The grace of waiting: pregnant after 10 years of infertility
PCOS, diabetes, one working ovary, and 10 years of infertility, Claire Diokno recounts her amazing journey to motherhood.
My husband Ricky used to be an architect, but he looked more like an actor who stepped off the stage of Meteor Garden. I on the other hand used to work at my Dad's company, which imported construction materials, and that's how Ricky and I met. It was love at first sight. He asked me out and six months later he proposed.
When I decided to become a makeup artist for Shu Uemura, Rick changed careers as well, becoming a hairstylist for Kiehl's so that we could work together. We had so much fun together. We were both an only child so we were like kids together.
After we got married, some 11 years ago, we wanted to start our family immediately. Jumping into it, we tried artificial twice on our first year. We were so desperate to get pregnant because, more than anything, we were pressured by our parents to have kids right away. The folks would ask us everyday to try harder to have kids. The pressure was so overwhelming.
The first of many visits with fertility doctors
So we went to the doctor to make sure. The first fertility doctor didn't explain the problem well so it felt like we walking around blind. We went through the traumatizing ordeal of injections, and more painful than that, was discovering that you weren't pregnant with every passing month of trying. The waiting, the disappointments and not being able to understand what was wrong took their toll.
At this time, work was picking up fast. Ricky and I would work 18-20 hours everyday, including weekends, for years. We were focused on making it in our careers, that we kinda put having a baby in the back burner. We enjoyed our work because it was something we knew we did well.
We built our careers in the industry and then, 7 years later, we tried having a child again. We went to a famous, highly recommended fertility expert. This time it was a better experience as the doctor took the time to discuss the issues I had.
Learn more about the odds she faced on the next page
Suffering from PCOS, diabetes and infertility
I discovered that I had PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and had only one working ovary, which was why it was difficult for us to have kids. The doctor also suspected that I had Type 2 Diabetes. In addition, Ricky had "sluggish" sperm.
Upon confirming that I was, indeed, diabetic, I was devastated. I was put on metformin and was urged to eat healthier. Having no choice, I followed the regimen.
The diabetes was all I could think about, and so getting pregnant was put on hold. While I tried to control my diabetes, I immersed myself in my work so I could at least escape from the pressure and thoughts of my condition.
Then, another heartbreak came. I lost my mom after a year of dialysis. She was my rock. Then 9 months after, my closest cousin who was a brother to me died in a horrible accident. My outlook on life turned bitter. I felt angry, and guilty because of this anger. Then I thought, maybe I didn't deserve to be a mom because I had so much anger inside of me.
I wasn't the only one who experienced loss, as Ricky's dad had a stroke and was catatonic for four years. So we didn't feel like it was a good time to try and have a baby.
The biological clock ticks
Soon enough, nine years had passed. A loneliness crept in and a silent panic took over me. I realized that I wanted to have kids. Before, I never really saw myself as mom material. But the fear of not becoming one suddenly gnawed me from the inside. I WANTED to be a mom. I WANTED to take care of someone other than Ricky.
While I felt that I had to scramble in order to make up for lost time, Ricky didn't seem to share the same urgency. When I would ask him about trying again, he would nod half-heartedly. I felt alone and confused.
I'd cry when I was alone. It was my fault for taking time, and for putting my career first. For years, I had tried convincing myself that I didn't want a baby, that it was never the right time, that it wouldn't fit into our lifestyle.
On the next page, find out what other options they explored
After almost 10 years of marriage, I had lost faith and so did Ricky. Now, I'll never have kids. I'll never see their faces, never kiss their brows, or mend a skinned knee.
Ricky promised that we'd go to the doctor soon. But the days turned into weeks, and then months. Finally I broke down and asked him, "Will we ever have kids?" He stared at me blankly.
The thought of going through all the tests again, doing the injections, enduring the waiting and the disappointments again left a bad taste in his mouth.
But I was an emotional wreck, and he desperately wanted to pacify me. He said, "Of course, we will."
