Love and Loss.

I woke up this morning and in minutes, had tears spilling down my cheeks as I laid in bed, body still aching from last week’s ordeal. A couple days ago, I felt that I wanted to do something positive in memory of the babies we’d lost. So I started the ball rolling, and perhaps, if it rolls out the way I hope it does, I’ll share with you what I will be doing in part to help others who may trod this path that Flo and I did (as much as we wish no one else will), as well as to aid us on this continual process of healing.

In the email reply that had me touched beyond words, the lady I’d contacted had shared with me a bit of writing of Henri Nouwen. It read:

Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country to dies… the pain of the leaving an tear us apart. 

Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.

In the last weeks, I had some days where I’d wake up feeling hollow inside. The emptiness of loss screams so loud, that it echoes against the chambers of my heart. I go through countless ‘what ifs‘, knowing that none of them will ever give me an answer as to why we lost our children. There are also days when everything feels surreal, as though I had never fallen pregnant, as though our triplets were merely a figment of my imagination, a haze of a dream.

It is true what Henri Nouwen wrote though. “…if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving we will never experience the joy of loving…”. I can be comforted in knowing that our babies were loved immensely the moment we knew of their existence. We, along with our family, loved them greatly without seeing them. Our friends added generous dollops of love on top. To say that our triplets were blessed is an understatement. I believe they were blessed above and beyond most. The joy we experienced in watching them grow and develop over the weeks, and being able to enjoy them while on our holiday, added to the beautiful memories we were accumulating with them right until the end.

The suffering as a result, the feeling of utter loss and despair, is therefore natural and unavoidable. We love, and as a result, we suffer. That doesn’t mean we stop loving. It means that we continue to love, despite knowing that there will be pain that comes with losing. Flo and I knew there were possible risks and complications involved with a triplets pregnancy, but we decided that we would let the babies have the chance to grow and not interfere with what God had given us. So while we never imagined they would be taken away from us so prematurely, there was no saying that everything would have been guaranteed to be smooth sailing.

In a funny way, there is a comfort amidst all the pain and suffering. In feeling the sadness of it all, there is also knowledge that we feel this way only because we loved, and still love, fiercely. For once since a long time in my life, I realise that it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to cry, it’s ok that my heart feels heavy some days, it’s totally ok to sit with those feelings because they only serve as a reminder that it was only because I have the privilege of experiencing the joy of loving that I now feel the hurt of loss. It doesn’t mean we should stop loving, because what would life be without the happiness, laughter,  and memories that come with it?

I don’t believe that we will ever get over our babies going to heaven way before us. That’s only because we will never forget them, and we will always miss their presence even though their absence may far outlive the time they had on earth very quickly. I do believe though, that things will continue to get better. And we will move forward. Even as we build the family we dream of in the future, there will always be a place for them in our hearts. And the memories of and with them, the warmth of having had them growing within me, the love we feel for them, will overcome all that we are feeling now.

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The Hardest Post I Hope to Ever Write.

I was meant to continue with my Italy journals, but I cannot pretend that this didn’t just happen. I cannot continue writing those entries as though unaffected. So here it is, the hardest blog entry I hope to ever write. 

A few months ago, I blogged about Flo and I finally conceiving. We were beyond surprised to find that we were having triplets, but we soon came around and fell in love with each of them. We looked forward to seeing the babies at every scan, looking at how much they’d grown, feeling their kicks in the evening as we played music for them… It was just wonderful.

We had a successful 15.5th Week scan before we flew off for our big Europe trip under our doctor’s blessing. And how lucky can a set of triplets be getting to taste Swiss foods, Italian foods, and hearing all the sounds of these beautiful countries through my womb? Flo and I were immensely proud of them, happy to share with anyone the wonderful news that we were expecting ‘tre bambino‘!!

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Our family and friends were incredibly stoked for us, knowing how hard we’d been trying and every Sunday, Flo would take a photo of all of us – me with the three bubs, to see how my tummy was growing. It took a while to pop up but a week into out holiday, when we were about 16 weeks, it started to become a bit more prominent.

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And from that point, my belly grew each week like there was no tomorrow. It surprised me sometimes, how quickly it was stretching to accommodate our growing babies. Initially, I felt strange, like my belly was completely foreign to me. It was as though my body was still mine, but my belly, a foreign extension attached to me.

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Even then, I started to come around the idea that I was housing three beautiful babies. I started to embrace the bump, wearing cute dresses and tops to show them off to the world. Many commented that my bump was pretty small to be housing three, but I didn’t care. I knew they were all healthy and moving within me, and that was all that mattered.

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When we returned to Singapore, there was no longer a doubt that I was pregnant. Unlike in Italy where people are a lot more receptive and warm to pregnant mothers, people in Singapore tend to not be quite the same. Often times, they’d stare at my belly as if to question if there was really something inside. I was offered a seat on public transport twice, but that aside, it sometimes felt quite alienating. But honestly, I wasn’t too bothered. I knew that if I really needed a seat, I’d speak up and ask for one anyway.

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I was blessed never to be plagued by a lot of hormonal changes that most mothers go through – I didn’t suffer from acne, nor did I have a sudden spurt of hair growth on my belly. I did suffer from some edema especially when I stood up too long, but it was nothing that bothered me. I didn’t have much aches and pains, except at night when I struggled to find the right areas to cushion my back, but once I did, I was fine.

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Our 20th week scan on Aug 02 2019 showed our gorgeous threesome growing nicely. They were all growing a few days ahead of their gestational age, they were developing beautifully and were waving at us, active within their sacs, with Baby B and C even kicking each other while Baby A chilled below. Seeing our doctor had us in even better spirits as he told us that they were all doing well and he’d see us a month on; and then the following month on. As long as there were no complications, we only had to see him for routine scans.

On Saturday Aug 10 2019, our dearest friends put together a little gender reveal party for us. Flo and I were adamant about not finding out our babies’ genders, so we had the doctor write each baby’s gender on a card, and we had it passed to Les, who passed it to Brandan (whom we’re not so close to) to organise the surprise.

We were praying so hard for a mix of genders, but Flo’s dream of having 3 girls from the night before had me feeling a little doubtful when we were opening the boxes. Of course, we would love them all the same whether all girls, all boys, or a mix, but honestly speaking, with three babies, we still hoped for a mix.

 

We had a great time that afternoon, as we FaceTimed with family from abroad so that they could all watch the unveiling together with us. We were over the moon with the outcome and it just made Flo and I more eager for the babies’ arrival.

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This was taken on Aug 11 2019 at 22 weeks. Our last photo taken with all four of us. 

Only… we hadn’t wished that they’d arrive as early as they did.

On Monday Aug 12 2019, I went into hospital with bleeding. It didn’t look anything too bad, and we suspected it may have been a simple case of being intimate the night before. Doctors found that I had an infection and two days later, after checking on the babies and my cervical length, they sent me home with antibiotics and an order to be minimally active. My cervical length was measured at 2.1cm but I suppose doctor wasn’t too concerned at that point.

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On Thursday Aug 15 2019, the day after I’d been discharged, we were back in hospital after I’d shared with Flo that I was still bleeding and feeling a bit crampy after he came home from work. He insisted we go in to get checked even though at 22+3 days, I knew that the babies were not viable and I feared that the doctors would call for them to be induced – I was not ready for that.

I was attended to quite promptly and checked for contractions. I couldn’t feel anything but apparently I was having contractions. The MO checked my cervix and immediately called for me to be admitted. Apparently, my cervical length was nowhere near 2.1cm and I was already 5cm dilated. My heart turned cold and I felt so helpless.

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The next three days, Friday to Sunday, I was in constant pain. They felt like contractions, initially starting at 10min apart and gradually increasing to 3-5min apart, each lasting about 50 seconds. By Sunday, I’d woken up ready to have them out because I could no longer bear with the pain. I was told by the doctors it may be better to let them pass through rather than be induced since my cervix was now full dilated and the membranes were out apparently, so I tried. Every ‘contraction’ I tried to push. I found that there was a 2-finger gap between my upper and lower abdomen and was convinced that our baby boy below was keen to come out. Then, that evening, after nurses found out I hadn’t peed the whole day, they inserted a catheter into me, draining out 1.7l of urine. That lower abdominal bump disappeared.

That same night, while I kept calling the nurses because of the pain, they asked if I was constipated. I wasn’t sure. I just knew that pain killers weren’t helping me alleviate any of the pain so they gave me 10ml of lactillus and within hours, I was pooping every few hours. By morning, the pains had reduced significantly, and by Tuesday, they were almost entirely gone.

Flo and my spirits started to pick up. We were into their 23 week and feeling more hopeful, thinking that the worst was over. I imagined God being with us, keeping our boy in even as I pushed like crazy that Sunday, alleviating my contraction-like pains and solving the mystery of my split abdomen. I prayed every day that they would reach 24 weeks, but even then, Flo and I knew that it wasn’t any guarantee for their long term health. We had already agreed that should the babies come in the 23rd week, we would let them go simply because survival rates were a mere 20-30%, not considering the multitude of health complications they may struggle with from being severely underdeveloped, leaving them fighting in the first few days, weeks, months, years of their lives.

We hit 23+4 days, but around 10pm. I had been feeling some kind of fluid come out from below but it wasn’t the water bag. The nurses changed me and found that I had green discharge flowing out with a foul smell. The doctor immediately ordered me to be sent to the delivery suite. I panicked but Flo kept assuring me that everything would be ok. I wasn’t so sure.

In the delivery suite, we were advised to have the babies out lest my health is put at risk. With the infection already attacking my womb, and having had fever spikes the few consecutive days before, the doctors said they couldn’t wait. For an hour, Flo and I debated what to do. I, filled with emotions and maternal instinct only wanted to keep the babies, to give them a chance at life, even though days ago, I felt it right to let them go. Flo was more rational but I couldn’t accept that decision. We argued. I was insistent on what I wanted. In the end though, I knew within my heart of hearts that Flo was right.

At 2am, 23 Aug 2019, Friday, one day before my birthday, the doctor broke Baby A’s water bag. He didn’t take too long to come out and even though he was still small, it was tiring. I couldn’t feel the contractions and the midwife had to keep going back to the contraction monitor to tell me when to push. They had me on oxytocin to try and speed up and increase the contractions for Baby B, and had to increase it until I could feel something. Another doctor came in about an hour later to help me break B’s waterbag and get her out. During that time, Baby C’s bag broke too. Baby B came out strong willed and crying. It was heart wrenching and I had to cover my eyes, telling her not to cry. Finally, just before 6am, Baby C was out to join her big brother and sister.

The entire time, Flo was with me, holding my hand, giving me sips of water, keeping me going. When the babies were all out, I think I started to go into shock. I was cold and shivering all over, my muscles tensed, my mouth clenched, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t relax. Then I fell into the deepest sleep and woke up intermittently feeling as though I was stuck in a boiler. I was so hot I thought I’d peed bucketloads on myself and it’d all seeped into the blankets below, sizzling up as though the table below was a grill on high heat. I had Flo remove the blankets from me, to get me cold water, to cool me down with wet wipes as I floated in and out of consciousness. My temperature had shot up.

At around 10am, the babies had been washed and clothed in Angel Gowns (swaddles made from preloved donated wedding gowns that looked pristine white and soft), each had a small knitted beanie over their heads that was a little loose. It took some time for them to be brought to us because of all the admin stuff that had to be attended to.

The babies were brought in for us to see and they were more than we’d expected – they were more beautiful that we could have ever hoped. Baby A resembled Flo already with his thin little lips and thin crop of hair, and Baby B was very fair had full lips like mummy. Baby C was a lovely mix and looked a little of both of us, and a little of her siblings. Seeing them there, doll-like and peaceful, made me realise that we had made the right choice. They came to us together, and they left us together. At least they are together in heaven, under God’s watchful eye, waiting for when Flo and I join them.

A Sister asked if we wanted to take photos with or of them, whether we wanted to carry them. They were so tiny, so delicate, that we couldn’t bear to carry them. We chose to forgo pictures because just as we wouldn’t take photos with ones we’ve lost at their funerals, neither should our babies be subject to them either. They looked perfect and happy, next to each other, and I know that when it is our turn to go to heaven, we won’t need a photograph to recognise them. We’ll just know.

***

Our dear babies, I wish we could have had you longer. I wish we could have got to see you all grow up, take your first steps, hear your first words… But I know that no amount of time would have ever been enough if God’s intention was to take you all home prematurely. Daddy and I miss you all every day. We miss your kicks and punches, we miss talking to you, we miss daddy rubbing my belly every night…

Often, I wonder whether I could have done something more. Maybe I ate something wrong; perhaps I should have insisted on more tests and swabs for infections; maybe I was too active and did not consider just how risky this pregnancy was, especially since everything was going so well. I know as well, that it’s all over now and while Daddy and I are at peace with every decision that we made from the minute you were conceived, we still have moments where we bawl, or wonder, or regret.

We did give you names, but we hope that in time, when we are ready to try again, that we can bestow those names on your future brother(s) and/or sister(s) in your memory, which is why I will not reveal them here. I’m sure you know them anyway. The hospital gave us a little box, each one containing your footprints. I’m glad they did. In a strange way, it gives us some kind of comfort.

In the 1.5-2 weeks I was in hospital on bedrest, and especially over the weekend where I was having those endless contraction pains, I thought to myself and told Daddy as well that I don’t think I dare to conceive again. It’s too scary and full of uncertainty. Still, when you all came out, I felt an emptiness within me that yearned to be filled again. And so, I know, I hope to be pregnant again. I hope to be parents with Florian – a man who was made to be a father. I hope to give the three of you siblings whom you can watch over from above.

Flo stood by me throughout my hospital stay, sleeping on the uncomfortable chairs, not a single complaint when I was waking up 5, 6 times to call the nurse for a bed pan or when the nurses came in two take my vitals in the middle of the night. He held my hand as I delivered each of you, and we cried tears of sorrow together right after.

It was tough. Tough when Baby A came out and I knew I had two more to push out. It was traumatising. It was heart-wrenching knowing that I was giving birth to each of you, but would never get to bring you home the way we always imagined. But I know that Flo also went through his own trauma. He may not have experienced it all physically like I did, but I know he felt it emotionally and watched it all unravel before his very eyes while trying to be strong for all of us.

***

We have been blessed with close friends, and family, who came often to visit us and spend time with us. Mum and Dad especially came down every day, held my hands, cradled Flo and I as tears streamed away. After the babies were lost, I spent another 4 days in hospital because the doctors were trying to figure out the source of my infection and why my temperature was still spiking. I’m now out and Flo and I are building ourselves back up from our ordeal. I know that with all the support we have, and the love we have for one another, we will pull through and be even stronger.

It’s been 5 days now and every day feels like a year. My wish this birthday was simply to be happy just for the one day. It was initially for the three of you to stay in without any further complications. Today, we have our 3rd year dating anniversary but no mood for celebration obviously. All we wanted for today as well was for you three bubs to still be inside me. I look at my belly, it’s like a baby chimp’s – I’m skin and bones all over but my belly is round with a little belly button barely poking out. Every day, I see my bump shrink down. And I know it will only be a matter of days perhaps before I’m back to where I was before I had you three. I’m afraid I will forget, yet I know, I will never forget you three.

I know that I am not the first, nor will I be the last to miscarry at just under 24 weeks. I also know there are many hopeful mothers who have lost in their first trimester, some even in their last. No loss is ever easy, and whether it is loss of a single baby, or loss of triplets in one go, I understand there is no such thing as one story being more tragic than the other. The pain is something we will all need to wade through but take heart, that God has bigger plans, even if we may not understand them just yet. Better things are coming. And while we mourn, our babies are together, in a much happier place, watching over us. We, will always be their parents, and they, our children. And we, will always love them. Every single day.

I hope that none of you have, or will ever go through what Flo and I went through, but if you have, feel free to share your story with me. I may not be able to advise you on how to move on, but I hope that my listening ears can be a source of comfort to you. ❤

Bittersweet Goodbyes.

In early April, we fostered our second dog, Truffles. He was only a puppy – a tiny, skinny, timid little thing that we couldn’t go near to for a few days. It took about a month to get him out of his shell, and to trust us wholly.

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Florian and I expected him to be adopted quickly what with him being a cute little puppy. We went for his first adoption drive in May where there were quite a few interested couples and families, but heard nothing back from the shelter about their interest. We reckon Truffles not being HDB-approved yet may have hindered the process.

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Whatever the case, Flo and I enjoyed having him with us. Sure, he turned out to be a naughty little boy, showing his mischievous puppy side from time to time, but we grew to love him so much.

I loved how every morning, he’d be waiting near the door for me to come out of our room, then sit next to me to get his morning scratch in while we accompanied Florian for breakfast. I loved watching him prance around the living room, jumping onto his toys and chewing on them with vigour. I loved how he’d lap up his food and look to me, anticipating for more to come even though it never happened once. Mid-afternoon, I’d sometimes give him a treat and he’d know to ‘Sit‘ and ‘Paw‘, and more recently ‘Down‘ and ‘Up‘. Truffles is an incredibly lovable, intelligent puppy and quick to learn new things especially where treats are involved.

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Once Truffles had all his vaccinations down, Flo and I brought him regularly-isn to the dog park nearby to run around. And boy, did he sprint around the park doing laps, running from Flo at one end of the compound, to me at the other end, each time we called his name. He’d roll in the grass and give himself a good back rub. He’d plant his nose right into the green before plopping his whole body down, and he’d happily go say Hi to all the big dogs in an attempt to engage in play with them. Still, in the midst of all the excitement, Truffles would still run back to Flo and I to ‘check’ on us.

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Without realising it, 2.5 months passed and Truffles grew so much not only in terms of size, but also in his personality. He’d chase his tail from time to time, and whenever I was at the table doing work, he’d lie beside, content, for hours on end, much to my surprise.

Once in a while, Flo and I would let him off his leash to run around our estate, but Truffles always made sure he could see us, and us, him. As soon as we called his name, he’d come running back, and as long as our balcony door was opened, he still seemed to prefer dashing back home than staying out too long.

Sure, I had to clean his pee pad daily because he’s still too young to keep it all in for long periods of time, but Truffles has since been grass-trained. Sure, I had to clear his fur off our floor every couple days, but it was a small matter compared to how often he put a smile to our faces. Sure, he made mistakes, but he’s still a puppy and I can only imagine how awesome he’ll be all grown up.

Florian and I considered back and forth adopting him officially, but with our triplets on the way, we knew we had to be realistic. We wouldn’t be able to give Truffles the attention and time he needs. We wouldn’t be able to play with him the way we do now, or take him for long walks. While we would have loved to foster him a little longer, we’re also due for a month long holiday starting tonight. So with some pushing, the shelter managed to find Truffles his furever home.

On Tuesday evening, his new family came over to pick him up. Truffles was expectedly anxious and when it was time to go, he wouldn’t walk with them so I had to walk him to the carpark. And carry him into the car, quickly closing the door behind him. He looked disorientated and unsure. Suddenly, I felt the same. As his new family pulled away from the parking lot, I couldn’t help tearing up, thinking how fearful, alone, confused Truffles had to be. And when I entered the lift to come home, I bawled.

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Truffles’ pawrent has been giving me lots of updates about him and while I believe it was a little rough for him the first day, he’s settling in well. I know he’ll be fine. Truffles is tougher than he appears and I believe he will get all the love and attention that he needs. This last picture is one I took before his family came to pick him up. Obviously he was more fixated on some dust on the floor…

Truffles will always hold a special place in our hearts – watching him turn from a helpless pitiful pooping machine to a confident, affectionate, cheeky boy made our time and patience worthwhile. I pray he will continue to grow in confidence and blossom further under the love and care of his furever family. xx

 

Cherry Garden, Mandarin Oriental. & Folklore, Destination Hotel.

Dad’s birthday was on 11 June. The day before, I thought to treat him and Mum to lunch at Cherry Garden, Mandarin Oriental, after our 13 week scan. Dad isn’t big on celebrating his own birthday and doesn’t like the whole cake and candle surprise business, so I knew a nice meal would make his day. That, and knowing that this was his last birthday before being upgraded to ‘grandpa‘.

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After our order for a few dim sum items was placed, we were treated to an appetiser of pork belly. Now, I’m usually one to turn away at the sound of ‘pork belly’ – I’m no fan of the gelatinous layers in between the meat and ever since I was little, when given Chinese roast pork belly (‘Sio Bak‘ or ‘Sio Yuk‘), I would carefully deconstruct it to eat only the lean meat and leave behind the fatty layers.

Upon Dad’s egging on to try Cherry Garden’s rendition, I gave the smallest one a try and had to admit that it was incredibly delicious. Sure, it was coated in some awesome, sweet, sticky, spicy sauce, but its texture was more chewy then gooey. I had another piece, before surrendering the last to Dad since I know how much he loves these kinds of dishes (and doesn’t often get to indulge in them).

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We ordered Har Gao with Black Garlic, Steamed Crystal Dumplings with Fresh Mushrooms and Black Truffle, Congee with Seafood, Steamed Glutinous Rice with Cantonese Chicken Sausage and Mushrooms wrapped in Lotus Leaf

My favourite was the Steamed Crystal Dumplings – lovely, delicate, thin, chewy skin that lovingly held a generous amount of vegetable filling. It had good texture and a good whiff of truffle without being overpowering.

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The congee had an ample amount of fish, scallops and prawns. It was smooth and light, although my favourite still goes to Imperial Treasure – I like my congee smooth and thick. Har gow was well executed and the steamed glutinous rice was also very light. The rice used was not as glutinous compared to what we usually get, and not as oily either. I enjoyed their version actually!

We also had a serving of Stir-fried Greens with Mushrooms and Black Garlic

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Vegetables were well executed and we enjoyed the sweetness of the black garlic to highlight the earthiness of the greens.

And finally, we also had these uber cute, Fried Yam Puff with Duck Meat.

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I’m more used to the yam puff filled with minced chicken and dried shrimp. While these were well fried, and the yam paste was smooth and savoury, I felt that the duck in its sweet sauce came on a little too strong.

As dessert, our dear birthday boy decided to order dessert – Yam Paste with Pumpkin Puree and Gingko Nuts, from the Teochew Cuisine June 2019 Menu. This was a single serving. Mum and I had a try before allowing Dad to slowly relish his birthday ‘cake’.

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Dad’s a Teochew boy and it’s not often these days that you can find really good yam paste desserts (Orh Nee) around. We all gave this two thumbs up. It wasn’t too sweet, the pumpkin puree went perfectly with the smooth, rich paste, helping to keep it from getting too heavy and cloying.

Next evening, on Dad’s actual birthday, Flo and I brought Mum and Dad to Folklore at Destination Hotel for Peranakan food.

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We had Ngor Hiang, Chap Chye (always a must-order at Peranakan restaurants!), Beef Cheek Rendang, and Four-Angled Bean Salad. We were pretty impressed with the food, and the generous portions, since most Peranakan restaurants charge the same price but for half the amount of food. For a Tuesday evening, it was pretty well filled. We could have ordered more but luckily, decided to start with these four dishes which ended filling all of us up, along with copious amounts of rice.

The Ngor Hiang was well-fried, not oily, and had good texture from chunks of meat and chestnuts. I liked that they fried the whole piece before cutting it, instead of cutting then frying – just a personal preference. That being said, Mum’s is still the best!!

Chap Chye was pretty robust from the seafood broth used to braise the vegetables in. I still enjoyed it but am more used to lighter versions. Actually, I’m just more used to the Teochew version but am a sucker for chap chye whenever I see it on any menu. I lap it up anyway just because I love the softness and natural sweetness of cabbage juxtaposed the crunch of black fungus and the slippery strands of tanghoon (glass noodles) all flavourful from soaking up the juices of the veggies.

Beef Cheek Rendang was so tender, so melting, and they actually gave a whole cheek which was pretty huge! Dad loved this dish especially. He has a weakness for rendang, especially well executed rendang.

The Salad was refreshing and perfect for whenever the other dishes started feeling too heavy on the palate.

Overall, we all left with very happy, very full bellies, and I think my three little piglets were all stuffed as well from their dinner with Grandpa. I still cannot imagine them this time next year, they should be about 6, 7 months old… celebrating Grandpa’s birthday. I cannot wait! I pray that Dad will continue to be blessed with wonderful health, that he’ll worry less about me, and that he will always be rich in happiness and wealthy in love. I LOVE YOU DAD! Always!

Part Three. Three’s Not a Crowd.

9 March 2019, I started round two of SO-IUI at KKH. This time, I was put on Puregon which was a lot easier to inject than Menopur since I didn’t have to withdraw the solution manually. Everything was in a pen and I just had to set it to the amount I was prescribed, and inject it in every day.

As you all may know, our first round of SO-IUI failed in January, and even though I hadn’t conceived, I was distraught. The next day, I went to the TCM clinic just behind where we stay (Oak Health) where Gabriel, the physician, found my uterus to be very cold, my kidneys, liver and digestive system were weak too. So I started visiting the clinic regularly to get acupuncture done, and to get whatever tonics and herbs I needed to get my body in balance. I stopped taking cold drinks, cold foods i.e. sashimi, raw salads, cold fruit, and I stopped drinking coke zero, or having the odd cup of coffee now and then. I went for yoga regularly and started to feel a lot better physically. I felt more energised, and a lot more calm.

My first scan on CD7 showed my follicles growing very slowly, so Menopur was added to my daily dose of Puregon, which meant self-injecting twice a day.

I won’t go into too much detail but my follicle growth from scan to scan pretty much looked like this:

CD 7:
R – 4, 3, small follies
L – 4, 4, 4, small follies
Lining – 3.5mm

CD 11:
R – 7.5, 8.5, 8, 7
L – 8.5, 8.5, 8. 6
Lining – 6.4mm

CD 13:
R – 11, 11, 9, 8.5
L – 11.5, 10, 10, 9
Lining – 6.9mm Triple

CD 14:
R – 12.5, 12, 11.5, 10
L – 12.5, 13, 12.5, 9.5, 8
Lining – 8.6mm Triple

Still no dominant follicle so I was getting a little worried… They lowered Puregon and Menopur in hopes that the stronger follies would grow and the weaker ones would shrink or stop growing.

CD 15:
R – 14.5, 12.5, 11.5, 8.5
L – 14.5, 13, 13, 9.5, 8
Lining – 8.6mm Triple

CD 16:
R – 16.5, 15, 13, 11.5, 11, 9.5, 10, 9
L – 16, 15, 10.5, 9.5, 10, 9.5, 9
Lining – 9mm Triple

By CD 16, this was how my poked abdomen looked like…

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23 March 2019, Saturday. After my scan was done, I sat anxiously awaiting my turn to see the doctor for my review. With SO-IUI, they usually want us to have 2-3 leading follicles, maximum, with a minimum length of 17mm, and a lining of at least 8mm. My lining was fine, but I wasn’t sure about my follicles especially with so many of them so close in size.

The doctor told me that I had four strong follies (16.5, 16, 15, 15) but they worried that ’13’ might catch up so no injections that day. My follicles were still expected to grow a little more but I would have to trigger ovulation myself that night between 8-9pm. She did mention that there might be a risk of having multiples, which we figured would be fine because after the disappointment of our first round, we didn’t think we’d have the luck of having that many babies in one shot.

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That evening, I triggered ovulation as instructed although right after, I started wondering if I’d done it right because a nurse had administered it to me during my first SO-IUI. I hate the side effects of Ovidrel sore nipples, ovulation cramps, nausea, tiredness. And the thing about Ovidrel is, it stays in your system a good two weeks so it really makes you feel the symptoms of pregnancy, and gives you that false hope, even while knowing that it’s unlikely any real symptoms can be felt that early.

25 March, Monday, I went in for the IUI procedure. Flo had already sent in his soldiers to be washed and while it was busier that day compared to our first round, I managed to go in quite quickly. They ask that you have a full bladder when the procedure is carried out so I told the nurse that I was really full and getting urgent. It was all done within 8 minutes and I was able to go.

Unlike the first time though, I didn’t experience bad bloating and I believe it was because of the TCM. I continued seeing Gabriel and taking my tonics as prescribed. He constantly told me to relax because that would really help implantation but OMG! Relaxing when instructed to do so is no easy feat. The two week wait was a little more bearable this time round but not that much better. Every day that passed, I wondered what was going on within me. Initially, I awaited implantation bleeding but had nothing. As it got closer to about 14 days post-IUI, I started to hope NOT to see any blood whatsoever.

About 10 days past IUI, I remember started to get very bloated and achy. It was strange because I had a funny feeling some kind of implantation took place but couldn’t be sure. I just knew I was really uncomfortable. The bloating caused my appetite to take a turn and I found myself having bad cramps. The discomfort lasted a good week before I started to get some relief.

Finally, on 12 April, Friday, 18 days past-IUI, I made my way back to KKH early morning for my blood test. They told me they’d call me before noon to inform me of my results – Mum and Dad were going to come over at 10am to keep my company in case the results were not in my favour.

At 9.50am, I got the call. “Congratulations Mdm. Tan, you’re pregnant!“. Those words. I was beyond ecstatic, in tears and quickly calling Flo to share the news. When Mum and Dad arrived, I opened the door and said “Hi Grandpa, Hi Grandma!“. The look on their faces – the initial surprise broke into realisation and we hugged and kissed each other with joy! Of course, even with the blood test, I HAD to take a home pregnancy test just to have a ‘positive stick’ for keepsake.

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I refused to check before the blood test date just because I knew that taking a pregnancy test would be too torturous. If it said no, could it be a false negative? And would I be able to take it? If it said yes, it could be a false positive. Whatever the case, I knew I wasn’t ready for the answer until it was time.

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16 April. Tuesday.

9am, I was on the way to hospital because I found a pink stain on my toilet tissue. Until now, I cannot be sure if it was blood, spotting, or nothing at all. Whatever the case, I panicked, suddenly my boobs didn’t feel as tender, suddenly, it was as though all my symptoms had numbed. I went straight to the 24hr KKH O&G, praying it was nothing.

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They did a scan to check for any bleeding internally. Thank God there was none. Instead, they found two little sacs, sent me home excited at the prospect of twins, and with an increased dose of progesterone.

24 April. Wednesday.

We were back in KKH for our first official scan. Babies were supposed to be about 6 weeks then so they were scanning for yolk sacs and heartbeats. Flo and I were so excited, and when we went into the room and I started being scanned, Flo was in tears. Since it was still very early on in our pregnancy, it was a vaginal ultrasound that was carried out.

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While I was being scanned, Flo and I suddenly saw three very clear yolks sacs, but we couldn’t be sure. Flo started laughing and showed me three fingers, mouthing “Three?“. I kept shaking my head going “Nah!! Two, just two!“. Until the sonographer zoomed in and went “And here is baby number three“. That’s when we both went “WHAT?! No… Really?“.

We made sure she checked around to ensure there was no fourth. There wasn’t.

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So there you have it, our three little dumplings. It’s not so clear in the pictures above but their yolk sacs were there and we saw each of their hearts beating.

We saw Dr. V after our scan where she congratulated us while also sharing with us the risks involved with multiples – higher rates of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, premature labour… She mentioned that some couples consider ‘Selective Reduction‘ which sounds like a euphemism for abortion to be honest. Flo and I were discussing that before we were called in and had already decided that there would be no reduction since they all had a heartbeat. However, if one of them was weak and didn’t make it naturally, we could accept that.

Dr. V then recommended three doctors we could see who specialised in multiple pregnancies and maternal fetal medicine to oversee our pregnancy. We went with Dr. Edwin Thia. While a lot of triplet Mums (whom I found on FB and am now in a whatsapp chat group with) sang high praises for this one professor at NUH, Flo and I decided to try Dr. Thia first and see how we liked him. After all, KKH is a lot more accessible for us and we feel that at the end of the day, KKH is also the best equipped for neonatal care especially in the case of emergencies.

10 May. Friday.

After what felt like ages, we were finally back for our scan to make sure all babies were doing well. I kept worrying about one suddenly vanishing but the ultrasound showed all three bubs getting along just fine.

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Our three dumplings measured nearly the same at 19, 18 and 19mm at 8.5 weeks, and looked like little gummy bears. Their heartbeats all looked strong and steady which brought lots of comfort to me.

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We met Dr. Thia who was patient in answering all our questions, and we found ourselves really liking him. He said that until week 20, he would treat our pregnancy like that of a singleton, after which, I’ll be treated as high-risk. As such, we’ve been given the green light to go ahead with our honeymoon to Switzerland and Italy in July since we’ll be back just before week 20. YAY! I think he is less concerned about my pregnancy at this point because our dumplings each have their own sacs so there’s less risk involved. It means that they won’t be fighting for nutrients with each other – they’ll just be fighting with mummy.

As I write this, I am in the middle of Week 13. I’ve been diligently taking side profile belly photos of myself but perhaps am a little over eager. This was me at around week 6:

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And this at week 13:

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I do get more bloated in the evenings and when I lie down, I’m pretty sure my uterus protrudes out. Those who know me well will sometimes be able to notice my belly sticking out a touch more but those who don’t know me never guess I have three babies inside of me. Neither can they believe it. Yet.

I’m quite happy to wait a little more for my belly to pop, especially with triplets. I heard from the other mums that once you pop, you won’t stop growing (a little like eating Pringles). Your belly just expands exponentially and at the end of second trimester, I could very well look like a singleton pregnancy at full term. OK. Not going to think of that right now.

We had our 13 week scan this past Monday which also helped check each baby for Down’s risk as well as other possible chromosomal abnormalities. Again, all three look to be growing well, all are low risk, and while my little Xiao Long Bao is a little smaller than Siu Mai and Har Gao, and has a slightly slower heartbeat, perhaps its just naturally more petite and relaxed as my dear friend (more like an older sister), Grace, suggested. With all three looking good, we finally couldn’t contain it any longer and announced their impending arrival!

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It’s crazy how our babies look fully formed but are really only about 7cm long. They’re developing their brains, bones, limbs… And Xiao Long Bao was most friendly, even giving us a wave so we could see all its 5 fingers! Siu Mai was the most active, rolling around and making sure we had to return to it to finish the scan – it finally settled and fell asleep I think, and Har Gao was the most cooperative. Let’s see if these traits continue!

We won’t know their gender until week 20 – after our holiday, but for now, I’m happy just knowing they are all growing well. It still feels so surreal carrying the three of them and I’ve been blessed in that my morning sickness was very mild. I mainly slept a lot through my first trimester, with symptoms of nausea and some vomiting peaking between weeks 8-12. Praying that the rest of this pregnancy will go smoothly and that these babies will stay in for as long as possible!

Thus begins our pregnancy journey. I don’t know whether I will share much after the babies are born, perhaps I will but one thing Flo and I are sure about is that we will not be sharing any pictures of them on social media. Of course, being pregnant with multiples comes with a lot of possible complications and risks, but we will leave everything is God’s hands.

I know that there are many couples struggling with conceiving. Some have gone through multiple cycles of fertility treatments without success, others have had some success but have miscarried time and again. Some are still trying; some have given up. There is always hope to be found, no matter how difficult it is, you have to keep the faith. I believe that God led me to Gabriel, and I truly believe that TCM helped me conceive. We feel blessed – a little fearful and anxious about how to handle three babies when they arrive, but blessed. And I pray, that for those of you yearning for a little one, that it will happen, in His time.

Part Two. SO it begins.

Written 18 April 2019.

I’ve shared before about my struggle with infertility and even before Flo and I were married, we thought we’d try and if we managed to conceive before we tied the knot, we would be happy. We went for all the tests, and then we got married. Still, we weren’t able to conceive because I couldn’t ovulate. I had no cycle.

On 11 Jan 2019, we embarked on our first SO-IUI cycle under KKH. We were both very hopeful as I started with daily injections of Menopur to help my follicles grow. I hardly had any side effects with the hormones and on day 7 of my cycle, I went in for my first scan to check how my follies were growing.

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They were growing slowly with the largest at about 5mm, and my lining as well was very thin at 3.5mm. So Menopur dosage was doubled.

I started getting really antsy, reading up about how to help my follies grow, and how to increase my uterine lining. I drank raspberry leaf tea, ate one brazil nut a day, tried consuming pineapple core, stopped all soft drinks and prayed that my next scan would go better.

19 Jan 2019, I had my next scan and the follies didn’t grow by much. The biggest was about 6.5mm and I had a few smaller ones. Lining had increased to 4mm.

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3 days later, on the 22nd, I was back in for a scan. My follies had started to grow, with the biggest at 10.5, and my lining at 5.9mm. I had lots of follicles at this point, almost as though my ovaries had woken up after all the years of being asleep.

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By the 23rd of Jan – Day 14 of my cycle, I could literally feel my follicles growing. My pelvic area on both sides felt tender and I started feeling bloated around my abdomen. Next day, I went for my next scan and all my follicles were growing at around the same rate. I had 6 on both sides with a range of 7 to 11.5, with small follicles that weren’t being counted. My lining had grown to 7.9mm, just 0.1mm short of the 8mm required.

Doctor said that my follies were beginning their growth spurt so my Menopur dose was reduced back down to the same as before.

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Next day, on the 25th – CD16, a good two weeks after starting my SO-IUI cycle, I was back in yet again for another ultrascan. My follies were in the range of 8-14mm, and then the lady doing the scan for me suddenly went back to my right ovary and said there looked to be a big one that was hidden initially. It measured 18.5mm (follicle has to be 17mm and above to be given the go ahead) and my lining was 9.5mm triple. OMG I cannot tell you how my heart started racing realising that I had a good sized follicle and a good lining!

Dr V, who is my consultant doctor, made sure to double check my follicle as well as ensure that I didn’t have too many other medium follicles that might release a mature egg as well lest I end up with multiples. When she was satisfied, I was triggered for ovulation and told to go in the next day for the IUI procedure. Ovidrel gave me terrible nausea in the afternoon but I soon managed to get past it.

Flo and I were at KKH before 8am next morning for him to submit his sperm, and we went for some breakfast before whiling time away until my scheduled procedure at 10am. The whole thing lasted no more than 5min, with them confirming my identity, and making sure the little vial of washed sperm were Florian’s, before putting them as close to my tubes as possible. I rested about 10min before I was free to go.

You’d think that the two weeks of daily injections was the hard part but to be honest, the injections were a breeze and on hindsight, the fear that the follies wouldn’t grow enough, or my lining wasn’t going to be thick enough, or that I’d have too many follies, were nothing to be worried about. The really difficult part was the two weeks’ wait after the IUI was done. 

27 Jan 2019, I was woken up in the middle of the night with bad cramps. I assume this was due to ovulation. I also found myself struggling to stand and being extremely bloated. I didn’t know this then but I was suffering from OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome). It took a few days for me to be able to walk upright again and not feel the abdominal discomfort.

The HCG from the Ovidrel made sure I experienced symptoms of pregnancy – sore nipples, tender breasts, tiredness, mood swings, all through the 14 days it took to leave my body. Every day, I couldn’t help but read up about pregnancy symptoms, and think about the what ifs. I was filled with so much anxiety and nerves, paying attention to every twinge, checking to see if perhaps I had some implantation bleeding.

On 8th Feb, 13 days past IUI, we celebrated Flo’s birthday and imagined it possibly being his last childless. Thoughout the two weeks, I imagined my little egg being fertilised, implanted, getting comfy in my uterus. And yet, I also knew that if it had been fertilised, if it had moved to my uterus and embedded itself into my lining, it would all have been done already. Nothing was within my control.

10 Feb 2019, 15 days past IUI, I started getting excited. It was a Sunday morning and we were due to meet our friends for a post CNY lunch. I was thinking of booking my GrabHitch later that evening for my Beta HCG test on Wednesday (18 dpiui) at the hospital but before that, Flo and I decided to spend some time together in bed before I went to wash up. I peed, discharge came out, and with it, fresh blood. Immediately, my face pricked and my heart dropped right into my stomach. Then I bawled my eyes out.

We hoped it was implantation blood since it looked like there was nothing else after that first wipe. We freshened up, met with our friends while my mood stayed low. I couldn’t think of much else aside from getting the home pregnancy test to verify pregnancy, or the absence of it, just as the hospital had said to. Right after lunch, we raced home and I tested.

Big. Fat. Negative. 

I spent pretty much the rest of the afternoon flooding Flo’s shirt with tears while his mixed with mine. We did end up going to Fel’s place in the late afternoon since that was the initial plan and the rest were already there. Of course, I couldn’t bear to share any of this with them at the time. I was subdued and could only wonder why – why didn’t it happen? What went wrong? Was it something I did? Is something wrong with my uterus? If my follicle was of a good size, and my lining a good thickness, and Flo’s sperm were checked and are of great quality, why didn’t it work? 

We could only console ourselves with the thought that perhaps fertilisation took place but the zygote was weak so better now than have it for a couple months and lose it. Or perhaps my egg wasn’t of good quality. The thing is, we’ll never know what happened but it wasn’t to be.

Dr. V asked if I wanted to carry on straight to Cycle 2 and as much as I wanted to, being the impatient person that I am, I couldn’t because Mum and I already had our Hong Kong trip planned for her birthday. I entertained thoughts of trying to cancel it, and getting Dad to go in my place, but in the end, I knew I couldn’t and that it would be better to take the month off to strengthen my body for the next cycle in March.

So I did. On 16th Feb, the day after my menses arrived, I went to visit the TCM Clinic behind our place, and I started going for yoga classes 3-5 times a week. On 9 March 2019, cycle 2 commenced…

Part One. Infertility: Our Journey So Far.

This post was written on 4 December 2018. I didn’t want to publish it because I wasn’t ready yet. Now seems like the right time because it’s the first part of the journey I am now on with Flo. There will be three parts to this, with the other two parts being published by end of next week. Of course, this journey is only the beginning, and there will be many more chapters to it. For now, I hope this ‘series’ will inspire hope in those of you struggling right now. 

It’s been about 3 months since I wrote about my state of infertility and I thought I’d share a little more on what has been going on since then. As much as I started off reading numerous blogs on fertility treatment, particularly in Singapore, I wasn’t able to find out as much about the steps and timeline leading to starting the process of conceiving. Of course, every couple’s journey and timeline is different so please bear this in mind.

A quick recap since I shared some in my previous post related to this topic:

  •  I was first referred to Dr. V through my gynaecologist and was able to get an appointment to see her in July 2018. My first consultation with Dr. V was more to get my medical history, as well as to run some tests to check on my hormones, do a pelvic ultrasound and check my bone density.
  • My next visit in early September 2018 was to run through my results as well as to then check my cortisol and growth hormone levels, again via a blood test. Line Flo up for a sperm test the week after, as well as put me on a 5 months’ dose of HRT since my estrogen and progesterone levels were slightly low, and to help induce a period – the third month after my period, I was to have an HSG test to check whether my fallopian tubes were clear.

Today (I’m writing this 4 December 2018), Flo and I went back to see Dr. V to receive all our outstanding test results as well as to determine our next step. We were both also subject to yet another blood test to check for HIV, syphilis, Hep B and Hep C in preparation for what’s to come.

My cortisol levels came back normal, although my IGF-1 is very very slightly lower than normal range though Dr. V said it’s nothing to worry about. Both tubes are perfectly clear so that’s awesome news!

As for Flo, his ‘men’ are very active and in very impressive numbers in the sample given so Dr. V was very happy in giving us that piece of news too.

Basically, with all our results, Dr. V advised that it’d be best for us to go for SO-IUI since my cause of infertility is known – my ovaries aren’t sending out eggs, but everything else is pretty much healthy, and Flo is definitely not hindering the conception process either. She thinks that our chances with SO-IUI is good and there’s no need to leapfrog towards undergoing IVF especially since the cost of the latter is so, SO much higher.

This leads me back to the mandatory blood test we both had to take in order to move on the beginning our journey to conception. The test results for HIV will be valid for 6 months and the ones for the other three, valid for a year. Since Flo and I will be away this Christmas period, it’s just as well we managed to get our blood tests done since they advised that to be done 2 weeks to a month in advance of starting the SO-IUI process. Hopefully, we will be all clear – I’m quite certain we are.

Come January, on Day 1 of my period, I will have to call the hospital so that I can be scheduled to start. I will be given hormone injections beginning with the smallest dose to produce and stimulate ovarian follicles i.e. eggs, this will be increased depending on how my body responds. Dr. V said that since my ovaries have been sleeping a long time, it might take 2-3 weeks instead of the average 10 days.

This process will be monitored through ultrasound which means that I will be running in and out of hospital every few days, but once everything is in place, there will be an HCG injection to aid in the final maturation and subsequent ovulation of the follicles. This is when Flo will have to do his thing and donate more of his men who will in turn be washed and catheter-ed as close to my egg(s) as possible. Then we cross our fingers and pray that magic happens. More meds are given after the procedure to increase the rate of implantation and just after two weeks, they will test for pregnancy.

This all sounds amazing on paper but I am aware of how tiring it will be not only for me, but for Flo who might have to bear with a lot of hormonal mood swings, as well as my parents who will be helping to ferry me back and forth from hospital numerous times.

To get to where Flo and I are right now has taken us about 6 months. Or rather, it will be exactly since months once we start on SO-IUI in January. Half a year seems like a long time but it’s actually flown by far quicker than I expected it to.

It certainly helped that we looked for help, more for me at first, to figure out my infertility status even before we were married. Getting test after test done to ascertain the cause of infertility, if there were any other issues aside from my absence of period, took time as well but at least Flo and I can be assured that we are both in pretty good sexual health. I’m pretty sure that for regularly menstruating women, this process will be far quicker seeing as the doctors might only need to check your tubes, and your husband’s sperm quantity and quality. Unless of course, they need to investigate possible hormonal issues.

The success rate of SO-IUI is between 12-15% but it can go as high as 36% depending on the condition hindering the process towards conceiving. I’m not a stats person but obviously the numbers make me nervous. As much as Dr. V said that our case is pretty straight-forward (making me hopeful that our chances are more towards the latter figure), it’s still not as high as say, 63%, or better yet, 75%. Still, I guess this is where faith comes into play, that, and a whole lot of positivity. As Dad always says, even if the odds are 1%, someone has to fall into that 1% category so who’s to say it won’t be you?

It’s crazy to think that in a few months’, we might be pregnant. It’s also exciting, nerve-wrecking, and scary all at the same time. I’m also trying to manage my expectations since I know that not everyone is successful the first time. Praying that all goes well for Flo and I. Will keep you updated on this journey but for now, it’s time to relax and bask in the magic of Christmas and in the love of family and friends!