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Of endometriosis and getting pregnant

3 months ago / popular / being mommy

My journey to getting pregnant.

Bump at 35 weeks

This is going to be a very long post (like with all my other pregnancy-related posts it seems) so go ahead and make a cuppa, or UberEATS some Blackball shaved wintermelon ice (my current obsession!) first. I'll wait.

So since yesterday's ST article, I have received quite a few messages and questions about endometriosis, fertility (or infertility) and my journey to conceiving Junior.

We used to joke that "wah get pregnant also can go on newspaper ah" but jokes aside, endometriosis, alongside other conditions such as PCOS and infertility is real.

Before I begin, let me first disclaim that this is NOT a sponsored piece, neither am I of the opinion that YOU NEED TO HAVE KIDS NOW! DO YOUR PART TO INCREASE SINGAPORE'S BIRTH RATE!

I am just sharing my personal story to those who are currently trying or want kids eventually someday. And for those who have endometriosis too.

(By the way, my first reaction to the article was Damnit. Now the entire world knows that I've had sex. LOL)

So tracing back history, everything started with the I Love Children project last year where I had to undergo a fertility health check and share my experience. I still remember very clearly us walking along the corridors of Novena Medical Centre and me telling the hubs, "So we'll just do the test but nothing will change ok? We'll still think about kids only when we're 35 but at least if choy choy choy the doctor says there's something wrong and we can't have kids then at least we know lor."

I've said it more than once but srsly, me and my mouth.

As it turns out, the doctor (very calmly I must add) told us that,

  • I have endometriosis
  • There are some cysts/ blockage or sth in my right ovary
  • My womb isn't exactly in the right position

I didn't talk about this, not in the blog post when I wrote about the health check nor anywhere else publicly (this space to me is also considered fairly public).

In fact, I didn't really talk about it immediately with the hubs too, mostly cause I was in shock I guess? Plus we had a series of media interviews RIGHT AFTER the check and whatever I had said in the TV interviews, radio interviews (or at least I tried to cause they were conducted in Mandarin on Capital 958) is still the same message that I am telling EVERYONE (on and offline) is this,

Go get checked even if you're NOT planning to have kids yet.

Especially if you're like me who NEEDS to have your life in order. You see, I had always planned to have my first (and maybe only) kid only at 35. Maybe it was due to the (lack of) sex education back in school (all-girls school especially) that we were led to believe, "Orh hor, have unprotected sex only confirm get pregnant." I was always very careful not to get pregnant even after we were married because there's just so MUCH I want to do with my life. I have yet to visit South America! The business is growing! My mother-in-law had the hub's sister at 41 and she's perfectly normal so what's the hurry?

Only when I was starting to get psycho about wanting to conceive that I have SO many friends tell me how they have been trying for years, the emotional rollercoasters they have been through or how they also suffer from endometriosis or PCOS or something else. Of course, the issue could also lie with the guy.

Basically, you only have that 24 to 48 hours window a month to get pregnant i.e. ovulation and even if you get frisky during that window, you might not hit jackpot.

So back to that day of the fertility health check, after the press con, the hubs went to play his magic cards (he wasn't being an asshole lah. It's just that we both initially didn't think much of the check remember? And I had told him to go ahead and not cancel on his friends) while I met up with a friend and over my chirashi don at Mohammad Sultan, I ended up crying.

(Speaking of which, I can't wait for a good bowl of chirashi once I deliver.)

It took a good 4 hours for the severity of my condition to finally sink in and while I am not one to go around cuddling every child I see on the street (in fact, I wasn't sure if I even had a maternal bone in me) but the thought of NOT being able to be a mother kinda shook me up.

Humans. And how we only know what we want when we (almost) can't get it.

I guess it never occurred to me that there could actually be issues with my reproductive health. I've always had regular periods and although there were the period pains, I thought they were the usual cramps everyone else got.

I had a few more visits, blood tests and checks done and the treatments my doctor suggested for my endometriosis included surgery, medication to induce menopause (basically when you don't get your monthly period, you control the condition better) and some other stuff that sounded quite scary. This is coming from someone who has never broken nor sprained any part of her body (amazingly, considering how clumsy I am) and the most major surgery I have ever done to date is to extract my wisdom teeth... under GA cause that's how much of a scaredy cat I am.

He also mentioned testing my cysts to see if they are malignant (i.e. cancerous or not)... and I had agreed to the test but at the last minute whilst the nurse was preparing to draw my blood, I changed my mind.

So after that day, I decided to put treatment on hold and tried to get pregnant first. I also started on my folic acid supplements - it is recommended that you take them for three months BEFORE you get pregnant - and read up a lot about endometriosis, IUI and IVF. Especially the costs and procedures involved.

