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I was once a rebellious teenager who chose to be different in expressing my ideas. However, I must say that there was also a hormonal, sappy part of me that secretly enjoyed hopelessly romantic love songs. A chunk of my playlist was dominated by Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza’s songs.

In retrospect, I practically went through my teens with Siti Nurhaliza’s songs, which naturally made her one of my favourite Malaysian singers of all time. Even as a mom, every now and then you’ll catch me karaoke-ing to her songs while doing house chores, much to my kid’s annoyance.

So yes, it must be clear that I have Malaysia’s beloved songbird close to my heart. But it isn’t only me. Siti Nurhaliza has touched many lives through her beautiful songs and melodious voice. She has become a national treasure, one to be cherished for her contributions to Malaysia’s music industry. Malaysia’s sweetheart is an inspiring icon who came from humble beginnings and rose to fame with her pure talent.

Journey through infertility and TTC

In 2006, Siti Nurhaliza tied the knot with renowned businessman Datuk Seri Khalid Mohammad Jiwa, better known as Datuk K. Her decision to marry an older and divorced man caused some uproar among fans and followers, and there was much scrutiny into her personal life.

Nevertheless, the marriage stood strong. The couple found themselves on a TTC (trying-to-conceive) journey for a grueling 11 years. Year after year, Siti Nurhaliza’s struggles with infertility became even more apparent as time went by. Being under the spotlight must have been challenging during this time, especially with so many curious, prying eyes on her.

Even during such a challenging period of her life, the soft-spoken star never lost her grip and faith. She spoke of her infertility issues openly, admitting that she had been going for fertility treatments. She talked about facing the challenges she had to go through with a strong heart and mind.

The singer became the face and voice of the struggles with infertility, a topic that was still largely taboo in Malaysian society.

In 2015, there was a spark of hope when fans heard about her being pregnant. Sadly however, Siti Nurhaliza then shared devastating news that she suffered a miscarriage two months into her pregnancy. She then carried on with her TTC journey and moved on to a 3rd attempt at In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

Good news and the nation rejoices

In October 2017, the good news everyone was hoping for finally arrived. Siti Nurhaliza called for an exclusive press conference to break the news – she calmly announced that she was 4 months pregnant. There had been plenty of speculation as her professional gigs had dwindled months prior to the announcement.

In the press conference, she admitted that her baby was conceived through IVF. The 38-year-old stated that it was the most viable option for her as age was catching up on her and she could not risk waiting any longer. Finally, Malaysia’s Number One singer received the ultimate award she had been waiting for – the chance to become a mother.

The months that came after the announcement went by like a breeze. After 9 months and a very cautious and healthy pregnancy, Siti gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on 19 March 2018 via Caesarian section.

Datuk Siti Nurhaliza and Datuk K watching over Siti Aafiyah . Photo source: @ctdk (Instagram)

After years of struggle, Siti Nurhaliza has now become a mother, and the nation rejoices. Malaysia’s sweetheart has her own little sweetheart, and she is aptly named Siti Aafiyah, which translates to “health and strength”. They were words that her mother never ceased to mention in prayers throughout her pregnancy.

A symbol of hope

Looking beyond the celebration of Siti Aafiyah, Siti Nurhaliza’s journey in TTC and infertility has become a symbol of hope for many couples who are struggling and trying for a child of their own. Her openness about her journey and willingness to share her struggles has given a new voice to the TTC community. She has helped raise awareness about the realities of infertility.

“There’s no shame in admitting it. Many have been through what I have experienced. Some waited even longer. I want to share my experience with them,” she once said during a session with the media.

Her experience has also inspired her to open a fertility center under Yayasan Nur Jiwa, which will provide affordable fertility treatments to hopeful couples. The center is now being built and due to be launched early next year.

 

A heartfelt congratulations to Datuk Siti Nurhaliza and Datuk Seri Khalid Mohamad Jiwa on the arrival of Siti Aafiyah, from us at makchic! May there be an abundance of happiness and love around her always. 

