Guest blog by Ferowza, a blogger at The Kaleidoscope Effect.
Being a parent, a mom, is a blessing. That is something everyone will tell you with ease. What people don’t tend to tell you is that getting there can be a case of “easier said than done”. That is how it was for my husband and me, who started trying for children a couple of years into our marriage. If he had his way, we’d have tried almost immediately, but I wanted to finish my studies and work for at least a year before we brought a baby into the mix. It would also give us time to adjust to life together, to grow as a couple. I had it planned out. Or so I thought…
I finished my studies, landed a job at a global management and technology consulting firm, and my husband and I were enjoying our first year of marriage. About another year or so later we both wanted to start a family, and I went off the pill. We weren’t naïve about the process, so didn’t expect any results immediately, but many months later, nothing had happened. I had an irregular period since going off the pill, but in my way of thinking, it was still a period, so surely it can’t be too hard to fall pregnant. But when months later our efforts remained fruitless, I asked my gynaecologist about it and he advised that a period does not necessarily result in an ovulation – this was news to me of course. My gynaecologist prescribed a course of medication to assist with this, which I completed and followed up on with a blood test. A few days after the blood test, I received a call from my doctor’s rooms to advise that I had a strong ovulation. My mind zoned in on the word strong. My previous concern at not ovulating was replaced with excitement. This was great news!! It wouldn’t be long now!
Months later, we were still childless. I worried a bit about how long this seemed to take, but I didn’t let it consume me. We were happy, and we kept trying.
During this long period of trying to conceive, I was assigned to a project in Johannesburg, just a bit more than a 2-hour flight from my home, Cape Town. When I mentioned the upcoming assignment to an older colleague, she mentioned that her daughter, who also tried to conceive for a little while, fell pregnant after moving to live in the same city where I was about to start a new work assignment. Okay, I thought, the change of air might do us good.
So off I went to start a new assignment in a new city. My husband managed to get a temporary transfer with his employer, so we pretty much lived in Johannesburg together for 6 months, visiting home once a month. Thereafter I was either commuting home for weekends, or my husband flew up to Johannesburg. The commute was a bit tiring, but it was a worthwhile experience to live and work in another city.
But alas, we were still childless…
We decided to take this in our stride and look at it as perhaps being for the best, because how would I commute frequently between two cities with a growing baby in my belly? So, we rode the tide of being child-free, enjoying the spontaneity of making plans on the whim while living in another city. Our time was ours and we decided to enjoy it, which we did.
But even reason couldn’t dim the desire to have a baby, and several months into my work assignment we decided that perhaps it was time to seek further medical intervention.
So, one day, while my husband was home in Cape Town and I was working in Johannesburg, he made contact with a fertility clinic. When he called me later that day with news about the visit, it felt as though my heartbeat could be heard outside my body as I waited with baited breath for what he was advised. He was informed we might need to consider in vitro fertilization (IVF). Oh God! My heart sunk right then and there, which is a terrible feeling when you’re at work, and even worse when you’re at work so far away from home and family; so far away from a hug from my husband or mom.
IVF! Is that really where we’re headed? How could this be? My mom had three children, all conceived and birthed naturally. How am I heading in the direction of IVF?
Your thoughts just become emotional and out-of-touch with proper reasoning when you hear that you need to consider trying a treatment that is not only expensive and not covered by the majority of medical aid plans, but also has no guarantee of working. But this is the option that was suggested by medical professionals, and so it remained as an option on the table, even though we decided to just let things be for the moment, and to trust that what is meant for us will be – a real test of our faith. We even spoke about adoption – I told myself I have enough heart to love someone else’s child as my own, and that families are formed in more ways than one. The thought even got me optimistic – I had read about couples who have adopted and then were able to conceive naturally. It was said to be related to that the dramatic reduction in stress from trying to conceive. Once the stress and pressure to have a baby was taken out to the equation, voila!, a baby is on the way and the family grows. So I took this as another option at least and tried to remain positive.
Somewhere in between all this, while my husband was visiting me in Johannesburg, I get a message from my younger sister. “Guess what?” she asks me, to which I replied “Twins?”. It was a joke we made that when she has a baby she’ll have twins. It wasn’t twins, but she most certainly was pregnant. I was going to be a maternal aunt!!! I was so excited. Really. I was thrilled at the prospect of a little baby between me and my sisters, of being an aunt. Part of me always suspected I would become an aunt before I became a mom, I just didn’t realise that amidst all the excitement I would feel that little pang of sadness. It didn’t come from not being happy for my sister and brother-in-law; I was thrilled for them. It came from that sinking feeling that my husband and I might never experience the joy of finding out we were expecting a baby. And so, with the thrill of becoming an aunt overshadowing the pang of sadness from struggling to conceive, I finished the next several months of my work assignment.
