish and vegetables than anyone in that family. I exercised - jogged, trekked, did weights etc. I had eaten even healthier during those pregnancies. Why do you have to frown upon me eating a few bits of chocolate? You made it seem as if I had poor constitution and therefore the miscarriages.

Comment #2 (made today)

After that someone said I have to build up my constitution, person no. 2 gave me a "high 5" and said that I could join the "build the constitution" club as she was always falling ill. Then person no. 3 exclaimed "touch wood!" to person no. 2. 

Thoughts: I don't think I even have to elaborate on how hurtful that was.. It just made me feel like a failure..

Comment #3 (always made)

"You are still young. You can always try again."

Thoughts: I don't even think I am that young anymore. Even if I am, so? I have had 3 failed pregnancies in 3 years and the future seems very uncertain now.

Comment #4 (usually made)

"At least you're married. I am still single and you are way ahead of me."

Thoughts: So what if I have gotten married earlier than some people? Many of my peers have already had 1 or 2 babies. And I am faced with an infertility issue. You are single, but you may not have this issue. You may have a smooth journey ahead of you. Is being single now worse than being faced with infertility issues like me?

Again, I know that everyone is trying to help or make me feel better, and they do not mean any harm. But they haven't been through what I have gone through, or experienced the same magnitude of grief and sadness. They wouldn't understand how I would feel with certain comments made..

And tonight, I go to bed feeling like a failure and without much hope left within me... I have been trying to be optimistic, but I don't know how long more I can last before I completely breakdown..

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Being a Social Recluse

Disappointed Friends

Today I had to tell another friend (Friend #1) about my situation as I might have disappointed a group of friends by being a social recluse during my last pregnancy.

I avoided social situations while I was pregnant as I preferred resting at home given that I had a miscarriage before, and did not respond to group chats or messages much. I had agreed to meet the group on a certain day to celebrate a friend's (Friend #2) birthday and pulled out last minute. Suggested another date (a much later date closer to my second trimester) and no one replied. I guessed as much that Friend #2 was upset and I would understand why.. It was an important occasion and I seemed very nonchalant about it. Friend #1 must have been disappointed as well.

Today, one week after the d&c, I felt that I had to arrange a celebration for Friend #2 now that I have recovered. Asked Friend #1 about it and she commented that I had been "missing in action" and that Friend #1 was sad. I had no choice but to let her know about my incident.. and she felt so bad.. I would prefer not to let anyone know about this, but I had to this time as I treasure our friendship.. And I do not blame her for being disappointed in me beforehand as I did not tell her anything.

Friend #1 is one of my few friends who knows about my whole history, and have given me lots of encouragement.

Being a Hermit Crab

Before I lost my innocence, I was always happy to meet and socialize with friends and new people. I would attend most gatherings and parties, and arrange meet ups with different groups of friends. But now, I'm a total hermit crab.. I guess it is part and parcel of infertility, to avoid social situations, to avoid looking at Facebook or Instagram with friends posting about their new borns or toddlers etc.

The first step right now would be to heal myself.. physically and emotionally.. before letting myself out into the world again. Despite the issues you are facing, I feel it is important to continue to keep in touch with your close friends, hang out, laugh together and be happy.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Touching and Inspiring story from a Hong Kong journalist

I came across a recent article (May 2015) written by a journalist from Hong Kong. She had written about the increasing trend of miscarriages 11 years ago. And years later, she experienced the same thing.. 2 miscarriages.. She now has a baby girl, and I am very happy for her.

I hope this article also inspires those who have been through the same. There is hope in everything as long as you believe. Have faith everyone!! <3

