Sadly, I have PCOS. A condition that strikes around 1-2 in every 10 women, and is the main cause of infertility. I never know that I have it. And this is the journal of my emotional battle against PCOS and infertility. I am not trying to promote any doctors, medication or treatments and this is just a sharing of my story.
I started noticing that I might have some health issues during school days. Back then, I had very irregular menses, sometimes once every 3 mths or so. The menses were so heavy and painful that I was always sent straight to the sick bay in the school. When I’m slightly older (college), I went to a Gynecologist who referred me to KKH (women specialist hospital). But then, no thorough examination was taken, and after waiting for hours (well, it’s a subsidized clinic after all), I was given some contraceptive-pills-alike to regulate my menses. The End. Useless, and complete waste of time.
I carried on with my hectic lifestyle throughout my early twenties and couldn’t be bothered by the menses thingy. I thought it would “recover” as I grew older and many aunties consoled me that the menses irregularity and cramps would “go away naturally” after pregnancy.
But then, I never realize I may not even get pregnant. FOREVER.
In my mid 20s, I got married to Roger and we plan to enjoy our marriage life to the fullest. We didn't want any kids then but I had so much motherly instinct that I bought a dog shortly after our wedding. Cola is such a cutie pie isn't it?
But then…as we brought him out and carried him like a baby…we were rather odd standing beside couple with real baby. So 2 years later, we finally decided to try for “a” baby, when Cola no longer fills up the empty gap in our lives. It's a mutual feeling, we always admire others who have babies.
I stopped the contraceptive pills (hooray!). We heard that it takes awhile after that to get pregnant, but half year down the road, there was still no progress. I suspected that something is wrong. After much procrastination, I finally picked up the phone and fixed an appointment with a famous gynecologist – Dr Heng. At the same time, I also consulted a famous TCM doctor (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and started boiling pots and pots of smelly/yucky Chinese Herbal Soup.
Soon, Dr Heng diagnosed that I have PCOS, or in layman terms, it's imbalance of hormones/ovulation problem/no eggs release from ovaries. I was given Clomid and a type of diabetic medication. She didn’t explain why I need the diabetic drugs (although I wasn’t suffering from diabetes), and just told me it’s also a type of drug for fertility treatment. (????) Worse still, the TCM doctor said there is no remedy for treating PCOS… and she can only prescribe me some standard Chinese Herbal medication to work hand in hand with the “western” medication.
After a few mths, I couldn’t take it. At that time, I always went to the appointments alone. Can you imagine, walking into a clinic, packed with pregnant ladies and their babies/kids, while you are “fruitless”… and you know this mth is a failure too cos your menses come…and the consultation reply is always the same “no egg release, carry on with the same medication, increase the dosage, good luck”… I hate the “Good Luck”, I hate it.
I had my first melt down when I met a classmate in the clinic. We were both at the reception counter with our hubbies, she was about to give birth soon. Upon seeing me, she was very happy and asked if I’m pregnant and how many mths etc. I don't know how to reply her. Really, I don't know. I just said, oh, I came for my irregular menses problems, not pregnancy. And I could see that she doesn't know how to reply me too. It was very awkward (at least for me). Just when I thought “ok, let’s get out of here and forget about it”, the pharmacist came to the reception counter, threw me a huge huge pack of diabetes pills and told me “ok, so this is for your diabetes, this is for…”
I wanna shout “For God’s sake, I don’t have diabetes!” For the rest of the journey home, I was totally quiet in the car. Roger sensed something wrong. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and burst out in tears. (tears are welling up in my eyes as I’m typing this…)
- I hate taking diabetes pills when I don’t have diabetes.
- I hate the yucky smell of TCM herbal soup, lingering in the kitchen, spreading all over the house. It’s like I’m a very sick patient.
- I hate the “Good Luck” from nurses and their sympathetic look.
- I hate entering a clinic crowded with pregnant women and their babies.
- I hate it when families, relatives and friends asked “so, when is your turn?”
It was so mentally torturing for me that I gave up. I buried myself into work and stopped the treatments. My career life was already very stressful and there’s a limit to my threshold. So I chose career first and was on frequent oversea business trips. Our marriage was affected. Our hearts grew further and further apart. Anything can trigger a quarrel or fight.
When I look back now, I realize God has tested and strengthened our marriage through lots of challenges and temptations before blessing us with babies. The final test came in 2009 when Roger went to California for a 2 mth training and I just started a new job as a Brand Manager.
