Children are an extra bundle of joy in a marriage but not everyone has it easy. Two couples relate their remarkable journey from having difficulty in conceiving to multiple blessings.
by SYLVIA ONG
After three botched Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) procedures, and a futile course of TCM fertility treatment, Joanna Li’s marriage was on the line and she was about to call it quits until she found herself expecting twin boys via her first IVF procedure. The 34-year-old recalled the most trying period of her marriage when after four years and a series of IUI procedures, she and her husband, 36-year old Yan Chew, were still childless. “As the only grandson in the family, he was pressured to continue the family’s lineage,” she explained the pressure they faced back then.
Yan and Joanna got married in 2004 with big dreams to set up a family of their own. But Joanna, who now works as an associate manager at a bank, was diagnosed with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a disorder which upsets the hormonal levels, affecting a woman’s fertility and health. Nonetheless, they wasted no time in seeking out alternatives.
The tough journey
The first gynae which Joanna saw prescribed her with fertility drugs. It failed. So the couple resorted to IUI – twice – but both attempts failed. Another gynae suggested a third IUI, which also proved to be unsuccessful. It was depressing for the couple.
On one chance occasion, a GP offered her husband a referral letter to see Dr L.C Cheng at Thomson Fertility Centre (TFC) for IVF treatment. Handing the letter to her, Yan told her that he was leaving the decision up to her.
Yan’s mother also sought out a TCM practitioner who was well-known for his fertility treatments. “Seeing how depressed I was, my mother-in-law asked me to try it out. So for six months, I’d rush from work for two sessions of acupuncture per week to treat my ‘cold’ womb.”
But with no results, it seemed that IVF, with the highest success rate of 30 per cent across all Assisted Conception Procedures (ACP), was the couple’s only hope. But its expensive cost was a worry. “I hesitated because I wasn’t sure if we could afford it. But seeing my twins now, I think it’s more than worth it,” Joanna smiles.
In late 2007, Joanna and Yan got busy preparing for the big day. “I would never forget that it was on New Year’s Day 2008, that two embryos were implanted into my uterus,” Joanna shares. “Two weeks later, I was pregnant. A month later, the scan showed I was expecting twins!”
Happy as a lark, Joanna disregarded all the discomforts of her multiple pregnancy. “I was the happiest pregnant woman around but my husband started to fret about the babies’ gender! So when Dr Cheng announced that I was carrying twin boys, Yan’s face literally lit up,” Joanna recalls.
On 28 August 2008, Jieren and Jierui were born one minute apart via caesarean. At 37 weeks, both were of a healthy weight and in the pink of health. “I cried tears of joy when I saw them.”
Describing her 21-month-old twins, Joanna said that they have distinct personalities. “Jieren, the elder one, is shy; Jierui is outgoing. But they learn from each another.”
Dream come true
Another surprise awaited the family. Earlier this year, Joanna found herself pregnant again – this time she conceived naturally. “It was a big surprise, because we were intending on another IVF treatment only in the year of the dragon!” she laughs, “No one thought I could conceive naturally but I did!”
The most evident change that Jieren and Jierui, who will both turn two this August, was the change they brought to their IT salesman father, asserts Joanna. “Yan used to be a very temperamental person. But since we had the twins, he has mellowed down a lot. Now, he’s more giving and even learning to compromise.”
QUICK FACTS ON IVF
By Dr Chia Choy May, Chief Scientist, Thomson Fertility Centre (TFC)
IVF success rates
35% - if aged 29 and under
30% - is aged 30 – 35
25% - if aged 36 – 38
10% - if aged 39 <
Born with a rudimentary horn, Tiffany Ng was told that she would be childless for life. Undeterred, she and husband, Richard Leng, opted for IVF and got triple of what they bargained for. Like most young couples, Tiffany and Richard wanted to enjoy couple-hood after marriage. Hence, they did – for three years until they felt they were ready to take on the big task of being parents. But things did not pan out quite as smoothly as more than a year later, they found themselves at a dead end. “We discovered that I had an under-developed right fallopian tube so we underwent a series of assisted conception (four IUIs) and they all failed. I got pregnant in 2000 but miscarried at six weeks,” relates the 44-year-old of her experience. “There was even one Chinese physician who said I would never have children,” she adds.
A new ray of hope
Upon a friend’s recommendation, Richard and Tiffany approached Dr Noel Leong, who was then heading the fertility department at KK Women and Children’s Hospital. Dr Leong currently runs his own private fertility practice.
“We had the IVF done at Thomson Medical Centre and it was successful on the first attempt,” says the operations executive in ship management. To help maximize her chances, Dr Leong implanted three embryos into her uterus. But the couple did not believe their luck that all three would make it to the world.
At eight weeks pregnant, the ultrasound revealed three sacs and three heartbeats. Although elated, Richard and Tiffany quickly prepared themselves for a rigorous task ahead.
Taking triple care
“I had to be very careful. I didn’t want to take any risks, so I restricted my movements,” shares Tiffany who said that throughout the entire process, Richard has been a wonderful husband, giving her massages to ease her headaches and handing her buff bags whenever she had to throw up.
“Her morning sickness was quite bad. But she ate well despite throwing all of it out later. After each meal, she couldn’t lie down ﬂ at and had to lay inclined. Imagine this: her belly measured 51-inches!” Richard laughs.
On 12 July 2002, and at only 31 weeks, Sean, Samuel and Sabrina were delivered via emergency caesarean as Tiffany’s waters broke. Weighing only 1.5kg each, the trio had to be placed in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) – the brothers for one month, while their youngest sister stayed two weeks longer.
“It cost us $1,000 everyday for one baby so the bill came out to $105,000!” exclaims Richard, “But thankfully, Dr Leong had already given us a rundown of the ﬁnancial and other implications before we embarked on the programme. He advised us to get medical insurance, helped us source for hospital discounts – he helped in every way he could.”
The three musketeers
Today, the Lengs’ eight-year-old triplets are known to be the three musketeers wherever they go. “They ﬁght a lot at home, but when they are outside, no one can come between them,” says their proud father who works as a senior manager at an IT ﬁrm.
Born two minutes apart, Sean is the born leader, while Samuel is the playful yet kindred spirit. Sabrina, the youngest having emerged a minute late, is the princess in her own right.
Richard and Tiffany relate that they’ve never had to engage a domestic helper all these years. They follow a very disciplined lifestyle – a habit that possibly stemmed from the ﬁrst time they knew they were conceiving triplets.
“Our weekends are packed and based on a schedule that revolves around the children’s activities. So while they are out, we’ll take turns to do the housework. People ask us how do we manage – so we tell them it’s possible even with three kids!” Tiffany says.
The couple also shares that their key to success is to plan way ahead of time. “With proper planning and mental preparation, it’s not as challenging as it seems.” Richard adds.
"Extracted from Real Love Works magazine"