I was 99.99% certain that we would end up going for IVF but my doctor told us to try natural conception first for six months. We didn't jump into trying straight after the appointment cause I wanted to be on folic acid for at least three months plus the hubs was going away on detachment so we waited. But during that three months, this matter was constantly on my mind. I remember bumping into a girl friend at last year's Magnum event and after the customary Hello, how are you?, I blurted out about my condition and ended up babbling about how "stressed" I am about this whole conception thing.

Still skinny then lol

In fact, when I was at the RSAF's Exercise Torrent preview, I met another friend who tried IVF and that was all we (or rather I) could talk about during my time there. I remember wincing at the thought and description of the IVF process - from the egg retrievals to the daily self-injections - to be honest, typing these out still scares me. My utmost respect to those who pulled through IVF!!!

That was in July. So the hubs went for his detachment, I went to Bali, Phuket and New York for work (while still diligently taking my folic acid and researching the hell out of endometriosis - did you know that 1 in 10 women suffer from it even though the symptoms and conditions differ from woman to woman?) and came November, I downloaded some app that told me when I was ovulating and well, followed instructions.

But when my period came, I felt this great sense of disappointment like never before. Not even when NUS Law rejected me lolol. Bad example but yah... I know everybody says it's only the first month. But I kept asking myself what if it just means that I am simply infertile? It certainly didn't help that we both knew that the hubs passed his health check (with flying colours I must add) so I guess I kinda knew subconsciously but didn't want to acknowledge out loud that it's really more or less on me and my body?

TBH it was just one round of disappointment and it was enough to drive me crazy... I can't imagine the trauma for those who have been trying for years.

I know when I announced my pregnancy, it sounded like life was damn easy since we had tried for only two months. But truth is, we were very very, very lucky (I still think it's the baby wishing tree in Japan!) and I'm super duper thankful.

In retrospect, we could have waited and tried a little longer (and I could have been less psycho with the ice cream, fertility crystals and every single superstition available on the Internet) but sometimes I wonder, what if we weren't so lucky?

This is also part of the reason why I took so long to announce my pregnancy. Most people do so after the first trimester but I only did so in my 6th month when I could no longer conceal the bump... Additionally, I was mostly scared throughout the pregnancy. Scared that I wasn't actually pregnant (maybe this is all an illusion wtf), scared that the baby wouldn't make it through, scared that there might be something wrong along the way... so I just kept pushing back the announcement till the next doctor's visit, till my Harmony test results are out, till my Oscar scan. The first question I ask my doctor at every visit is "He's alive right?" and my paranoia reached a whole new level I never knew was humanly possible. Even though I am approaching my 36th week now, I am still very worried tbh... and I think this constant fear is not gonna leave anytime soon.

So anyway, my point is this - there's really no harm getting a check. If the doctors say everything's good, go ahead and enjoy life first! Go shark diving in Africa! Check out where Despacito was filmed in Puerto Rico or focus on the other things on your plate like your career with peace of mind before thinking about parenthood. But if you realise that you cannot conceive that easily, then maybe you'd want to adjust your plans to start trying for a kid earlier.

Also, baby-making aside, I also strongly advise women to get yourselves checked. Somehow it seems that endometriosis, PCOS, infertility and other such conditions tend to be sorta taboo topics in Singapore - I gotta admit this is also partly why I didn't write about my condition earlier. Mild symptoms like menstrual cramps, which are often dismissed as “normal”, could be signalling something more serious. There's this Australia Instagrammer @thessy.k whom I have been following for years who recently shared about her own endometriosis condition which led to a ruptured cyst, 7-hour operation and going into menopause at the age of 27.

BUT endometriosis does not automatically equal infertility. They say about 30 to 40 per cent of women with endometriosis are infertile - so it means that 60% of us CAN conceive (think positive!!!!) I also know of other women affected with endometriosis who are now happy mothers, be it natural conception or IVF.

I guess I'd have to get back to thinking about treatment after my pregnancy but for now, I am just focusing on Junior and taking each day as it comes till he's here :)

To those trying, I know telling you "to relax" and not be kan cheong is futile cause I've been there myself. But I do believe that everything in this world has its own time and space and as preachy/ cliche as it sounds, the universe has its own strange ways of handling things. I know of friends who tried for many, many, many years and when they finally decided to throw in the towel, ended up pregnant. With twins!

And for those who asked, I did the fertility health check at Thomson Fertility Centre and it costs about $450 - $600. My obgyn's Dr Steven Teo and sadly, I don't get any commission for referring you guys to him. But in general, you guys know I am first and foremost extremely good at stalking, so I have CSI-ed him like crazy and his credentials and patient feedback have been nothing but stellar and more importantly, I actually like him. I might even consider getting pregnant again just so we can continue to hang out monthly at his clinic.

P.S. I'm using "hang out" very loosely of course.

P.P.S If there's anything I learnt from this entire journey, is NOT to scare yourself by believing everything on the Internet... which obviously doesn't include this blog lol.