Loss and love on the journey to parenthood

As a young reporter 11 years ago, I wrote about an alarming trend: The number of miscarriages in Singapore was going up, up and up.
I got the statistics, spoke to a woman who had experienced a miscarriage, interviewed five doctors and probed a politician on possible ways to address the problem.
It was an assignment to me, a story to be done before I moved on to the next.
A decade on, the issue became personal. Within six months, I had not one, but two miscarriages.
In May 2013, I found out that I was pregnant. It was unplanned but my husband and I, after some initial adjustment, were thrilled.
After all, we had been married for four years but somehow life had got in the way of making space for children: I went overseas to do a master's degree, then waited for a posting as a foreign correspondent. I was then 34, just a year from being defined as a geriatric mother - or what doctors call a woman of advanced maternal age.
We saw a doctor in Hong Kong where we were now based. He did a scan.
Congratulations, he said. There was a gestational sac - the first sign of pregnancy but no yolk or heartbeat. But that's normal, he declared. It's early days yet.
We returned to Singapore for a break and as a surprise to our best friends who had just had a baby. We popped champagne and I had an illicit sip, a toast to the new addition to our group as well as the embryo growing - I thought - inside me.
Back in Hong Kong, we went back to the clinic. The news was not good this time. The sac had not expanded, which meant the pregnancy was not progressing as it should. I'm sorry, said the doctor.
We were upset, of course.
But I sought comfort in research and statistics, including the ones I had cited in my own article from years before. One in five known pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Some of us, I told my husband and myself philosophically, just have to make up the numbers.
We decided I would have the procedure "to clean up" at the public hospital. Like many others who had miscarriages, we told few people. I explained to my office that I had to take a few days off work for a "medical procedure" and left it at that. In hospital, I finished Salman Rushdie's new memoir Joseph Anton and kept tabs on the Edward Snowden saga then unfolding in Hong Kong.
But my husband and I had changed. Within just two short weeks of being pregnant, our world had shifted. We had begun to plan and dream, to think of what it would be like to be parents, from how we would dress the child to what values we would impart.
Two months later, I conceived again. This time, we were not so innocent in our joy. We waited till we saw the heartbeat on the ultrasound screen twice - a red dot pulsating amid a mass of variegated greys and blacks - before we told our parents.
On our third visit, when I was about 11 weeks along, I complained of slight abdominal cramps. Probably just ligament pains as the uterus stretches, the doctor - a different one - reassured me as she moved a transducer over my belly.
My husband, reaching out for his camera to take a photo of the screen, stilled. It was all darkness. The heartbeat had stopped.
This time, there was little bravado left in us. We opted for a private hospital where I would have a dilation and curettage operation that night.
We shared a room with a Hong Kong couple in their early 20s, who we gathered were there for an abortion and were placed in the awkward situation of having to listen to me tearfully break the news to my mum over the phone.
They went first. As they left, the young man whispered: "We're sorry."
Our turn came. In the operating room, my doctor, her pearl necklace shimmering from her surgical scrubs, loomed over me. Later, as I emerged from the haze of general anaesthesia, I blearily asked her: "Did you see if it was a boy or a girl?" She shook her head gently at me.
Silly me. It was all scraped up and sucked out.
Medically, recurrent pregnancy loss is defined as more than two miscarriages in a row. We were two strikes down, one more to go. But as anyone who has gone through miscarriage will know - and without meaning to diminish the pain for those who suffered even more loss - one is one too many.
So we went through test after test searching for causes. Nothing stood out. The only certainty, said the doctor, was my age. Fact is, old eggs are old, which means a higher risk that embryos with genetic abnormalities are incubated.
That there was all this uncertainty made it harder.
It was an invisible grief. We returned to work, looking the same on the outside but bereft within.
There had been no wake, no funeral, no body to be buried. We did not even know what to call our losses - technically they were not babies; the first was "just" an embryo while the second was "old enough" to be a foetus.
I grappled with my feelings. Somehow, society speaks of miscarriages in hushed tones - the word itself seems to suggest some kind of responsibility on the part of women who "mis-carry" their children. See how we use the word when we describe legal travesties as a "miscarriage of justice".
The fact is, why miscarriages happen is often shrouded in mystery, and most times, say doctors, they are beyond one's control. Yet, the secrecy surrounding it leaves much ignorance about the issue.
For many, what we know of miscarriages is what we have seen on television - a woman falling down and ending up with blood on her thighs.
Is it any wonder that many who have gone through it choose to keep silent?
I was fortunate to have family and close friends who gave us enormous support.
My husband and I certainly were not ashamed of what had happened. But we were in pain and we were not sure talking incessantly about it would help.
Furthermore, what could we expect people to say except an awkward "I'm sorry"? Unlike for other bereavement, there is no social ritual for coping with this particular kind of death.
Yet, I did feel an irrational resentment that not more people knew of our losses. It was not exactly sympathy I wanted. It was recognition, I think, that a loss from a miscarriage was felt as keenly as any other.
And, I wonder, if more speak more openly of their experiences, would those who have experienced the same pain feel less alone?
It is a personal issue, and different people will feel differently.
In all honesty, I began writing this only as my husband and I were waiting to welcome our daughter.
Kei An, weighing 3.25kg, measuring 49cm and boasting a nose like her father's, finally arrived last Tuesday, six days past her due date.
Without the hope she represents, I am not sure I could write about our past losses.
But what I do know is that as my husband and I get to know this little one, we will also remember our other babies gone before her.

Tests to be performed and Thoughts

I had a follow-up check up today, a week after the d&c. Everything is fine, there is no pregnancy tissue left, ovaries look ok..

I also confirmed with my gynae the blood tests that are to be performed during my next period, and they included whatever that I've read about online - thyroid levels, antiphospholipid syndrome, thrombophilia, hormone levels, diabetes. He said that there would be no answers 90% of the time for recurrent miscarriages.