I looked at him exasperated, "But when?!" I waited, but he still didn't want to go to the doctor.
Visiting the orphanage, considering adoption
Come January 2014, my family and I spent my aunt's birthday at the DSWD. Then my family jokingly said, "Hey Claire, check out the babies for adoption. You might find one that you like." I thought Okay. But it was out of curiosity more than anything.
I saw rows of cots and I immediately became overwhelmed with sorrow. There were too many of them. Too many unwanted children. I teared up and left.
I thought, maybe Ricky and I should adopt instead. Maybe I should make the move, instead of waiting for him to make the first move. Then it dawned on me, "Was I the only one who wanted a child? I never asked Ricky. I mean, not directly.
Then I felt so sorry for dragging him through all the stress of trying to conceive. He bore through it all without complaint. He was with me at every checkup and he endured invasive procedures just so I could be happy. But was this what he wanted?
Next page: How Ricky became ready to be a dad...
The truth comes out
I quietly asked him one day. "Do you WANT to have a baby, Ricky?" He could be honest. I promised him that whatever his answer would be, I would respect it and love him all the same. I just needed to know where he stood.
He flinched and said, "Honestly, no. I think. I'm not sure. I don't know how to be a dad. I'm scared that I might fail. I never learned how to take care of anyone else except myself."
I finally understood, why he had been hesitant. He was scared. And until he fully knew what he wanted, and until he could let go of the anxiety of doing what was expected of him, we couldn't have a baby. We shouldn't.
I hugged him and said it's all right. It will happen if it's meant to happen.
After that, we were the happiest we had ever been together. I was a little sad on my part, but we were finally honest and on the same page. We became closer.
One night, we were on a date. We chatted and we were having so much fun. We've never felt so strong in our relationship. Then he took my hand and said, "I'm ready to have kids. I'm ready to be a dad."
Finally, a baby!
One morning, I thought I had cancer. My breasts were incredibly sore and my nipples turned very dary. I felt weak and sleep all the time. I thought, "Oh no, I'm dying."
So I summed up the courage to talk to Ricky, who understandably didn't take me seriously. I gave him the speech about my mom getting Stage 4 cancer, and I told him that if he was going to marry again, please choose a girl who would take care of him and our cat.
He thought I went nuts. But being the kind-hearted guy he is, he hugged me and said, "You're NOT dying but I'm taking you to a doctor so you'll feel better."
The next day, we were up early and Ricky was getting ready to leave for a photoshoot. Just on a whim, I asked him to pass by a drugstore for a pregnancy test. He looked at me confused and said, "What?! What for? I'll be late for work."
The last pregnancy test I took was two years ago. I didn't really see the point of testing. Ten years of throwing negative pregnancy tests into the trash bin would make you think it was pointless.
However, he picked up the PT test anyway and drove to work. I went straight to our lavatory and took the test.
Next page: "It's positive!"
Then I was seeing double. There were two lines. That couldn't be right. Sleepy and confused, I took a pic and posted on my family's chatroom asking if there was an error with the PT. There was a scramble of messages saying it was positive. I had never IMAGINED what a positive test would look like. I stared at the viber chatroom. My cousins were explaining something about C for control and T for test but my mind was gone. I was sobbing hysterically and I called Ricky.
He was in traffic on the way to the photoshoot and I sobbed, "I'm pregnant!" SILENCE. He wasn't sure if he heard me right. Then in a shaking voice he said, "erm... Congratulations." And I said, "WAIT, WHAT?!!!" And I realized he lost the power to press the accelerator of the car, judging from the angry honks from around him. He was as stunned as I was.
Finally regaining his composure, he told me he loved me and that he'd come straight home after work. I found out later from the editor that Ricky was so distracted during the shoot. During a break at work, he started asking people about how to take care of babies.
