Twenty-seven. That’s how many times I had heard that my blood test result was negative. I had lost count of the times I did not see two pink lines on home tests.
I had never been pregnant yet after seven years of trying to conceive, countless doctors’ appointments, two surgeries, five failed IUIs, and one failed IVF cycle, I still believed I would give birth to a child one day.
But I didn’t always feel this way and I was often reminded of how difficult it was to explain the daily struggle of living between hope and hopelessness to those who had not experienced the unique pain that came with preparing a place in their heart for a child that never arrives.
We didn’t want pity. We just wanted support. Somehow we found the strength in each other, our family, friends and those who were willing to be educated on infertility.
With determination, a proper meal plan, exercise regime, encouragement from my doctor, family and friends, my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome symptoms were controlled after losing 28kg. I had responded well to the IVF medication and we had transferred two “supercool” frozen Sukdhev embabies in June 2016.
I promised my husband Rohan that I would not POAS (pee on a stick) at home after our IVF FET but eight days later, the pharmacy just happened to be on my way home.
What could I do? I bought a ClearBlue digital test.
That night while he watched television in the lounge, I set up the test to take at 5am the next day. You’re probably wondering just how difficult is it to take a home pregnancy test that one had to “set it up” but when you married to a light sleeper, the wrapping and box had to be discarded and the stick stashed in my underwear drawer the night before.
I sneaked out of bed at 4:45am the next day and before I took the test, I reflected.
I had taken so many pregnancy tests in my seven-year marriage that I was expecting to see just another “not pregnant” but I was also hopeful. After all, there was nothing stopping the IVF from working.
But I could not forget the disappointment and heartache after five failed IUIs and one IVF fresh transfer.
If it were not for my “bursting” bladder I would have stood in the bathroom for a very long time before I came to a decision.
As I watched the flashing hourglass on the test screen, I planned my reaction. If it was negative I would sneak into bed and pretend it never happened but before I could decide what I would do if it was positive, I found myself rushing out of the bathroom, dashing into our bedroom and grabbing my sleeping husband by the shoulders.
He opened his eyes and the look of confusion was soon replaced by amazement.
It was the first time that we had ever seen “PREGNANT” on a test that I had taken.
In the excitement, he had forgotten that I broke my promise and took a test.
A few hours later, we found ourselves at the pharmacy, buying more tests.
And continued to beam from ear to ear whenever we saw a PREGNANT or two lines in the result window.
Two days later, we received the official confirmation via a blood test. But again, nothing is that easy in the infertility and IVF process. A pregnancy is only viable if the BETA doubles. On June 20 my BETA was 289 and two days later it was 717.
But we couldn’t pop the champagne just as yet.
A scan had to show a “yolk” inside the sac. And of course it did.
But we still could not bring out the bubbly.
We had to wait another week to establish if there was a heartbeat.
And then we heard it. And in that moment, as our baby’s heartbeat filled the silence in the consulting room, seven years flashed through my mind – my first doctor’s visit in 2009 when I believed that I would be pregnant in “no time”, the medication from a simple pill to daily injections, the longing, the misconception around infertility that we faced on several occasions, the three surgical procedures, and the never fading hope that we would one day be parents.
Of course, at 12 weeks pregnant, the bubbly was popped and we toasted (of course, me with chocolate milkshake) to a victory.
Someone asked me how I felt when I first saw the PREGNANT on the home test.
I replied: “I now know how Olympiads feel when they win gold.”
I cannot even begin to describe the anxiety that entered our lives when I was admitted to hospital at 24 weeks pregnant for treatment for gestational diabetes, hypertension, low amniotic fluid and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).
After five failed IUIs, three surgeries and one unsuccessful IVF transfer, this was perhaps the scariest leg of our seven year journey.
For three months the walls of my private room closed in on me, my back ached from being confined to a hospital bed and I could not remember when was the last time that I wore a bra.
My friends, who openly admitted that their frequent visits had a lot to do with the divine lemon meringue in the hospital coffee shop, were supportive but understandably too busy at work to chat on WhatsApp.
My exhausted husband, who visited every night with treats like an activity basket made up of adult colouring books and my favourite Bollywood DVDs, was also too busy at work to keep me company during the day.
The world continued to turn but I was stuck.
My unhappiness over being confined to this room was so clearly visible on my face that the nurses were convinced that I am plotting to escape.
I may have given them reason to believe this as by day four I asked if the windows opened and requested two extra blankets.
Of course, they suspected that I was going to tie the blankets and bed sheets together to scale the wall.
By day six, I started looking forward to having my blood pressure tested every few hours. I was willing to endure the bruises from the death grip machine just to have social interaction.
As the days went by I cursed Grey’s Anatomy for giving me high expectations about hospital stays.
My birthday and Christmas came and went and life within the confines of a hospital walls was started to wear me down.
But the very hard kicks from teeny tiny feet within me kept reminding me that it will all be worth it in the end.
And it was.
My son, Riav was born via C-section at 32 weeks on December 30. He weighed 1.3kg.
The new leg in our journey took us to the NICU where he stayed for 28 days.
When he finally came home, he weighed 1.8kg.
He is now 13 months old, has met all his development milestones and is more than we could have ever dreamed of. He is a warrior child who beat all the odds. He is a living symbol of hope, faith and perseverance.
He was made with science, love, and the optimism and hope of doctors, his parents and our support system.