Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hi, My Name is Joy...and I am Reproductively Challenged

There she is.  Again.  

Jennifer Aniston is staring back at me while I do my business in the bathroom. For months it's been the same thing and it has gotten beyond embarrassing. When normal people do their 'business', they can go ahead and grab their magazines (or books) parked in their bathrooms, read leisurely and perhaps, say, after a few 'visits' within a week or two, they would have been done with the magazine and retire it in their recycling bins.  In my case, however, the same magazine cover with Ms. Aniston and her wide eyes and effortlessly beautiful hair has been staring back at me for at least 4 months now!  What should normally be a relaxed and totally private time has morphed into a tense one for me where I get totally frazzled each and every single time.  

When I go take my bathroom breaks, it feels like I have to beat a timer and it's a mad dash.  If I take too long, I'm going to end up dealing with Noah banging insanely against the door and screaming at the top of his lungs.  This is now that he's three. When he was a baby or a younger toddler, I've had to deal with his crying and totally freaking out.  Either that or I've had to deal with my own paranoia as I imagine him engaging in something totally unsafe, like maybe put something dangerous in his mouth, climb somewhere he's not equipped for, or whatever. You get the picture.  Well, now, not only does he have a choice of either banging on the bathroom door or screaming if I took so long, he also discovered that he can sit on my lap while i'm 'sitting in there' and, for some inexplicable reason, still find it comforting.  And that's just one among the MANY 'challenges' of parenthood/motherhood.  My son is a good boy, don't get me wrong.  But he can be VERY intense.  Genetic, perhaps?  Oh whatever....

But I can't complain.  Seriously, I can't.  Oh sure I get exasperated and allow myself to feel upset, angry and all the negativity that any normal human being is capable of.  But I can't complain to the point of questioning why I ever became a mother.  Not so much because of all the ooey-gooey reasons a typical mother would give you...that your heart melts when your child smiles at you; that it's so rewarding once they learn to speak, say how much they love you and give you hugs and kisses; or that there is nothing more enriching than realizing that your heart is capable of so much love.  

I do not have the right to question why I became a mother as if it were something bestowed upon me without me willing it because it was a extremely conscious one.  I can never deny my willing motherhood because other than Noah being a gift from God, he is also, more directly, a gift from science.


Noah is an IVF (in vitro fertilization) baby.  And yes I am reproductively challenged.  To some, this topic and my admission may be taboo.  Traditionally, people don't go around announcing that to the world for fear of being judged and labelled with terms that point to a singular fact---being 'less'...less of a woman, less of a human being. Well, it is a medical condition that makes me incapable of naturally reproducing.  But I never believed it made me less of anything.  For some reason, which may seem odd to some, I was never afraid of the judgement and more importantly, never really cared.  

After two years of marriage and having no luck at getting pregnant, AJ and I decided to see a fertility specialist.  We both had to go through a series of tests, although I had to endure more of course.  I won't bore you with all the details of what I medically had to go through but suffice it to say that it took about five months for everything to come to fruition.  It took countless ultrasounds and needle pricks done to me or self-administered.  (If you're curious, here's a video that captures a fraction of what I had to do in our efforts to get pregnant). 

And don't even ask me to enumerate all the medication I had to take to manipulate my reproductive system.  I had to give myself shots to help stimulate my eggs to mature.  Then more shots to keep myself from releasing those eggs.  And then there are shots that fool your body into thinking that it's pregnant.  I've had to go through physical pain average women won't normally experience in their efforts to reproduce. From the disappointment of not conceiving naturally, to the disappointment and pain (both physical and emotional) of conceiving ectopically, it's an understatement to say that it was an emotional roller coaster like I've never experienced before.  

It's exhausting.  (Yet another understatement).  And expensive.  (We sure would not have been able to afford all of it without health insurance).  But I had to do it.  More than anything, I owed it to myself to do everything and try anything I was capable of.  All I knew was that I did not want to regret not trying what ever options were out there that were acceptable to me.  I did not want to wait until things were too late.  What was clear was that I did not have forever.  And most of all, it was clear to me that 

After all the medication, the shots, the vaginal ultrasounds and blood tests, and after the egg extraction and embryo transfer are done, then it was time for relentless prayer.  At least for me, this stage (and onwards) spelled out praying like I've never prayed before.  Science has done its job, done all it could.  It was clear that now, it's all up to a Higher power.  My life became a life of waiting and praying...waiting for the doctor's confirmation that I was indeed pregnant after the IVF procedure, that at least one embryo took after they implanted three; praying that everything is going well inside my body; waiting for the nurses and the ultrasound technicians to inform me that the baby is growing normally; praying that nothing bad happens.  As the woman carrying the baby inside you, sure you feel some control over what you do to your body that will benefit your unborn child.  But at the same time, I have never felt so helpless my entire life.  At the back of my mind I knew that even after the first 3 months, which they say is the most sensitive and crucial times for pregnancy, anything can still happen.  I wish I can tell you that I was more positive and more trusting, but I can't.  All my paranoia seemed to have been heightened all the more while I was pregnant.  I remember that my daily prayer was for God to grant me a normal and healthy baby...well, that and beautiful too.  I remember thinking and being humbled that even though we were allowed to go this far and conceive, the outcome is still never guaranteed.  When you are talking about life, conception, and what happens inside your body, you really don't have as much control as you'd like.  At some point, you just need to have faith and relinquish.    

