It’s not common in our culture to talk about such personal issues publicly because “Log kia kahyengein” (what would people say) . We fear of being judged, type-casted and becoming the centre of every gossip session. But as much as people fear that, I somehow never felt the shame in talking about the real struggles of my life…I have spoken about my struggle with infertility and my journey of dealing with clinical depression (you can read it here) – topics that are sadly still considered taboos in our society…But as much as I am a rule follower, I have a rebel in me.. who has to speak up and bring a change.
I shared an article very early on when I started blogging, “Infertility is hard, DON’T make it harder!
Give it a read to know what I have been through (and I know a lot of women go through) – what was said about me, to me – behind my back and on my face! . The saddest part is that it was MOSTLY the WOMEN around me who were responsible for making me feel miserable during one of the most testing times of my life. Instead of being compassionate and understanding of the struggles of another woman, they pulled me down and continue to do so to many other today! (So please let’s not turn into those women!)
You talk about infertility but you have 3 kids of your own?? (mashaAllah)…
How did that happen?
What treatment did I get?
I get such questions almost daily in my inbox and that’s why I decided to write my whole journey from diagnosis to my C-section and everything in between!
We got married in 2004 and like many other couples decided not to start a family for 2 years to give ourselves time to adjust in our married life and each other’s families. (I was not on any contraceptive pills during that time). 2 years later when we wanted to start our family and the pregnancy wasn’t happening, I visited a Gynaecologist at Al-Ahli Hospital in Doha. And after a series of tests and a process of elimination, I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and Polycystic ovary syndrome – PCOS. (Basically women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels. The ovaries usually develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs. ) However, I was not a typical case of PCOS as I did not have all the symptoms and was classified as a case of Lean PCOS.
Luckily for me, my maternal uncle (mamoo), Dr Javed Rizvi is one of the BEST Gynaecologist in Karachi and was awarded Sitara-e-Imtiaz by the Govt. of Pakistan for his contributions to the introduction of Infertility treatment in Pakistan. He acted as my off-shore consultant who I would send my reports and diagnosis for a second opinion. My doctor here in Doha also knew him and that made this arrangement workable.
I was first given oral medicines (Clomid) for 3 -4 months. When they didn’t help, my treatment was taken to the next level where I was supposed to get a shot every day for 7 days a cycle and then get an Ultrasound done every morning to see how those medicines were helping the follicles mature.
This went on and on for about a few months. Every day before going to work I would go to the hospital, get my ultrasound done and every night before turning into bed, I would get another shot. It was the most emotionally draining treatment. One goes through all this trouble every month and in the end get nothing but disappointment. (Its been more than a decade when I got the treatment and I might be mixing up the minute details.. but I do remember the daily injections and U/S)
My uncle kept telling me, that I need to take a break and can’t do the treatment every month because the more you stress the lesser the chances of conceiving – it’s a vicious cycle! So I would get treatment for 3-4 months and then go on a break for a couple of months before restarting the treatment again.
Eventually, it was decided that I need to go for Intrauterine insemination IUI. I had 2-3 unsuccessful rounds of IUI in Doha. My mamoo then asked me to come to Karachi. At that time he was working with Concept Fertility Centre in Karachi where I had 2 more unsuccessful rounds of IUI.
This was not easy to manage as we had to fly to Karachi every month to get the IUI done and then be back at work the next day! But you gotta do, what you gotta do! This was clearly taking a toll on my mental health and though my husband and our families were completely supportive, the people around us were making our lives miserable. And just not ours but our parents as well… asking them intrusive questions and suggesting to push us to start planning a family soon! (DUH! and here I was suffering physically and emotionally because of my infertility treatment)
We prayed to Allah to bless us with a baby but nothing seemed to be working.. I was losing hope as time was passing by. I thought I will never become a mother. We were in Karachi for our treatment and once again prayed with our hands joined together. This was the second time in our lives that we prayed like this.. (You can read here when and why we did for the first time)
A couple of failed IUI attempts later, my mamoo suggested the Ovarian Drilling procedure for me. It’s a laparoscopic surgical treatment that can trigger ovulation in women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). I got that procedure done and after recovery, my husband and I went for a holiday. We went to London to take a break from these stressful treatments and doctor’s visits and numerous injections and treatments. We wanted to take a break for a while before restarting the treatment again.
After about a month, I started to feel a bit nauseous and lethargic. I had missed my cycle as well. I got a bit excited but was so tired of doing home pregnancy tests and waiting for a second red line to appear – which never did in the last 2 years. I didn’t have the strength to go through that disappointment but yet wanted to find out if anything was going on. So I took out one more home pregnancy kit from my stash and there came a second faint pink line!!! It was so faint, that I kept rubbing my eyes and thinking may be this is not considered a second line or maybe it was!??! I screamed and called Mohsin who came running, probably thinking that there was an emergency of some sort!
It was 7:00 am on a Friday morning and not being able to wait to see our doctor after the weekend, we went to the ER to get the blood test done. The report of the pregnancy test would come in an hour, they said. Mohsin and I went to have breakfast but we couldn’t eat… we kept looking at our watches. He kept telling me it was not a line and I should not keep my hopes high. That hour was the longest ever!
At 8 AM, we went back to the hospital and the doctor called me in. As I was in the ER room, the doctor started telling me what to do now, get an appointment with your doctor blah blah blah… I was like.. “Wait a minute…wait a minute… Are you saying the pregnancy test was positive? ” and she said, “Of course yes my dear!”. I looked at Mohsin who was standing by the door, wiping his tears and as soon as the doctor left, he hugged me and we both cried! (And I am crying as I write this because all those feelings just came back to me!)
It was such a precious pregnancy for us and during the pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and Placenta Previa. The low lying placenta posed a risk for a premature birth and I was put on bed rest from the 5th month onwards. That is when I quit my job and decided to study for my PMP exam, which I cleared 6 days before my elective C-section. And in August 2008 came Amna – I held her for the first time with tears rolling down uncontrollably… she changed our world. Holding her, I forgot all about the physical and emotional pain I went through to get her.
Hamza and Hassan came without any treatment. Although for Hamza the doctor told us that we will have to go through the treatment again. We were going to Karachi for my cousin’s wedding and thought will start the treatment once we are back. I came back and found out I was pregnant (Taking it off your mind and not thinking about it really helps!)Hassan came right after Hamza… They are ONLY 11 months apart. As my mamoo said “Aik dafa dhakay se gari chal paree, tou dorney lage gee!“ lol.
Well, kinda true for me because my friend had to do 2 baby showers for me in one year! (and thats how we became the joke of town!)
Everything happens for a reason. I was never a very child friendly person. You know, the kind who gets awkward when they have to interact with a child… On the contrary, Mohsin loves children. Kids around us always preferred Mohsin over me, because he is so good with kids.. random kids at the park would smile at him.. I always say, he has much more ‘mamta’ (motherly instinct) in him than me.This journey of dealing with infertility changed me. I don’t think I would have valued our kids and be thankful for their presence in our lives, the way I do now if we had them easily without asking, crying and praying to Allah for them. It was a journey that I was meant to go through to become a Mother. I pray that everyone who is struggling with infertility is blessed with a child of their own. But if it’s taking longer or is not happening.. may be God has a bigger purpose for you. He knows best!
Please keep my little family in your prayers too!
Where To Get Help:
In Pakistan, my mamoo (now retired) has started the infertility centre at South City Hospital. My mami, Dr Saadia Rizvi runs it. The Concept Fertility Centres are also open across Pakistan in 6 major cities (Karachi, Lahore, RawalPindi, Quetta, Multan and Hyderabad)
In Doha, 12 years back when I was getting my treatment, the infertility treatment was only done in HMC but a lot more options are available now including Al-Ahli hospital. As for me the treatment didn’t work here but I know so many people personally, who have had successful treatments in Doha. One of my ex- colleagues at the bank got pregnant after 13 years of marriage. They had given hope back home but when they moved to Doha, decided to give it one last shot and the first IVF attempt was successful!