40 and pregnant
He called me during the break and I told him, I didn't know if the baby was ok. I was turning 40, and had the worst health habits ever. I didn't eat breakfast, I never ate on time. I ate chicken livers which I read somewhere could cause a miscarriage and I had a beer a couple of days before. Would the baby be alright? But my biggest fear was... was the baby really there? Or was the PT faulty? I couldn't breathe. He calmed me down and said, "Don't worry, let's go have an ultrasound."
I had to wait an hour for my ultrasound. I kept sidling up to the nurses' station asking if my turn was near. They were patient, but their patience seemed to ebb a bit. My turn came and the nurse saw how scared I was. She comforted me by asking me how long was I trying. "Ten years," I said.
I told her what my fears were. She looked at me kindly, and said, "I'm sorry we made you wait for an hour, you've been waiting na pala for 10 years!"
Check out the much-awaited ultrasound on the next page...
The doctor turned on the monitor of the ultrasound. There was fuzziness, and in a sea of black, there was a little jellybean. It seemed to look at me from the monitor. I started sobbing and the nurse, too. They brought Ricky in and he lost it. We had our arms around each other, crying.
The little jellybean was really there! Our baby was real! I was two months pregnant! After 10 long years, I was pregnant!
In good hands
I felt ashamed. I had lost faith, and here was God reminding me that miracles still happen. The doctor checked and saw that my myoma was gone, and the only ovary that seemed to work actually released an egg. And that made all the difference.
Soon after, we went to see this amazing doctor that my best friend and cousin was raving about. Dra. Henson smiled at me from behind her desk. I asked all the pertinent questions, and she gave direct answers. I was impressed. She was as determined as we were to bring this baby safely into the world.
She was so patient with our questions and she kept her schedule with all of her patients so well that none of us had to wait for more than 15 minutes to see her.
Because I was approaching 40, Dra. Henson and I decided to go for a Cesarean operation, so that she could control most of the variables. We weren't leaving anything to chance.
Next page: Preparing for the pregnancy
Preparing for the pregnancy
The pregnancy was fraught with difficulties. As expected, I had gestational diabetes. I was given a choice to keep taking metformin or inject insulin. I chose the injections to keep my baby safe.
I was to prick my fingers 4x a day to check my blood sugar, record the results, and inject myself in the stomach 4 times a day. My stomach was full of bruises from the injections. At one point. I couldn't find a space to inject insulin anymore so I asked my queasy husband to try injecting it in my butt cheek.
He tried to keep his composure, but he almost broke the needle. He stepped back and there were tears in his eyes. I checked and the entire injection site was bleeding, and a bad bruise started to swell up. He didn't ever want to try that again.
I had to be strict with my diet. One slip up could mean losing the baby. My hormones made my diabetes worse. Corn, carrots and etc., these types of food had to be measured for every meal. I learned to eat smart. You had to eat a specific amount of food at the right time.
If you don't eat, your baby will starve and you get hypoglycemia. If you eat out of time or eat too much, and you risk losing the baby.
I had to carry sweets around with me because the insulin could send me into a coma if my blood sugar dropped low. Hypoglycemia isn't pretty. You start sweating and you can feel pain shoot up your arms. Then you shake uncontrollably.
Ricky woke up in shock one night. I was sweaty, shaking, and crouching beside our bed, shoving chocolates into my mouth. My hair was sticking to my forehead and my teeth were covered in muddy chocolate. I looked like Gollum. I had a hypoglycemic attack in my sleep.I was lucky. It could've been bad if I didn't wake up in time.
When I think back, I can't believe I went through all that I did. I never thought I could've made it to the end. I don't like being uncomfortable. I hate injections. I hate diets even more. But it was a strange sense of responsibility to my baby, that I go through all this to protect her.
I found the patience everyday to face the challenges ahead, because I knew she was a miracle of God. He gave her to us at the right time. She was depending on us.
Next page: The blessed birth
The blessed birth
I bled the week before I was due and Dra. Henson recommended that we give birth that coming weekend. I smiled and said, I was ready.