 

Photos: Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza

Each year, bereaved parents, families and friends from all over the world mark 15th of October, International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. As this week is Baby Loss Awareness Week, makchic joins in the education, awareness and support for those who have suffered a miscarriage, still birth, or the loss of an infant.
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[Trigger warning: The following story contains baby loss]

My Story: Sleep well, our Apollo and Artemis

By Kimberly Low  

 

It’s been 12 days since I lost my son and daughter to prematurity. They were born at 24 weeks 5 days gestation – 4 weeks away from having a shot at staying alive and 15 weeks away from being actual full-term babies. How do I even begin to describe the saddest day of my life?

The pregnancy

My pregnancy was uneventful apart from the excitement (and horror) of finding out that I was carrying twins. The babies were growing well, I felt happy and relaxed, I did not bleed like when I was carrying Liam.

At every check-up and ultrasound, I was given the all-clear. Other than some concern with my low red blood cells and placenta being a little close to my cervical opening, I was a healthy pregnant woman. My heart skipped with joy everytime I saw my babies on the screen; seeing the outlines of their faces, their hearts beating strong, their arms waving and legs kicking.

Sometimes I couldn’t believe how lucky I was, happily married to a wonderful man who loves me and about to have 3 kids with only two pregnancies. To become a mum of three; 2 sons and a daughter … my fantasy coming true.

I woke up that day a little tired but nothing alarming. That’s what carrying a heavy belly does to you afterall. I made lunch for Liam and myself, folded the laundry, ate tea jelly with red dates that I made the day before and watched The Good Wife. I touched my growing belly ever so often with quiet happiness. I was contented.

And then I chatted with husband on Whatsapp about dinner and with phone still in my hand, I went to relieve my bladder. It was around 6pm.

Finished, wiped and had a quick look at the tissue. When I saw what’s on it, my heart sank to my belly. I quickly tried to recall what stage of pregnancy I was in. Far too soon. My chest ached at the fact.

I messaged Gareth and said “Spotting” instead, eventhough I knew exactly what it was. I couldn’t bring myself to say it. It wasn’t any ordinary spotting, it was my mucus plug coming out. I sent a photo of the discharge to my husband and immediately he knew what it was too.

I still had a little hope, because in my previous experience, Liam was born 20 days after the mucus plug came off. The babies might just make it? I started calling both hospitals (I was visiting two different obygyns in a public hospital and a private hospital). My private doctor was on holiday and my public doctor was at home. I decided to wait till the day after to go to the hospital.

Gareth came home with some dinner and we ate while discussing our options. We tried to stay positive and offered each other scenarios of good outcomes.

Contractions

By 9pm, my contractions started kicking in. I kept telling myself they’re Braxton Hicks, but I knew they weren’t as they hurt like period cramps. I started timing them and they’re 4 minutes apart.

I started getting really upset. I messaged a friend who knew my public doctor for his personal contact and she gave it to me along with the advice of going straight to the hospital. Decided she was right as perhaps they have injections to help me stop the contractions? So we started packing for the hospital. The reality of what’s going to happen started to dawn on me. In the middle of packing for the hospital, I couldn’t help but cried.

I don’t know how but I had the foresight of removing my jewellery and bringing my own maternity sanitary pads and clean undies. I think the pragmatic side of me knew I was going to give birth but the emotional side of me was still in denial.

We reached the public hospital, headed straight for the labour hall. They wheeled me in, plonked me on the examination bed. I kept telling the nurses and doctor to help my babies, to help me stop the pain, stop me from giving birth. I begged them to stop the contractions. A nurse said in Malay, “Sorry, but you’re definitely giving birth cause you’re in such pain”.

A young doctor on duty gave me a vaginal examination with a speculum and as soon as she inserted it, my water broke. At that moment, I wish I could just die and not feel anything. I knew for sure that my babies were not going to make it. She then proceeded to say that she could feel either fingers or ear.