My pregnancy with Noah was not without its challenges.  On my 19th (almost 20th week), I had some bleeding and had to be put on modified bed rest.  I had difficulty walking and had some pelvic pain way before my due date.  I also had gestational diabetes and I would have to say that was the worst part!  For a carbohydrate addict like me, the last few months prior to delivery were torture.  I practically had to give up eating any sort of dessert because it made my blood sugar levels rise and I was scared of what it may do to my unborn child.  Like I said above, my paranoia was at its worst during pregnancy.  

With all these challenges, I felt somewhat tormented....mainly because I knew it was what I wanted, it was something I had prayed for.  At the same time though, part of me resented the fact that it felt like I no longer owned my body. I could not do to it what I wanted or sometimes needed because I always had to think of this child living inside me.  I couldn't self-medicate and did not feel free to ingest what I wanted, what I've been used to all because somebody else owned my body too.  I will not be a hypocrite.  I admit that I resented that idea....but could not do anything about it.  I knew I had to accept it.  I just wanted to give birth already and have my body, and my life back.

How stupid was I for thinking that???....that it all ends with delivery???

After the Stork has Flown
Noah is just like me.  He adores rules and lives by them.  His due date was supposed to be April 22.  He was born on April 21 at 11:55pm...just 5 minutes early!  I guess he just did not want to be late!  

Most of what happened after he came out is still a blur to me.  All I remember was that I was paranoid up to the last minute, constantly checking the monitor for his heartbeat prior to delivery.  I also treated delivery as a sport.  The more my doctor told me to push, the harder I pushed and wanted to show her I was a good 'pusher' if I was being graded for it!  I remember thinking it seemed like I wanted to prove something.  It was as if I was competing with another pregnant woman in the room and that there would be a reward for the one who would push best and deliver soonest.  (What a psycho, huh?)  But hey! got me the results I needed!  When Noah was finally out, I honestly did not have the 'awwwww-you-melt-my-heart-and-fill-me-with-love' feeling.  It's not that I did not love my son.  It's just that I was too busy worrying about him, making sure he was fine and again, wondering and waiting for the nurses to tell me what his Apgar score was.  Actually, now that I think about it, I've never stopped worrying about Noah ever since I was informed of my pregnancy!  

I'm exhausted.  It's all VERY exhausting and frustrating too.  I won't even bore you anymore with the depth of my frustration with the La Leche League and everyone who's a hardcore advocate of breast feeding.  It's one thing to emphasize the value of breast milk (and I'm all for it), but it's another to insist on breast feeding as the only way.  Some of these people just can't seem to understand that some women don't have enough milk, or maybe some babies just won't latch on, or perhaps some women just choose differently.  Don't ask me why they don't understand all that.  All I know is that next time, if I'm ever going to have a 'next time', I promise not to let myself be pressured (or even bullied) by these women.  Never again.

Anyway, soon after delivery, I realized how motherhood is synonymous to sacrifice.  Nothing is just all about you anymore...not your time, not your body, not that thing called 'sleep' (or whatever that means), not your thoughts, prayers and dreams.  It's rewarding, yes.  But I also have to just be honest and admit that it's all extremely exhausting, draining, frustrating, and lonely too at times.  It's almost taboo to say all those things, isn't it?  But as mothers, I believe we need to allow ourselves to say AND feel all those things...all the good and the not-so-good.  I was never a fan of those people who make motherhood seem so effortless and only have nice things to say about it.  I've always been wary of those people and those pronouncements.  I think they're either delusional or big time liars.  Everyone deserves to know how difficult it is, albeit beautiful; how draining and fulfilling at the same time.  That's why I've always said, you have to want it, REALLY want it, to become one.  You can't become one just because it's what's expected of you, or because you think it's the natural course of things.  Know that not all women are built to be mothers.  It has to be a 'want to', not a 'have to'.  It has to be your choice and one that you are willing to stand by.  You don't have to be 'ready' for it because no one is ever fully prepared for all the challenges motherhood has to offer.  But you have to be prepared at least mentally and emotionally, armed with the acceptance that the road ahead will be anything but easy and sweet.

As someone who had to go through assisted reproduction, it was clear to me that I had to want it because once the process starts, there's really no turning back.  Every needle prick, every hormone medication you have to put inside your body to manipulate your reproductive system reminds you that this is a decision and a journey you are prepared to stand by and stick to.  

And why am I writing all these things now?  Well, because I have once again decided that I want it...again.  We are once again in the process of assisted reproduction and very soon, I will be saying my hello's to all the vials and needles and all those hormone medications.  As a matter of fact, this just arrived yesterday... entire box of meds to manipulate my body so it can get pregnant.  