I have been thinking the past few days whether I would rather have an underlying issue pinpointed so that treatment can be done, or have the results show no issue at all. I've concluded that no news is good news. If there is no underlying issue surfaced, we can try again with an optimistic view and with precautions if the gynae recommends it, be it baby aspirin, heparin or progesterone supplements. Only time will tell... Waiting for my next period to be here!

Meanwhile, the gynae had given me 'hospitalisation leave' until this Friday. I will be going back to work next week. After my first d&c back in 2014, I was really dreading going back to work as I had announced my pregnancy to my colleagues, and I had to update them about my miscarriage. I just wanted to run away and hide so badly. It was hard holding back my tears as I updated each colleague when they asked me what had happened. This time, I did not announce my pregnancy to anyone except my team... Although my colleagues would probably know what was going on, but at least I have no obligation to update them.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Positive thoughts and more humility

Positive thoughts

It has been 6 days since the last d&c, and I gotta say, I still tear uncontrollably sometimes when I think back about my history. I get dreams associated with it (like yesterday night, I dreamt of friends becoming pregnant, friends asking me about my situation etc). Almost every morning when I wake up, I feel empty and clueless as to what the future would look like.

Starting from today, I told myself that it is time to get rid of the negative thoughts and think positive! Look at the beautiful sun and sky every morning and tell yourself it is a beautiful day. Appreciate every day and moment you have, and build stronger relationships with your husband and family. That's what counts for now!


I also learnt that in experiencing your sorrow, why not make others happy? Happiness is contagious, and smiles everyday will build your inner well-being.

My in laws had been very supportive through this period - sister-in-laws took leave to accompany me during my d&cs, mom-in-law reassures me that this is not my fault.. My mom is simply the greatest - she made sure to cook and bring me food everyday after the d&cs, ordered delivery food for me even when she has to travel, reassures me constantly and says everyone loves me.. My husband - my one and only and the most incredible man - I know he is hurting too but he has been a pillar of support for me, always being so happy go lucky around me and encouraging me. There is nothing more I can ask for.

The only thing I can do is to also be there for them, appreciate them and spend much quality time with them. Bought some birthday gifts for the sis in laws, wrote my Aunt an encouragement card to overcome her tough times, join my husband in his hobbies.

Life goes on

As my whole family is not in town now, my dog has been alone at home! So, we decided to bring him and my in laws' 3 dogs out to a dog park for them to run about. It was happy times for the dogs, and seeing them smile made my day. My schnauzer's smile is contagious hehe!

Despite the uncertainties you're facing, remember that there are also other blessings you have in life, and life goes on! Put a smile on others today.

Tell us about your experience and activities too!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Prayers and Remembrance for the Lost Innocents

I sought solace by saying a little prayer for my lost innocents.. came across this from a website, quote:

“Why, My child—do you ask ‘why’? Well, I will tell you why.

You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty—he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.”

There are also a couple of things you can do to remember your lost innocent. You could create a keepsake box and place things which are relevant or significant to your child into it. Displays like plaques, little statues or stuff bears with stitching or engravings could be done. You could also get a bracelet, necklace or key-chain in remembrance of your child.

I just bought a necklace online with 2 attached birthstones... which is perfect. I had asked for the March (Aquamarine) and December (Zircon) birthstones, the months in which the 2 miscarried children were supposed to be born in. They will forever be in my heart.

Recovering but still hurting emotionally

Recovery after D&C

After having been through 2 D&Cs, I can conclude that the recovery is pretty fast. Bleeding stopped after 2 days or so. There are random minor twinge/ache/cramps that do not persist. I guess it's part of healing process for my uterus.

My body is also trying to adjust back to pre-pregnancy days.. My boobs are still slightly sore. I still have a tummy probably from bloating and the amount of food I ate while in the first trimester. I try not to think about the tummy too much, as it is still the same size as when I was pregnant, but I know that there is no baby in there now.

Still Hurting Emotionally

I randomly commented to my husband yesterday night about how a 'good' baby is supposed to be resilient in the womb, just like how it is hard to shake a good apple off the tree. And that I should act more naturally in the first trimester rather than being tense about everything.

He said something that made my heart ached and I teared uncontrollably. "My grandparents will take good care of our kids." His grandparents had passed away a few years back.

I have been too caught up thinking about what went wrong and my 'bad luck', that I haven't been spending time thinking about our lost child.. I felt utterly guilty for that, and yet I felt calm knowing that our lost children are safely in his grandparents' hands in heaven. While I was still pregnant, I tried to bond with our child every day and night, hoping that my womb was comfortable enough for him/her, and saying that we would get through the pregnancy together as a team.. I am very sorry to have hurt them in any way, and I hope it wasn't too painful for them. God bless them and I hope for the very best for them, as their mother, wherever they are...... Mommy will see you someday..

