Image credit: Cathy Britton Photography
The decision to start trying for a baby may involve a lot of factors. In this article, 45-year-old Jean, mum to 4-year-old Reyes and 1-year-old Tessa, candidly shares her fertility journey, highlighting the initial hesitations and concerns she had about motherhood, and the lessons she learnt along the way.
Jean: Having children was not my top priority when I first got married. At that point of time, I placed a lot of emphasis on my career, and was enjoying our double income no kids (DINK) lifestyle.
We had just gotten our house and it felt like we still had our whole lives ahead of us. There were so many things I still wanted to explore, like travelling to new countries.
On hindsight, I guess I was just not ready to make such a huge commitment.
“I did not want to lose my self-identity or friends, whom I felt would no longer ask me out as I thought that motherhood was uncool.”
I had a huge circle of single friends whom I would hang out with after work. So, the thought of having children felt stifling. I was afraid that it would tie me down and prevent me from living the carefree lifestyle I had. Plus, I did not want to lose my self-identity or friends, whom I felt would no longer ask me out as I thought that motherhood was uncool.
“It was not until I stumbled upon an article on fertility health, and how it sharply declines in women after they turn 35 that we both decided that maybe we should give it a shot.”
My husband, on the other hand, has always been pro-children. Thus, he was naturally more eager to start a family. However, it was not until I stumbled upon an article on fertility health, and how it sharply declines in women after they turn 35 that we both decided that maybe we should give it a shot.
I mean, it was not like we had a choice. My husband was already 40, and I, 36. With our biological clock ticking, IVF seemed like a no-brainer as it would allow us to shortcut the process to conceive… or so we thought. So, we dived right into it, with little to no knowledge, and no preparation. We thought it would be easy. But life tends to throw you curveballs when you least expect it.
“The journey felt isolating and depressing as it was not an easy topic to navigate around our family or friends.”
The road to becoming parents was not smooth sailing. Initially, we had high hopes. After all, we were under the impression that in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) would be the silver bullet to help us conceive. Thus, we were sorely disappointed when our first attempt only yielded a small number of fertilised blastocysts (fertilised eggs).
While failing our first and second cycles came as a shock to us, nothing could have prepared us for what laid ahead. We experienced two miscarriages, had to undergo multiple treatments, tests, IVF cycles, and surgeries to remove the uterine fibroids (a non-cancerous tumour that grows in and around the womb) over the next five years.
The entire process was not only mentally draining but also put a strain on our finances. To make things worse, the journey felt isolating and depressing as it was not an easy topic to navigate around our family or friends.
“While others were happily announcing their pregnancies, we were experiencing loss after loss.”
The days and months from there on blurred as my life revolved around trying-to-conceive (TTC). While others were happily announcing their pregnancies, we were experiencing loss after loss. I felt like a failure, and often blamed myself for not trying earlier.
Despite the challenges, this tumultuous journey played a crucial role in solidifying and anchoring our relationship. Even though my husband had to grapple with his own disappointment and sadness, he constantly found ways to cheer me up.
Over time, we began to find joy in the everyday. We even volunteered at childcare centres and old folks’ homes. Somehow, by redirecting our time and energy into the people who needed it most, we were able to fill our cups in return. Slowly but surely, we started feeling more energised, and happier, which eased the emotional strain of TTC.
“When we learnt that I was finally expecting, we were overjoyed yet cautiously optimistic.”
I also started following the social media accounts of women who were on the same path to motherhood as I was. Knowing that there were others who were also going through the same journey and difficulties made us realise that we were not alone.
It was during this time that I got to know Sue-Ann, the founder of Fertility Support SG, a volunteer group that offers tips, resources, and support to women trying to conceive. Through her, I not only learnt about the treatments that could help with my situation but also found a safe space to seek solace and help. Deeply inspired by Sue-Ann and the other incredible women behind this volunteer effort, I decided to join them as a volunteer in 2022. I hope we can reach more couples and offer them the same guidance and support from this extraordinary community.
When we learnt that I was finally expecting, we were overjoyed yet cautiously optimistic. Having gone through multiple losses, we were afraid to get our hopes up, only for it to be dashed once again.
Due to my advanced maternal age, there was a real risk of encountering complications in my pregnancy. Thankfully, we were blessed with not one but two healthy children, Reyes (4) and 1 Tessa (1) via IVF. You can imagine the huge relief I felt each time I cradled my child safely in my arms after my C-section!
Now, as a mother to two young children, juggling work and motherhood takes conscious effort. I have to allocate time for both my children and work, while also compartmentalising my emotions and thoughts. It is not easy. But I am incredibly grateful to have the support of my family, domestic helper, as well as my bosses, who have given me the flexibility and space to navigate this dual role.
“I have learnt to remind myself that it is okay to be imperfect, and to let go when situations call for it.”
•••Image credit: Cathy Britton Photography
Motherhood is not picture-perfect all the time. I have learnt to remind myself that it is okay to be imperfect, and to let go when situations call for it. As funny as it sounds, my children have taught me to be more patient. Because the faster I expect them to complete their tasks, the slower they get!
Rather than getting mad at them, I have learnt to cherish these moments. Because there is beauty in the way their minds are only focused on one thing at a time, like buttoning their shirts, for instance.
“They have taught me to be contented, because simple things in life like my mere presence and smiles are more than enough for them.”
Through them, I have learnt that it is okay to forgive and forget what may appear to be the most glaring mistakes. Because in their little minds, they bear no grudges and make no judgements. More importantly, they have taught me to be contented, because simple things in life like my mere presence and smiles are more than enough for them.
Published in Feb 2024