With a heavy work responsibility and still on probation, I couldn’t apply for 2 mths leave to join him. The office is located far away from my home and I gotta pick up driving (I had never driven since passing the test 10 years ago) and drove for hours to and fro work. On average, I slept less than 4 hrs per day and had to work over the weekend, so much so that I’m always the last to leave office. It’s crazy. Worse still, one of my client is a super crazy woman. And when I said crazy, I meant it. She’s totally crazy and mentally unstable.
With Roger gone and me alone in Singapore, I couldn’t take it. That’s when I realize how important Roger is in my life. So I took a 1 week unpaid leave to visit Roger and I will always remember how we hug on the chilly street outside his apartment when I arrive in San Francisco after midnight.
When Roger was away for work, I toured around San Francisco on my own. Sitting alone at the park, at the beach, strolling on the street alone, enjoying the bus ride alone, visiting the museums alone, that was when I had lots of time to “rethink” about my life…on the last day, as I was lying on the green pasture at Los Angeles Getty Museum…I finally made the decision…
After returning from the trip, I threw in my resignation letter without second thought and by 2010, I started to pursue my dreams (setup my own online fashion business, took up MBA) and I’m back on track with the fertility treatment.
I told Dr Heng about my resistance against diabetes pills and so she only prescribed Clomid for me. The TCM doctor also started to try acupuncture on both of us. But, after months of disappointing non-responsive acupuncture, TCM and Clomid, to the extend that I developed allergic symptoms to Clomid, we were about to give up again. I told Dr Heng, “well, if it’s fated that we won’t have a baby, then let it be…I don’t wanna go for IVF…just let it be.” The truth is, I don’t want to burden my darling with the high cost of IVF, especially when he’s the sole bread winner.
Dr Heng was very nice, she offered an alternative medication and asked if I’m willing to try Puregon injection instead. “Ok, why not?” The cost is around $800 and requires 6-8 days of daily self-injection (per menstrual cycle) to the tummy area. She suggested to try it 3 times (3 cycle) and if it still can’t work, then we have to consider IVF. “Hmm ok, as long as it’s cheaper than IVF, why not?”
I cried when I thought of the daily injection as my greatest fear is injection. Luckily I had enough tummy fat to cushion the pain (that's the only only time I appreciate my fats, LOL). Roger offered to help with the injection, but I told him to “GET OFF!!!”, as his hands were so shaky and he was even more panicky than me.
God heard our prayers. We finally succeeded by Aug 2010. And it was only the first trial. The nurse was soooooo shocked when I called her, she shouted from the reception area to Dr Heng, who was in her room…and she requested us to report in the next day immediately. He has blessed us with a set of triplets.
More tips to improve fertility
Some of them might by myths, some are advice from doctors, but we followed all of them. I dunno which one works, or which one doesn’t, but no harm trying right?
- Stop consuming microwave food
- No coffee or alcohol days before “trying to conceive”
- No smoking (including second hand smoke)
- Have sufficient rest physically and mentally
- Lady: don’t go to the toilet, shower or bath immediately after intercourse
- Guy: switch from tight underwear to boxer
- Guy: switch from tight jeans to comfortable pants
- Guy: no hot shower/bath, room temperature water preferred (strictly no hot spring)
- Guy: consume more red meat before “trying to conceive”
- Guy: no mint
- Guy: cut down on strenuous exercise especially heavy weight lifting
If you are about to start fertility treatment, be mentally prepared for the ups and downs journey. Hubby should be tested too, as all your efforts in taking the medication/jab will be in vain if he has an issue and untreated properly. Statistic has shown that most of the PCOS ladies are able to conceive eventually, so never give up. Most importantly, start the treatment early and don’t drag on it as age plays a crucial role in fertility too.
If you are in the midst of this battle and feel discourage, here is a song dedicated just for you.
BEFORE THE MORNING – JOSH WILSON
Do you wonder why you have to
Feel the things that hurt you
If there’s a God who loves you, where is He now?
Maybe there are things you can’t see
And all those things are happening
To bring a better ending
Someday somehow you’ll see you’ll see
Would you dare would you dare to believe
That you still got a reason to sing
Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It can’t compare to the joy that’s coming
So hold on you gotta wait for the light
Press on and just fight the good fight
Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning
My friend you know how this all ends
You know where you’re going
You just don’t know how you’ll get there
So say a prayer
And hold on cause there’s good for those who love God
But life is not a snapshot
It might take a little time but you’ll see the bigger picture
Once you feel the weight of glory
All your pain will fade to memory
It’s just the hurt before the healing
Oh the pain that you’ve been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning