Shortly after our failed FET cycle last year, I received a message on this blog’s Facebook page, thanking me for sharing our journey in conceiving Noah, and saying that she shared all the pains we had gone through as well.
I thought Evelyn was one of the many Trying to Conceive (TTC) ladies who came across my blog, and told her that I would be happy to lend a listening ear if she needed one, because I know how tough the journey can be. To my great surprise, she told me that she is the mother of Singapore’s first IVF twins, both of whom are now all grown up and recently married. I was touched that she actually bothered to contact me, and that she even encouraged me to go for our next fresh cycle as soon as possible. She checked in on me occasionally after that, and it was nice to know that someone who had gone through the same journey, albeit many years ago, was rooting for me too.
Her IVF journey was definitely much tougher than mine, because it was done so many years ago in 1986, and I think not many people knew much about IVF then. There was no internet back then for them to do any online research, and probably very little literature on the medical process, since it was relatively new. If we faced so many challenges in our IVF journey now, things must have been a lot tougher for her and her husband!
I asked if I could conduct a short email interview with her, to find out more about what her IVF experience was like, as I felt that it was definitely a story worth hearing, and wanted to record it so that others on this TTC/IVF journey can be encouraged by it. Evelyn graciously agreed to the email interview, and I am truly honoured to be able to share her story here on this blog.
1. What made you decide to go for IVF? Could you please tell us a little about your history and decision-making process?
The decision was a tough one. My husband Joseph and I were married for seven years. We were keen to start a family but never succeeded as I was never able to conceive past 6 weeks, as it ended each time with a spontaneous abortion, which was painful.
Of course, this led me to want to find the cause of the problem. I went for a thorough gynaecological investigation and was diagnosed with endometriosis. It was surgically removed, and I was medicated for complete healing before trying to conceive again. While I was on the treatment, it was complicated with other conditions, but those were successfully treated.
However, it did not solve my infertility problem and I was given the option to conceive via IVF as my biological clock was ticking.
2. Did you tell anyone about it before going for the procedure? If so, how did they react? Did you face any objections from your family members and/or friends?
After much consideration, we decided to go for it as there were no other choices. We did not discuss the option with anyone as we felt that we were in the best position to make that decision.
3. How did you feel, being the first one to have twins via IVF in Singapore? Were you very closely monitored by the doctors? What was your experience like, and how do you think it differs from the IVF process now?
I felt great to have made medical history as the first mum of IVF twins in Singapore. I felt that this achievement served as an encouragement to other women who are encountering difficulties in conception. It would give them the hope and courage to try IVF as an option to conceive. I felt that my success had contributed to the advancement of medical science and would bring more awareness to couples needing other options to have a family.
I was very fortunate to have a team of gynaecologists who were/are passionate about the IVF programme. They were very determined in wanting to increase the success rate of IVF, not only in Singapore, but also internationally. Thus I was very closely monitored through blood tests and scans.
The initial whole process was very painful and emotionally exhausting. Each blood test and scan brought much anxiety. It taught me to be hopeful and to stay positive all the time.
It brought frustrations too, as I was restricted to complete bed rest without toilet privileges. I felt isolated from the world, as I could only see the four walls around me for the first five months of my pregnancy. At one stage, I thought I was going insane, and this was worsened by the hormonal changes taking place in my body. I tried to make sense out of the entire situation, and tried hard to be rational, knowing that I needed to keep my sanity, and persevere in order to make this work.
I have no means of comparing IVF in the eighties and now, but I think women are going through a much easier time now than before. I know that at least the majority do not have to be confined to bed for the initial five months, and also near the time of delivery!
4. Would you recommend IVF to your friends/children if they suffer from infertility? Why or why not?
With the advancement of medical science, I would ask couples to try non-surgical treatments first. If all else fails, then IVF is the option. IVF offers hope to couples who want to have a family.
5. What advice would you give to someone who is considering IVF / going for IVF?
IVF is an expensive procedure. They must be prepared to give up their time for their careers, and just concentrate on getting the treatment, as it is rather time-consuming and physically draining.
They must have plenty of rest, and be stress free. The husband’s support is very essential, especially when the wife is undergoing the treatment.
The couple should also be financially stable, in order to be able to pay for the expenses. However, I think that the government does offer some help for the programme now, by providing co-funding, and allowing couples to use Medisave for the treatment, giving more couples the option of going for IVF now.
Evelyn also shared with me the newspaper article that was published after she delivered her twins, and reading it reminded me that all couples undergoing IVF have the same thought: “we’d be lucky if we ended up with just one baby”.
Nurse is mum of first S’pore test-tube twins
On a separate but related note, I recently received an anonymous email from a couple who had apparently undergone an unsuccessful round of IVF with our doctor. They felt that Dr Loh’s attitude towards them was “bad”, and asked that I remove his name from my IVF blogposts, as “promoting him this way might mislead more people”, and said that they “really regret (they) did not make the right judgement to choose properly”.
I was taken aback by their email, as I’ve received quite a few emails since I shared about our first IVF experience, and none of them had ever said anything like that before. Most of them told me about their challenges in trying to conceive, and all seemed very much aware that IVF was not a guaranteed way of conceiving. I’ve since added on a disclaimer to my IVF posts, stating that they are based entirely on our own experiences, and that I am in no way promoting Dr Loh, nor was I sponsored to write those posts.
IVF is a very personal experience, and as with all the emails and messages I’ve responded to, I always say the same thing. People frequently ask me about the cost and medical procedures required, but I always tell them that everyone’s body is different, and will therefore require different drugs and dosages, as well as different medical procedures. The best thing to do is always to speak directly to your IVF doctor, and clarify all your doubts with him/her. It may be helpful to write down your list of questions, so that you don’t forget to ask any of them.
If you’re looking for a fertility specialist, you can go on online forums to learn more about others’ experiences with their doctors, and make an appointment to see whichever doctor you think best suits your needs. Remember that you need to feel comfortable with the doctor, so don’t be afraid to seek a second or even third opinion, if you don’t like the first doctor you see. IVF is usually a long, painful and expensive process, so do take time to find a doctor whom you trust and feel comfortable with. Also, please remember that the success rate for IVF is NOT 100%, so don’t be too discouraged if things don’t work out for you on the first cycle. Take time to let your body heal, and to grieve over your loss, then go for your next cycle when you feel physically and emotionally ready to try again.
To those of you who are still on the TTC journey, take heart that there are many others out there who know what it’s like. All the best!