Possible reasons for recurrent miscarriages

So I've looked through many websites on the possible reasons for recurrent miscarriages, and here's a list of them:

1) Chromosomal abnormalities, which may happen by chance. It accounts for at least 60% of miscarriages. The fetal tissue can be taken to the lab for testing, which would reveal if it is chromosomally normal. If it is, then you can look for other issues which may be responsible for the recurrent miscarriages.
2) Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS), which is found in 15% of women with recurrent miscarriages. These women have high levels of antiphospholipid antibodies At times these antibodies may see a sperm or embryo as a foreign object. Doctors may prescribe aspirin or heparin for this but there have been insufficient studies proving the quality of this treatment.
3) Thrombophilia, a blood clotting disorder which is something you're born with. It also explains 15% of recurrent miscarriages. Again, medication can be given but there has been insufficient studies for this treatment.
4) Abnormally shaped uterus or weak cervix. These are rare conditions and an ultrasound scan can be done to look at your womb for abnormalities.
5) Thyroid problems or uncontrolled diabetes.
6) Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
7) Bacterial infection.
8) Lifestyle, which includes smoking, drinking, doing drugs etc.
9) Genetic problems, whereby one partner or both partners may have abnormal chromosomes which doesn't cause a problem until it gets passed on to the baby. Karyotyping can be done both both partners and if there is a genetic problem, genetic counselling can be done.

I believe there are different schools of thoughts here.. It is said that 20% of pregnancies end up in miscarriages (that is 1 in 5!), so it's pretty common. I might just have been in the 20% population TWICE. That means consecutive bad luck. Also, chromosomal abnormalities that happen by chance accounts for 60% of miscarriages, which also makes it highly likely that it might just have been bad luck!

However, I will not rule out the possibilities of having any of the conditions stated above. Thus, it is still important to go through the tests to check if there is any underlying reason, and treat it if possible to prevent a future miscarriage.

For me, the test of the fetal tissue will be ready in 1.5 weeks' time. A blood test will also be performed when I get my next period, though I am not certain what the gynae is testing for (will double check with him at my next visit).

I will also be seeing another gynae for a second opinion sometime before my next period. My mom has been asking me to see him, saying that he was very professional dealing with her pregnancy with my brother. I would also recommend seeing another gynae as he may offer a different perspective or solution. I hope to have something concrete from that visit as well.

This is definitely not an easy process for me, and I sincerely hope that no other women would have to go through this pain..

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Day 2 after second miscarriage

Hi there. I started this blog to capture the ups and downs in my journey to motherhood, hoping to share the emotional and physical aspects of it with everyone who is going through the same thing. As of now, there have only been downs, and no ups yet. But I remain hopeful, and I believe that one day I could share on this blog some UPs and share some success stories!

Just to share abit on my history.. I got married to the most wonderful man and best friend in 2012. We wanted to have some couple time for maybe 1 or 2 years before having kids. But, as unplanned as it was, I realised I was pregnant 8 months after our marriage, just to find out during the first check up that it was an ectopic pregnancy. Did a keyhole surgery to remove the pregnancy.

After that failed pregnancy, I had a bigger desire to be a mother (mother instincts kicked in) and wanted to try for kids. There were some complications which got resolved after the previous surgery, and I wanted to rest for a few months before trying. We got pregnant again in mid 2014, sometime during my birthday, only to miscarry at 8/9 weeks.

People said, and I've read, that miscarriages were very common, and that people went on to have successful pregnancies after a miscarriage. Well we decided to try again after few months of resting, and got pregnant in 2015. I was feeling quite optimistic, but at the same time was anxious and nervous due to my history. I had bad thoughts at times and I tried to brush them away. I had prayed, given myself some break time from work, avoided exercise, ate healthy, did the best I could. But I miscarried again at 9 weeks. Today is the second day after the D&C was done.

To sum up my emotions? I felt more devastated after the first miscarriage than the second one. As much as I wanted the latest pregnancy to be successful, I had also mentally prepared myself for this day. Nevertheless, I am still a human being and I feel hollow and empty within. There are many question marks in my head now.. What is it with me that I cannot have a successful pregnancy, when others have it so easy? Is it bad eggs, bad uterus, bad luck 3 consecutive times...?

The fetal tissue would be sent in for tests for chromosomal abnormality. Yet, I am not sure how helpful that test would be. There would also be blood tests performed for me at my next period.. possibly for blood clotting issues or hormones? Would have to wait and see if the tests would reveal anything..

Meanwhile.. I have acknowledged that there is no point in crying or have my life come to a standstill.. Life goes on. Although the future seems quite bleak now, I am still hopeful. To all women out there, if you could share your experiences as well or success stories, please feel free to do so!! It will keep us all hopeful and make us believe in a future of motherhood.

Signing off.. Missy Hopeful.