The labour

Not long after, another doctor came. He introduced himself and mentioned that he’s a specialist and he would take care of me. I have heard of this doctor before and was slightly relieved that he would be taking over. He told me that I had to deliver the babies now and they will try their best. At that point I was in so much pain I just wanted everything to be done and over with.

They wheeled me to the labour room and immediately I started pushing. After a few pushes, I felt the burning sensation of baby crowning and I saw my boy came out. He looked purple. They immediately took him away. When Liam came out he was pink and covered in vernix.

Then, doctor said the girl was breech and he kept massaging my stomach to try to turn her. They also wheeled in an ultrasound machine to scan my belly to check her position. I kept pushing as hard as I could eventhough my contractions had kind of died down. Eventually she too came out, also purple. It’s not even 12am yet.

After my placentas were expelled, they cleaned me up and I waited for Gareth to come in. The doctor told me kindly that they’re doing everything they can with the babies but to be prepared for bad news. I nodded. After all that pain, I was feeling numb.

Gareth finally came in with Liam. We talked about what happened and told ourselves that we would be fine if the twins died as it’s better than for them to be alive with severe disabilities.

 

The paediatrician came in to tell us that neither twin made it. They lived for about 45 minutes. He explained that they couldn’t really breathe on their own and that they were severely bruised due to the trauma from the birth as their skin was not strong enough. My girl was bruised on her back as she was breech while boy was bruised all over his face as he was born head first.

We didn’t cry. He asked if we would like to see them, and we said no. We told them to just deal with their bodies. A nurse in the room kept telling us to see them but we kept saying no.

After that, they said the “Forensics” were on the way and told Gareth to wait for them. We waited for a while more but Liam was getting really cranky so I told Gareth to just take Liam home. The forensics people never arrived. Now we understand that by “Forensics” that they had meant people from the mortuary.

Post-labour

After Gareth and Liam left, I was wheeled to my ward. I was on pitocin drips to get my womb contracting back to its original size – it was painful. Bad cramp after bad cramp for hours. In between cramps, I cried as the reality of the situation started sinking in.

My babies, my children are gone forever. I delivered 3 babies but I only have one with me. Why? Why did my son and daughter have to die? Why couldn’t I keep them in? They were healthy, thriving babies. No troubles for 6 whole months to suddenly delivering them in just 5 hours. It’s all so fucked up the more I thought about it.

As a fully paying patient, I got my own air-conditioned room with en-suite in the public hospital. In hindsight, I am so glad I got the privacy as I got to cry, groan and wail in my own room without disturbing anyone. I couldn’t imagine myself holding it together while being in a ward filled with women and their newborns (in public hospital the mothers are expected to take care of their babies right after birth).

I did not sleep at all. I couldn’t. I had a lot of time to myself to think. After the shock had passed, I longed to see my babies. I messaged Gareth that we had to see them and he agreed as well. As for what to do with their bodies, we decided to still let the hospital handled them. No ceremony.

[Republished with permission from www.kimberlylow.com – Sept 12, 2016]

Update – October 2017 

It’s been a little over a year since I lost both my son and daughter to extreme prematurity. When it first happened, I couldn’t imagine how I could ever move on from my grief but today I can confidently say that I have moved on from the pain and heartache. Not in a let’s-sweep-it-under-the-carpet kind of way, but in a dignified and positive trajectory that I am sure my husband and all of my children will be proud of.

Usually when people leave us, you have memories of them to hang on to, to remember them by. However, I didn’t get a chance to create meaningful memories with Apollo & Artemis and that was probably the part that was hardest for me to reconcile with. I remember asking myself during my darkest moments whether they even existed. If they didn’t exist, then I shouldn’t be feeling such torment, I reasoned with myself to no avail.

The fact is, they did exist. They swam in my womb for more than 6 months; I felt every kick, every hiccup. I had hopes for them. I gave birth to them, even when they only lived for less than two hours. Those are our memories and nobody could ever diminish or take them away from me. At some point between their passing and now, I realised that their demise is a very important lesson for me as a mother, a wife, a woman, and a person. My twins had rewarded me with the gift of clarity. They had made me a better human being in every way.

