Young Parents

My baby is the rainbow after the storm, says mum who lost 3 babies in 11 months

Ms Felicia Tan with husband Low Lieneng and their precious bundle of joy, Titus.
Ms Felicia Tan with husband Low Lieneng and their precious bundle of joy, Titus.PHOTO: YOUNG PARENTS

Three losses, 10 years of waiting. One mum's heartbreaking fertility struggle has a happy ending, reports Eveline Gan

Four years ago, Ms Felicia Tan watched her babies die in her arms - her heart shattered as they took their last breaths shortly after birth.

In a span of 11 months, she lost three babies after suffering late miscarriages during the second trimester of her pregnancies.

Born too early at 23 weeks and 21 weeks respectively, baby Dominic and twins Elvis and Louis did not survive their extreme premature births.

Tears had flowed when she was interviewed in 2014, at a time when she was still struggling to come to terms with her losses.

Today, however, the 38-year-old graphic designer is full of renewed hope and joy.

After an emotional decade, she is now mum to a healthy boy, Titus Low, whom she fondly calls her "rainbow baby" in her third and latest book, A Gift From Heaven, which was launched in February.

"Like a rainbow that comes after a storm, Titus has given me a new chance at motherhood. We've gone through a lot of hardship to have a baby but, now, the worst is over," said Ms Tan, who previously penned two books, To Baby With Love and Lost And Found, detailing her traumatic miscarriages.

  • Trying for a baby

  • The best way is to start a family early when you are both young, says Dr Christopher Ng, obstetrician and gynaecologist at GynaeMD Women's and Rejuvenation Clinic.

    It is important to lead a healthy, relaxed lifestyle - with regular exercise, low stress and a balanced diet - and take pre-conception vitamins along with folate, but avoid alcohol and smoking.

    Instead of consuming expensive drugs or having hormonal injections to help you conceive, try a sperm-friendly vaginal lubricant.

    It helps to prolong the survival of sperm long enough for them to swim from the upper vagina into the cervix and womb. Since it also acts as a lubricant, it can help relieve the pain of intercourse due to vaginal dryness, a condition called dyspareunia, if needed.

    There is no scientific evidence that one sexual position is better than another. Just remember not to wash your vagina immediately after intercourse.

    Elevate your bum with pillows and lie on your back for 20 minutes. This gives the sperm ample time to swim from the upper vagina into the cervical canal and uterus. In this sense, the missionary position (man on top) seems to be the most convenient, said Dr Ng.

    You can also increase your success rate by having sex during your most fertile period.

This month, Titus will turn one, a happy milestone Ms Tan never thought she would ever celebrate during those dark days.

Even more amazing is the fact that Titus was conceived naturally after her agonising, decade-long struggle with infertility.

Previously, she had conceived via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

After her second miscarriage, she steered herself away from a near-emotional breakdown and, instead, focused on seeking answers for why she was unable to carry her babies to term.

"We didn't want to rush into another round of IVF without finding out why I kept miscarrying. Moreover, I was so physically and emotionally drained after the second miscarriage," she said.

She consulted a gynaecologist specialising in high-risk pregnancies and paid more than $2,000 to undergo a battery of health tests.

She learnt that her blood sugar levels were high, placing her at a higher risk of gestational diabetes.

She also tested positive for a type of vaginal bacteria.

Her doctor said these two factors might have caused the premature labour.

"Even so, the findings were not entirely conclusive. The exact cause was not found and we were back at square one," she said.

Although her biological clock was ticking away, she decided to take a step back from the mayhem of another IVF procedure to focus on rebuilding her health.

Previously, she had undergone three rounds of IVF.

While the fertility treatments helped her to conceive, they also left her physically, emotionally and financially drained.

By then, she had also grown weary of going in and out of the gynaecologist's office. "We did all we could, but things were not moving. I decided to stop all medical consultations and let nature take its course," she said.

Overweight, she also gave her lifestyle a complete overhaul, losing 6kg in under two years through circuit training, swimming and cycling.

Besides loading up on folic acid supplements, she also downsized her meal portions as well as snacks and desserts, swopping junk food like french fries for nutritious avocado shakes.

Folic acid supplements are usually taken by pregnant mums and women who are planning to conceive, to reduce the risk of brain and spinal birth defects.

She found out she was pregnant shortly after she told her gynaecologist at her last appointment that enough was enough. She had said to her doctor: "I'll see you again when I conceive."

And then, a miracle.

"Imagine my joy when I peed on the pregnancy test kit and saw the double lines that we had waited for the longest time. It was the first time we conceived naturally, without medical intervention, since we married 10 years ago," she said.

High-risk pregnancy

Even so, it was not time to celebrate yet.

With her pregnancy classified as "high risk", she had to undergo more tests and scans, as well as hormone injections.

She also developed gestational diabetes, which meant constant monitoring of her blood sugar levels and making drastic changes to her diet.

She recalled how she was especially apprehensive at about the halfway point of her pregnancy, during her second trimester.

Like a recurrent nightmare, the traumatic scenes of Dominic, Elvis and Louis' deaths came back to haunt her.

But work kept her busy. She said: "It was around the Chinese New Year period, so the festive celebrations took the edge off the jitters."

Thankfully, the second trimester went by without many issues.

At week 35 of her pregnancy, she went into labour and delivered a healthy 2.4kg baby.

This time, she heard her little one's feisty cry at birth.

"Cradling Titus in my arms felt so unreal, especially after all those years of waiting and tears. I finally had my rainbow baby in my arms," she said.

Today, she is busy juggling work and mummy duties.

But she has not forgotten about Dominic, and Elvis and Louis, and visits their niches at Choa Chu Kang Columbarium on their death anniversaries.

She intends to tell Titus about his older brothers when he is older. "We want to let him know how hard it was for us to bring him into this world," she said.

She said her previous losses have given her a more positive mindset, which helps her deal with the steep learning curve of parenthood.

"I've learnt to appreciate the small things in life," she said.

Ms Felicia Tan with husband Low Lieneng and their precious bundle of joy, Titus.

"The parenting issues we face, while challenging, are really not a big deal now that the worst is truly over."

  • This article first appeared in Young Parents magazine. Young Parents, published by SPH Magazines, is available in both digital and print formats. Go to www.youngparents.com.sg to subscribe and for more parenting stories.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2016, with the headline 'My baby is the rainbow after the storm'. Print Edition | Subscribe