So, wish me luck and say prayers for us.  This is our last attempt and I owe it to Noah, mainly to Noah, to try and give him a sibling.  It's going to be another long and difficult journey ahead but what can I say?...hope does carry us through....hope that after a whole box of medication, we may be blessed again with something like this...



  1. Well, Joy, with the "cutest baby ever" around and now a toddler, how can you not go for "the Cutest Baby Ever Part 2"! I can't wait to see the new baby brother or sister for Noah the Booba.

  2. Joy,
    i feel your pangs about the assisted reproduction as we had traverse the same road 3 yrs ago after 7 years of trying (11 yrs gap fr eldest to middle child) and the rollercoaster ride which sets a toll on us physicaly, emotionally and mentally. I know very well (and still can remember) the needles and tests and doctors appointment that we went thru BUT after all those, we give a sigh of relief - 1. that we did our part and our best 2. that we managed to overcome the hurdles and we still came out sane 3. that we were part of that miracle process

    hang in there and my prayers for you and hubby and little noah that everything will be ok in God's name.

    keep us posted ... its an exciting road ahead so blog in all....


  3. 9.30.10 10:30am via FB

    i'll be praying for your journey into the reproductively challenged world again!

  4. 9.30.10 11:30am via FB
    Oh Joy! I would readily swap all I ask in my prayers in exchange for a successful pregnancy for you. Good luck!

  5. 9.30.10 12:30PM via FB
    goodluck joy!

  6. 9.30.10 19:30 via FB
    goodluck God's time you will have a second Noah. Mwah!

  7. 9.30.10 20:30 via FB
    Goodluck, Joy! Grabe, excited nako sa isang cutie baby girl! i have no doubt that you'll have a successful second pregnancy! =)

  8. 9.30.10 21:30 via FB
    here is wishing you another successful pregnancy! joy, you are so brave. i admire you for being so..... i had a precarious pregnancy too. ive also been worried about Bella since the time i knew I was such, i dont think i can have another one... not yet anyway... the feeling is still too raw.

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  10. 9.30.10 23:30 VIA FB
    Joy, I am praying for you and your family. I do hope you have another little one soon! I read your blog entry and like you, my first pregnancy was difficult. I was hospitalized 2x for threatend ab. and I know hoe it feels to be on bed rest as I was for a few months.
    Uhm, say a little prayer for me too okay? We are trying to conceive another little one and the past couple of months have been quite disappointing.

  11. 10.1.10 2am via FB
    naiyak naman ako!! i dont know if i still have the guts to get pregnant again after losing 2 at almost the same time, which was the end of the first trimester which apparently the worse time of pregnancy (for me). i really hope you'll have another one joy..sana girl naman! kevin and i talked about doing IVF but we're still not sure of the decision. thanks for giving us hope. if we still dont make it next year then we'll really consider IVF.

  12. 10.1.10 3AM via FB
    I'm happy you made the decision to try again and I'm praying you will be blessed with another child. Paeng and Therese just had their second child, Pipo. As in her first pregnancy, Therese had to inject herself with Heparin twice a day... on her tummy! She has APAS. But it was all worth it. Pilar is now an Ate....I'm praying for Noah to be a Kuya soon...

  13. 10.1.10 9am via FB
    Tai Cheeto v.2

  14. good luck joy! palaguin ang magandang lahi!

  15. Thanks for sharing Joy! You give me hope! I am a memebr of that club "reproductively challenged couples". I can totally relate to you, the only diff. is that you have been blessed w/ Noah. As for me and my hubby - we have been trying (3 failed IVF's) but still praying and believing that one day it will happen! Good luck! God bless! You will be in my prayers.

  16. Joy, you'll be in our prayers that everything will turn out ok. Hang in there. Goodluck!:)

  17. Obviously seeing those eyes, he was all worth it. Sorry for all you went though. Ugh - pregnany & infertility. It's not for wimps is it?

  18. TV's Take: Oh yes, those eyes....they truly make it all worth it, believe me! Thanks for the comment and I'm sure you also know that motherhood is not for the fainthearted :-)

  19. Loved reading this about you, Joy. My sister had twins through in vitro, so I know the road well. I remember thinking it was horrible all she had to go through, and yet completely miraculous that science could give my sister what she longed for. She's an incredible mother now, to her twins and two additional children. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself. :)

  20. Awww twins! More power to your sister! Thanks for your comment Jenny! :-))

  21. Hey I am just stopping by from the blog hop. Glad I found your blog. I am also "Reproductively Challenged." Look forward to reading more.
    I just started a new blog that talks about infertility too and how I deal with it by dancing.

  22. Jen N: Thanks for stopping by and glad you found me so I can find you too! I'll be 'visiting' you today. See you around! :-)

  23. Wow! What an experience. I found myself teary-eyed reading this. And I felt like giving my mom a big hug. No I'm not an IVF child but this just reminds me of all the hardships and sacrifices of my mom.

  24. I'm glad you were touched by the essay Aileen. Thanks for stopping by and for your thoughts! :-)


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