I was asked if I had anything to say to any mums out there who may be experiencing a loss and sorrow like mine.

I celebrate their existence by living as meaningful a life as I can every single day. Though it may seem difficult at times, I breathe, cry, ride it out, and then try again. For me, the best way to get through this impossibly painful time is to honour our children by making our lives worthwhile. My children’s deaths were not in vain and neither is yours.

 

Kimberly Low is a doting mum to her eldest son, 3-year-old Liam. She enjoys sewing, painting and reading in her free time. She blogs at www.kimberlylow.com

Each year, bereaved parents, families and friends from all over the world mark 15th of October, International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. As this week is Baby Loss Awareness Week, makchic joins in the education, awareness and support for those who have suffered a miscarriage, still birth, or the loss of an infant.


Women are embracing with sad emotions.

Understanding Miscarriage

By Faye Song

The loss of a child is something no parent ever wishes to experience. But according to statistics, almost one-in-five recognised pregnancies end in miscarriage –  that’s not even considering women who don’t know they were pregnant to begin with.

We spoke to two women who have had to go through the sorrow of saying goodbye to the babies they never said hello to, and a doctor with a special interest in women’s health, on demystifying miscarriage and what you can do to heal.

What experts say

Dr Ooi Ben Shyen is a director of a confinement centre in Penang. He is authoring a book which addresses the ‘taboo’ aspects of pregnancy such as postpartum depression and miscarriage, and also serves as a medical officer in a hospital emergency department. He is often at the frontline of seeing women come in with concerns over their unborn babies – and he encourages women to trust their intuition.

“Women know their bodies best and healthcare professionals welcome any opportunity to allay a pregnant woman’s fears. So don’t be worried of giving us a false alarm – that’s actually what we want, meaning you and your baby are safe,” he said.

But when things go wrong, Dr Ooi assured mothers that it is not their fault.

“The main cause of miscarriage is due to defects within a developing fetus’s DNA sequences,” he said. “The developing fetus would probably not have been ‘normal’ or ‘strong’ had the pregnancy continued.

“There is the random nature of genetic material involved during conception. Out of the thousands of eggs or millions of sperm, some may be inherently flawed,” he said, adding that most miscarriages happen early in the first trimester.

The sudden shock

Nasa Entaban, 35, is the mother of a three-year old. She and her husband had been hoping for a second child, and everything was going well so far.

As with her first pregnancy, Nasa didn’t experience many symptoms, including nausea. The only thing she could remember was feeling a stabbing pain in her abdomen which lasted several minutes.

But at their 10-week scan, their doctor broke the news that the baby hadn’t grown – and there was no heartbeat.

“I went in for a D&C (dilation and curettage) the next day and was given two weeks’ medical leave,” said Nasa. “Someone recommended consuming Chinese confinement food and herbs so I did that, rested at home and generally allowed myself to cry and sleep.”

Although she was given two weeks off, Nasa went back to work before the time was up. “I still think about what could have been my daughter’s sibling, and I’m even a little afraid of getting pregnant again in case it ends the same way,” she said. ‘Still, we are trying to be positive about the future and hope to have another child someday.”

Man comforting his sad mourning friend

Mourning in private

It was 6 February 2015 and Jolene Lai was 26 weeks into her first pregnancy. She and her husband had just found out, a few weeks earlier, that they were having a boy. They were over the moon. But when she had felt no movement for a few days, Jolene thought she should get it checked out.

“I thought the worst that could happen would be to have a premature baby,” she said. “I remember the doctor scanning my belly and seeing just the still backbone of my son, and the doctor saying, ‘It’s not good.’

“My baby had no heartbeat. It appeared he had passed away for almost a week. I never met him alive. He never opened his eyes or cried for me.”

