In the Filipino culture, a woman who cannot conceive for a long time is called “baog”. It literally translates to a “barren woman” in English. Learn how I overcame being a barren woman in this first part of the series of my pregnancy journey. You may think that I didn’t struggle with getting pregnant because I have always been Mommy Sigrid to you, hence this mommy blog. But this is me, reliving the early stages of our marriage and our journey to becoming parents. I wrote this piece during the christening of our firstborn daughter, Achi Dindin (@Shawna Gonna) in 2009.
“In her deep anguish, Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.” I Samuel 1:10
Struggling with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
It never occurred to me that I was what the English language called a “barren woman”. That is because of the pre-conceived, supposedly “ideal” notion that when a couple gets married, it is then a natural consequence that they will have a child (and eventually children). They will build a home and a family because that is what nature intended things to be.
I was almost 33 years old when we got married and settled down with hubby. And right away, we planned on having a baby because we were both not getting any younger.
However, I have been plagued with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), with the origin quite unclear. It could be the allergy medications and cold medicines I have had since I was a child. But having PCOS meant that I had irregular menstrual periods ever since puberty (if you could even call it menstruation).
I started menstruation sometime during my second year of high school, which made me around 12 years old. Yes, I started school early. Ever since then, it wasn’t monthly bleeding of red blood brought about by the shedding of the uterine wall. Rather, I experienced sporadic drops of brown blood on my underwear, which happened at least twice a year. No, I didn’t mistype that. That is correct: twice a year.
And that is the reason why I am not very familiar with feminine sanitary napkin brands all throughout my life. At most, I would wear those thin panty shields during my so-called periods just to prevent staining my underwear.
The Barren Woman: An Incomplete Woman?
Being without kids should not affect a woman’s worth. However, that is just the ideal scenario. We cannot really dictate a woman’s emotions, can we? With that perspective of being a barren woman, so many things raced inside my head.
The problem with having a fertility problem is that I thought of myself as an incomplete woman. I felt “less” because I am incapable of bearing children. I began to question my capacities as a wife because I can give my husband the children that he desires. With my kind of menstrual cycle, who would think that I can be fertile at any given time of the month?
Thankfully, hubby is very supportive. He assured me of his love and loyalty to me—with child or not.
I have experienced the conditions related to PCOS, such as hyperandrogenism, anovulation, and insulin resistance, but my fertility problem was confirmed through ultrasound. My ovaries had these cystic spaces because of those immature follicles.
Drastic Measures to Get Pregnant
You might think that we have only been married for a few months, why am I so anxious to become a mom? That is because of my age and my fertility problems. And I really wanted to be a mom while I can still carry my baby and run after them when they are toddlers.
My very nice and forward-thinking OB-Gynecologist prescribed oral fertility drugs called Clomid (Clomiphene Citrate). However, these made me feel anxious and I also experienced some terrible physical symptoms that I couldn’t quite described. So I stopped after two doses.
She said that we could just wait it out or we can proceed to injectables. With that, she will have to refer me to a fertility specialist. The last and final step would be artificial insemination or IVF.
For me, I said that if God would bless us with our own child, so be it. I would not go through the invasive means like artificial insemination because primarily, we could not afford it. Secondly, I did feel in my gut that maybe, someday, eventually, we will have our own child, as promised in God’s word.
Alternative Fertility Remedies
While waiting, I did not just wait idly. I also did other things, like undergo massage therapy, touch therapy, take food supplements for fertility, and other measures that are supposed to boost the female hormones.
Moreover, well-meaning family and friends also recommended different methods, treatments, supplements, and even amulets. My very cool and open-minded OB-Gyne just encouraged me to try everything, as she said, she didn’t want me to have regrets.
But there came a point when I just stopped everything. I said no to trying so hard and yes to living our lives and enjoying our time as a married couple. Enough with the pressure to get pregnant. I politely declined all advice and devices.
Yes, I gave up. I gave up NOT on the hope of having children, but on the effort to try so hard. Instead, I gave everything to God. I also went back to the verse that struck me when I was still single—I might be much older when I get to bear a child. If God blessed Hannah, I prayed and hoped and expected that He will also bless me. That removed the anxiety and the pressure to allow us to enjoy our marriage. We became more relaxed, which enabled us to share more happy times together.
The Womb of the Barren Woman Was Opened!
More than a year after we got married, I started feeling strange. I told my husband about it but he said that I have always had this weird feeling. We have bought pregnancy kits so many times in the past, so he kind of got used to feeling elated one day and disappointed the next few minutes.
But the indescribable feelings continued. I had a weird metallic taste in my mouth plus I would suddenly feel the chills, even on hot days. I was also nauseated, though I didn’t throw up, and I had weird cravings, like a bag of chips and soda at midnight.
Finally, I bought a pregnancy test and prayed, “Lord, whatever happens, whatever the result, I will still praise you.” To make the story short, the test showed two red lines: it was POSITIVE!
Having waited for so long, it was hard to believe at first so we kept the news to ourselves. Hubby said that we should confirm the pregnancy through a blood test or an ultrasound first before making the announcement to our families.
We went to get an ultrasound, not knowing about gestation and stuff because of my irregular monthly cycle. Indeed, it was too early because we learned that I was at 5 weeks and no fetal pole can be detected yet. But it was enough to tell us that something is indeed developing inside of me. The doctor confirmed that I was 5 WEEKS PREGNANT!
Praise the Lord for He is Gracious!
Unending praise poured from my husband, myself, our families, and friends who had also been praying for us. God is indeed mysterious in His ways.
In my journal, I have written down, Psalm 113:9. I nodded vigorously in agreement to that verse. Indeed, it is God who “settles the barren woman in her home as a joyful mother to her children.”
I am pretty sure that this story has a purpose and my sharing will bless other women who have similar or even worse fertility problems. He is the Creator of all and nothing is impossible for Him—not even about opening the womb of a barren woman like me.
Symptoms of PCOS
Even before I went to my OB-Gynecologist, I knew that I had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It is a condition where the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of androgens, which are male sex hormones. While they are usually present in women in small amounts, women who have PCOS have elevated levels of androgen.
According to my doctor, even with just the shape of my body, one can tell that I have high levels of the male hormone. Yep, I don’t have a small waist and large hips plus I have broad shoulders: much like what a man would like for his physique.
But the condition was only confirmed through a trans-vaginal ultrasound.
Here are some obvious symptoms of having PCOS.
- Missed periods, irregular periods, or very light periods.
- Excess body hair, including the chest, stomach, back (hirsutism), and above the upper lip.
- Weight gain, especially around the belly (abdomen)
- Acne or oily skin.
- Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair.
- Small pieces of excess skin on the neck or armpits (skin tags)
- Dark or thick skin patches on the back of the neck, in the armpits, and under the breasts
An ultrasound result will show that women who have PCOS have ovaries that are large or have many cysts.