Once the assignment ended and I was back in my hometown, my husband and I decided to take another go at looking for a house. We’d looked a few times before, but we figured it was the right time to look in earnest and see if we could find something suitable. So we bought a house! We now had a home in addition to work, family, friends, and of course the freedom to give in to spontaneity. No scheduling of date nights for us. We even got a beautiful husky that we’d take for walks on the beach a few nights after work. All in all, happiness was a present factor in our lives.
But we still yearned for a baby. Dammit, I wanted to experience breastfeeding, complain about sleepless nights and the need to actually schedule date night. And boy oh boy, did I just want people to stop making comments about our childlessness pretty much every time they saw us, without offering a stitch of advice! I’d tell myself not to let it bother me, that the comments were well-meant. I’d smile, sometimes even respond jokingly that we were still practising. But the reality is that the comments did bother me, because I did not feel like telling everyone how hard we were actually trying and then have a pity-party as a response. I did not feel like reasoning with anyone that I knew very well that work was not everything (yes, I was told in no uncertain terms that “work was not everything”, as if they knew with such certainty that my career was all I thought about). And I certainly did not feel like getting another piece of wisdom that I should not wait too long! All that particular well-meant, but ill-timed, comment did was leave a lump in my throat at the prospect that I may need to wait forever, and made me wonder if it was my punishment for wanting to wait a bit in the first place. Like I said before, your thoughts become emotionally charged and sense gets tossed out of the window like a boomerang, returning later to make me feel ‘normal’ again.
Between all this, I got a piece of advice that I am forever grateful for: a beauty therapist suggested I pay her uncle a visit. He was a pharmacist by trade who then became a reflexologist with a keen interest in fertility. What could it hurt, right? I wasn’t against alternative medicine so decided to give it a shot. I contacted him with an open mind and he suggested seeing both myself and my husband, since fertility challenges do not just reside with the female. And off my husband and I went to have a lengthy consultation with the reflexologist, followed by some blood tests. At the follow-up I found myself sitting with a lump in my throat at being told I had something called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that is common amongst women and leads to various reproductive issues. My heart sank as if I was being told I couldn’t conceive, even as he told me that we could start on a treatment program. At the very least the treatment would help regulate my period, which was a benefit in itself, as it would mean less bloating, less cramps associated with the cysts, and less chance of my anaemia returning. At best, of course, pregnancy. By this time, I had already gone through negative result pregnancy tests (yes, tests, plural), so I was at least optimistic about feeling healthier, but not so much about pregnancy. But I’d never know if I didn’t at least try, and even the idea of having a baby was worth a try. So I started the treatment program, and as the months passed, my cysts were reduced, and my erratic and unpredictable menstrual cycles became more regular, which was amazing! I went for regular blood tests and needed to take the occasional pregnancy test as well so that the reflexologist would know whether to move ahead with the training program or alter it to ensure a healthy pregnancy. The reflexologist explained to me that whilst falling pregnant with cysts was possible, it did increase the chance of miscarriage. It was therefore with equal amounts of regret and relief when these pregnancy tests were negative.
Months passed, my nephew was born, and I felt better as my treatment progressed. My period was becoming very regular, the cysts were dramatically reduced, and I barely felt bloated. I felt so positive about a healthier me that I felt the treatment was worth it, even if I still couldn’t fall pregnant. My inner mechanics were working better at least, and I felt myself looking forward to the reflexology visits and having my feet rubbed with cream at the end of each session ?.
I was well into the treatment when the reflexologist suggested I take another pregnancy test. By this time, he had even given a couple of testosterone boosting shots to my husband (bless him for being so supportive on a journey that some men regard as a “women’s problem”). We were out that weekend and bought a test that I planned to take first thing the next morning. I didn’t let myself feel too hopeful. Afterall, I did this a dozen times before and the result was always the same – a single, solitary, sad line on a plastic device. So there I was, early on a Monday morning, taking yet another pregnancy test. It was déjà vu waiting for the results to appear – the butterflies doing a nervous dance in my belly while my eyes simultaneously wanted to peek to watch the line appear, but not wanting to see either. Then time was up. I picked up the plastic device like I did a dozen times before, just this time it was different. Yes, this was different. Joy, absolute joy, was ping-ponging with disbelief as I looked at the test. I’m pretty sure I even checked the box again to make sure I understood how to read the results! Two lines, two lines, two lines… Oh wow! Two lines – I was pregnant!!! I walked out of the bathroom and could not wipe the smile off my face even if I’d tried. My husband did not need to ask what the test indicated – my face said it all!