To her shock, Jolene was told she would have deliver her baby. She was induced on a Sunday, and on Tuesday, her son Cooper came into the world. She held his tiny body in her arms and said goodbye – her heartbroken husband took their son to the undertaker’s van where he was cremated. His ashes were scattered in the sea.

Normally a social person, Jolene isolated herself, waiting until after the baby’s cremation to tell the world about their loss. “I kept wishing that I could just continue with the pregnancy. Other times, I wondered where did my son go? Why did he had to go? Can I go along?” she said.

There are no words

Hearing of the loss of an unborn child evokes strange – and at the time, seemingly insensitive reactions from the people around you. For a grieving Nasa, it hurt when close friends implied she was indirectly to blame because she was still breastfeeding her toddler or was physically unfit.

“Even though they probably felt like they were doing the right thing, or they just felt like they needed to say something, it wasn’t helpful,” she said, adding she found it hard to be positive in those dark days.

“One of the most commonly uttered lines was ‘God has another plan for you’ which annoyed me to no end, I can’t quite pinpoint why,” she said.

Comfort came from a friend who had also miscarried several months before. “She had some really nice words of encouragement,” said Nasa.

“A public relations company who were supposed to take me on a work trip the day I had my D&C sent a lovely bouquet of flowers with the words: ‘May hope sustain you, friends surround you and love give you strength.’ It was unexpected and I was moved. I guess comfort can come from the most unlikely of sources.”

Meanwhile, Jolene was taken aback when a close family member told her that she would ‘get over it’.

“I was angry at that time but I found some truth in his words many many months later,” she said. “I often wonder why I feel okay now. Like is it okay to feel this way? How can I accept it? But I can.”

She found comfort in friends who would message her to say that they remembered her son. “They remember upcoming dates like due dates, anniversaries and so on,” she said. “ I was glad – I didn’t want to be the only one who remembered him.”

Touch someone’s life with kindness

Moving on

While Nasa was almost fearful of becoming pregnant again, Jolene’s loss awakened what she described as an almost savage desire to try again. Despite the advice from her doctors to wait several months before trying again, she and her husband were pregnant again three cycles and five months after losing their son.

Today, they are the parents to an 18-month old girl – their rainbow baby. ‘Having another child definitely, 100%, healed me,” she said. “Though I was constantly in fear throughout my pregnancy, at least I was progressing and was no longer in limbo.”

Recently, there was big news coming out of Australia that suggested Vitamin B3 supplements could prevent miscarriages and birth defects. And while taking certain precautions and ensuring you are as prepared as can be for a healthy pregnancy, some things are just out of the hands of parents.

Help and support

Doctors are usually the first to confirm the expecting parents’ worst fears. And like most people, they also deal with grief – even if it is someone else’s – in different ways.

For Jolene, in relaying the news, her doctor appeared to assume because she was also a health care professional, she would prefer the science and the facts. “He didn’t sugar-coat anything; I think some empathy would have been better,” she said.

And in what could only be described as cruel irony, Jolene was roomed with a mother who had safely delivered her baby. “No one provided me with grief counselling,” she said. “I’m lucky I had the internet and found the right support groups, both locally and abroad.”

Nasa had a slightly better experience. “My doctor followed up by text, which meant a lot to me. Our health care professionals were exactly that – professional,” she said.

Dr Ooi believes Malaysian doctors could do better when it comes to spotting mental health deterioration as the result of miscarriage. He also urges parents who have experienced loss to seek out support groups, and to take time to support each other.

“The family that grieves together, heals together,” he said. “There needs to be sensitivity from all sides to support – rather than lead – the mother back along the path to recovery.”

 

For a list of counselling services in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, visit the Malaysian Mental Health Association at http://mmha.org.my/resources/directory-of-councelling-services/. There is also a list of counsellors and therapists in the Klang Valley here.

 

Faye Song is a former journalist now working in marketing and communications. She lives in Darwin, where she enjoys the best of Southeast Asia (the food and night markets) and Australia (the workday that ends punctually at 4.21pm), with her husband, toddler and small dog.