I checked in Makati Med, nervous and excited. The next morning, they wheeled me out of my room to prepare for the operation. Everyone in that hospital was efficient and worked like cogs in a machine. It took a few minutes and soon I was crouching on the operating table, while the anesthesiologist tried to insert a needle into my spine.
I couldn't feel the pain, but I could feel the movements. He pulled it out and I thought, "Oh no! There's a problem." He tried the second time but it wasn't successful. He pulled out again, and in a rush he covered the hole with his finger for a few seconds. He lifted it and I could feel warm blood gushing down my back.
But before I freaked out, I felt someone scoop my hands into theirs and squeezed hard. I opened my eyes and it was Dra. Henson. She whispered, "It'll be alright. You have a complicated spine." I have scoliosis. She didn't let go until the anesthesiologist had the epidural in.
They let Ricky in. I felt some comfort having him there. They had a small curtain obstructing the view to my stomach. All I could think of was, "Was Chloé, my baby girl, alright?"
Ricky tiptoed to peek at the operation. His face looked grim and he asked, "YOU DONT FEEL THAT?!" I could feel tugging and there was a strange smell like someone was eating barbecued ribs in the operating room. I later found out that that smell was me! The doctors used a laser to open me up.
A minute later, a huge tug and then the girliest scream came from behind the curtain. Then Dra. Henson raised this pale, hairy blob above the curtain. I stared and thought, "Is that MY baby?!"
"Why was it so hairy? Why did she look so swollen?" (Turns out, the hairiness was lanugo, which fell off in the next few days. And the swelling came down, too.)
They cleaned her up and then brought her to me to breastfeed, and I got a closer look at her. Tears welled up and I couldn't stop crying. I stroked her tiny hand and told her everything would be alright. She was here! She was finally here!
Meet Chloé on the next page!
She looks exactly like Ricky. But she has my lips. Hers is cuter than mine though.
Today, Chloe is a year and 3 months. She isn't quick to smile but when she does, it's enough to melt an iceberg. She knows what she wants but more impressively, she knows what she NEEDS. She showers us with kisses everyday. She's a perfectionist. Her latest endeavor is walking and she doesn't stop until she gets it right. She doesn't cry when she falls. She gets up again and dusts herself off and tries harder.
The joy I feel is overwhelming and indescribably. She makes us laugh and the tiredness melts away from our bodies. She filled has our home with a joy we've never felt before. That's when I finally realized, this is what it feels to be a mom.
Advice for other women and couples who are having difficulty in conceiving
- Don't lose hope. Things happen for a reason.
- As partners, listen to each other. Care about what the other person feels. Be each other's rock. Be kind to one another as much as you can.
- This one's a biggie: you need to work on your marriage first. A happy marriage means both of you will be relaxed. Stress and strife just complicates the chances of conceiving. Also, I know it sounds funny, but go out on dates. They strengthen the marriage.
- It took us a decade before we were blessed with a child. I believe we were made to wait because we weren't ready. We needed time to grow up and grow strong together. We're better people and so, we're better parents for Chloé. If it happened sooner, we wouldn't have had the emotional fortitude and determination to safely bring our daughter into this world. I breastfed her for a year and two months. The discipline that was needed to do so was borne out of my resolution that she grow up healthy and smart. I wasn't born a patient person. But I kept to it until she was the one who decided it was time to stop.
And as I'm writing this article, I stretch and glance at the clock. It's 2 am, Ricky and I gently wake Chloé, and give her a dose of medicine--she's had fever two days ago. And my little babe sobs hysterically as the medicine goes down. I rock her back to sleep.
I realize I'll be up in 4 hours to do a fashion show...and I'm smiling. I'm tired, but as I look at this little baby gurgling in my arms, the exhaustion melts away like always. A kind of peace sets in and I feel warm and content.
This was all definitely worth the wait.
*Published with permission from theAsianparent Philippines!