After several fruitless attempts, various medical treatments, and weighing the costs and frustration of going through a fertility programme, Kenneth and Eileen almost gave up the thought of having a baby. Then, in the most unexpected of times, it happened…
Eileen and I were classmates in university. We only started dating after our graduation, and five years later, we got married.
We had wanted some years of our own before trying for a baby. However, within a year of our marriage, the pressure from our parents for us to have a baby started mounting.
Like most people we knew, we never expected any problems in starting a family. So two years into our marriage, we decided to put our “honeymoon” years behind us and try for a baby. The process proved to be more difficult and trying than we had originally thought.
After several fruitless attempts spanning six months, we decided it was time to visit the gynaecologist. The gynae did a sperm analysis for me and a blood test for Eileen. That was when the bad news came.
The test results showed that Kenneth’s productive sperms count was at an extremely low level. Not only that, the gynae said that my irregular menstrual cycles could have contributed to the difficulty of having a successful conception. This discovery completely shocked us, as we had lived very healthy lifestyles.
I broke into tears uncontrollably at the news. I could not understand what was going on. At the same time, I thought to myself, “What? Two big, strong and healthy adults are having problems conceiving?” We did not smoke, drink, nor party late into the night; neither were we stressed up at work like most people. We even exercised regularly… so why had it to be us?
The news shattered my life-long dream of becoming a father! I was stunned, numbed and felt as if my whole world had fallen apart. In disbelief and denial, I felt as though I had lost my manhood. If you asked me then, I certainly regretted that decision of deferring parenthood early in our marriage.
The gynae tried to be reassuring, and consoled us that this was not the end of the world. But to us, there was no consolation: it was as if the whole world had collapsed in our faces!
We realised the severity of our problem when the gynae suggested that we considered in-vitro fertilisation (“IVF”). My first thought was why was he so direct with us? Could he not suggest other alternatives before plunging us into IVF? But looking back, I am grateful that he was frank and honest… It was the best that he could do to help us fulfill our dream of parenthood. Besides, we could not wait too long as age was catching up on us.
Yet going through an IVF programme was the last thing on our minds. One of Kenneth’s sisters went through IVF, but instead conceived naturally. That told me that there was still hope for us!
I felt very hurt when my mother-in-law put the blame on me, and was so tempted to yell at her and let her know that it was not my fault, but that it was her son who could not make babies due to his lack of productive sperms!
I really disliked festive seasons and family gatherings. Our relatives too became very inquisitive about us not having children! Sometimes, in order to get away from these somewhat embarrassing and often frustrating situations, we would go on holidays over the festive seasons.
Whenever I attended gatherings with family and friends, and saw my sisters and friends with their little ones, I would feel very envious of them. It came to a point where I had to find excuses not to turn up for gatherings, or walk away when they started discussing their kids.
The gynae advised me to visit a fertility specialist. I will never forget that experience!
When I entered the consultation room, the doctor instructed me to go behind the curtain, take off my pants, pull down my underwear and lie on the bed. This was one of my most awkward instructions I had ever received in my entire life! It felt awkward too as he touched, pressed and shifted my penis around like a toy. I was naughty and wondered to myself if I should “rise to the occasion”, or allow my penis to wriggle into a tiny worm!
After the examination, the doctor concluded to my relief, that I could in fact salvage my manhood! I was prescribed hormone pills to enhance sperms production, and vitamin tablets to help improve my blood circulation, while Eileen was given hormone pills to monitor her daily temperature on a chart so as to estimate when ovulation occurred.
After three months of treatment, a sperm test showed that my productive sperm level had risen! It was really remarkable and, to us, a miracle! While still short of what was considered “normal”, this proved to be a significant improvement and greatly encouraged us.
Despite the good news, for which we were very thankful, there was still no baby. We gobbled up numerous hormone pills and vitamin tablets, and tried and tried for a baby for nearly half a year. Each attempt brought hope, but ended in disappointment and frustration when the pregnancy test kits showed negative.
We became so desperate in our attempts to try for a baby that we were open to all options, including alternative medicine.
We started watching what we should or should not eat what based on family and friends’ recommendations.