I remembered to let the reflexologist know the result, so I popped him a quick message. He was a little surprised himself as he suspected it would happen, but a bit later in the year. He suggested I have a blood test done, which I did before heading into work. All I needed to do then was wait on the reflexologist to receive the blood test results. I kept busy at work until the reflexologist called me later that same morning. It was confirmed: WE WERE HAVING A BABY! I called my husband right away, so ecstatic I could not stop smiling while I told him. Then I immediately messaged my mum, a little something slightly cryptic and waited for her response. True to form, my mum called me. If I wasn’t at work I’m sure I would’ve given in to the desire to just cry. It felt so surreal, and I was so happy. It was January of 2013, and come Spring we’d have a baby.
I walked back to my desk like a woman with a secret, because at that point I did not want to spread the word until I was in the safer zone of the second trimester, especially with having PCOS. I should have learned by then that things don’t always go according to plan. I had morning sickness that forced me to disclose early – how else would I explain random sick days or getting to work then needing to leave early because I wasn’t feeling well, or even getting to work then needing to leave without getting out of my car at the parking lot! Yep, my morning sickness had its absolutely terrible days. But it didn’t matter. A full trimester of nausea could come, and it did. For three months I experienced the nausea, the vomiting and the physically weak and draining feeling that came from not being able to keep much down. But despite this I was happy. Every peach, every sandwich, every morsel of food I needed to purge was just a reminder that after years of trying we were going to expand our family. We’d be three. It didn’t matter that I’d always wanted to have a few kids but may only ever have one, it didn’t matter whether this would be a boy or girl, it didn’t matter if I was going to expand like a balloon and waddle like a duck. We were having a baby, and three seemed the perfect number!
The baby bug had bitten, and after a couple of year we decided to try for another. We figured that it would take us some time to get there, if even at all, given my history with PCOS. Getting started sooner rather than later seemed ideal.
We prayed that our daughter (yes, we had a baby girl) would have a sibling, but we also knew it may not be meant for us. We tried anyway. I started visiting the reflexologist again to ensure my cysts were under control. I had some again, which I expected (or maybe these were ones that never really went away in the first place), but this time they were on a much smaller scale. I felt okay with this. I would just go through some treatment again and see if things would go our way.
A mere few months later the reflexologist suggested another pregnancy test. I took this as part of the routine and did the test, and oh my, were we all surprised at the result! Neither myself, my husband or even the reflexologist had expected that I would fall pregnant that soon. The surprise was more than a welcome one! The first round of treatment I underwent to fall pregnant the first time had dramatically reduced my cysts and regulated my period to the extent where my reproductive system was working much better on its own. So much so that it took very little reflexology intervention to fall pregnant again.
Less than 3 years after our little baby girl was born, via emergency caesarean, we welcomed our second child, another daughter, into the world. Again, by caesarean. Our little circle of three had become bigger, and suddenly four seemed an even more perfect number! ?
We have two beautiful little daughters, and although we didn’t end up adopting, the option never fully got dropped off the table. So who knows how big our family could still become. But for now, I have embraced having 2 daughters. I have embraced the long, emotional, and physically taxing journey of becoming a parent, of becoming a mother. Every bit of medication taken to help treat my reproductive issues, every reflexology session, every cent spent, every pregnancy test taken, it was all worth it! I have embraced alternative medicine, with reflexology being a part of my family’s lives – and something I’ve advised several people to try. Through my own journey to becoming a mother, I’ve found it easier to be able to talk about infertility in general and my own struggle with it, in the hope that it benefits another.
There’s a plethora of women, and men, who struggle with infertility. For some, like me and my husband, alternative treatment worked like magic. For others, IVF ends up being the road to parenthood. And yet for others, becoming biological parents is just not in the cards, and they either choose to remain childless or to shower their love on the children of others and adopt. Whatever the journey, the story is worth sharing, so that those less brave to try something different can feel inspired. Because in the end, it really doesn’t matter how you become a parent – through IVF, fertility treatments, adoption; it doesn’t matter whether you give birth completely naturally, take an epidural to manage the pain during a vaginal delivery, or have a caesarean; it is about the joy, the absolute wonder, of holding a child in your arms, of kissing their face, of telling them you love them, of knowing that no matter what happens, you have been given an absolute gem!
I’m Ferowza. A woman trying to balance marriage, motherhood, working full-time and the many other aspects of everyday life. I love reading (thank you Amazon for the Kindle app!), cooking and eating pasta, and can’t decide which I have a stronger affection for – lipstick, or stationery! I’m good-natured by design with a sense of humour that’s laced with sarcasm. I appreciate many things in life, including a quiet night with a hot cup or tea and a good book, movie or TV series; close friends and family; and the power of prayer and faith.
The Kaleidoscope Effect is a collection of my thoughts and experiences as a woman juggling being a wife and mom to two little girls, while working full-time in the Technology Consulting industry. It is about family, parenting, marriage, work and everything in between – a little slice of the web where I can express myself and connect with others.