I also shared with a neighbour, whom we were rather close to about our failed attempts to have a baby. He brought me to a Hong Kong chef who could purportedly diagnose my problem by listening to my pulse and looking at my face! This chef told me what I already knew – that I did have a problem, and he recommended me to see a Chinese physician in Chinatown who could possibly cure me. I did, and the physician prescribed me some medicinal herbs for both of us. And despite the herbs being over-boiled and burnt sometimes, we refused to give up and continued drinking the awful and bitter medicine diligently!
This lasted for another half a year… and there was still no baby!
In the end, we decided to be realistic and discussed our options: continue with our carefree lifestyle and live for ourselves; go for IVF treatment; relax and trust God for a baby; consider adoption.
It had been two years of fruitless attempts so we knew we had to turn to IVF if we wanted to have our own baby.
It was a decision of doing our best and trusting God to do the rest. But when we started enquiring about IVF and were told about the high cost, frustration and pain of going through the programme with a low success rate, I was really discouraged. I told Kenneth to give up the thought of having a baby.
Eileen was really discouraged. I was too, but I knew I could not give up. During those days of feeling very lost as to what we should do, I kept praying to God to help me to give Eileen what I believe is the greatest gift that a husband could ever give to his wife – the gift of motherhood. Not giving up on the hope of parenthood was really the least I could do for my wife.
To prepare us for IVF, I was told that I needed to undergo laparoscopy to check that my fallopian tubes were not blocked. I was really terrified, although it was considered a minor surgery, it was nonetheless the first surgery in my entire life! After the surgery, Kenneth and I decided that, having come thus far, we would invest our hard-earned saving in the IVF programme.
However, my gynae advised us to try again for a baby for another three months before proceeding with the programme, as she knew of some women who managed to conceive naturally after such surgeries. We were impatient about having to wait yet again, but we had to trust that the gynae knew best.
And indeed she did! The miracle happened during the most unexpected of times.
One night, I was studying for a professional examination that was to be held the next day. Eileen came up to me that night and told me very firmly, “This is the night!” She knew from the rise in her temperature that she had ovulated, and we had to “do it quickly”!
It was both hilarious and nerve wrecking. Just think about the odds that were against us: my examination due the next morning was weighing heavy on my mind; I could remember the discouragement we suffered from the countless failed attempts; and that was probably the last time we would try to conceive naturally. So it was an understatement to say that was one time that I would least expect Eileen to conceive!
I remember the night it happened; it was really funny thinking back. Kenneth was preparing for his exams and I was watching a Japanese soap opera. Suddenly, I knew that I had ovulated as my temperature rose. By then, it was already past midnight, but I knew that I could not let the opportunity slip by. I called Kenneth into the room – we were very tired, very mechanical and totally uninterested… but we did it anyway. That proved to be the right decision after all!
Two months later, my suspicion grew when my period was late by about two weeks. I knew I had irregular menstrual cycles, but something prompted me to take out the pregnancy kit yet again. I tested myself in the toilet, and let out a scream of delight when the result showed positive!
I was in the kitchen when I heard Eileen shouting from the master bedroom toilet that she was pregnant. I immediately ran into the room, saw the test results and started jumping and shouting joyfully!
To be very sure, Eileen went to a clinic and re-tested, and also did a blood test. All tests yielded positive results! When she called me from the gynae’s office to confirm her pregnancy, I just grinned and day dreamt for the rest of the day in the office!
We were overjoyed. Words cannot describe how we felt when we knew that, at last, we could have a child to call our own. When we thought that we could never become parents, when we had come to the end of human strength, God intervened and performed this miracle for us!
Everything that we had gone through was worth it: the pill popping, the bitter Chinese medicine, even the awful surgery I had to undergo… indeed, it was God’s own perfect timing. We will probably never understand why we needed to go through this journey when others have it so easy; but we believe that sharing our story with other people to encourage them may just be one of the reasons!
Following the miracle of Kendrick in January 2001, Kenneth and Eileen had their second little miracle, Karis in August 2003.
Extracted from “Little Miracles - The Journey to Parenthood” by Peter Lim