Cover Story: 3 Women Open Up About Their Journey To Motherhood With IVF
Motherhood. A beautiful idea, and a more beautiful journey—for most. Many women consider it a life goal. It could be the one thing in their life that could warrant both the feeling and acknowledgement of ‘having finally made it.’ Nobody is to be blamed; movies and dramas romanticise the 9-month period of carrying a baby, to the hours of labour and finally giving birth. Plus, it is embedded in our DNA, to want to reproduce and therefore, it only seems natural for women to desire motherhood. For some, like Dr Natasha Nor, Kim Raymond and Nurul Zulkifli however, things were not as easy as it seemed, as all had gone through harrowing experiences to finally be able to hold their bundles of joy in their arms. It was hard for them to conceive and even harder still to keep trying, but they never stopped until hope came... in the form of IVF.
Dr Natasha Nor
As an obstetrician and gynaecologist at KL Fertility Clinic herself, Dr Natasha Mohd Nor focuses on assisting couples conceive. As a self-proclaimed ‘baby maker’, she says modern technologies such as IVF has helped a lot of couples facing fertility problems to conceive and start their own family. She, too, was not an exception. “As a matter of fact, I myself am an IVF success story. I had my own treacherous fertility path to struggle with, and had required multiple IVF treatments to conceive,” she confided. “But now I am a proud mother to a pair of twins.”
Like most women, she dreamt of having her own family—first by being a wife, and then a mother. After she had married and settled down for a year, she knew that she should start planning to have a baby. “For some weird reason, I somehow had an instinct that I would eventually become a mother of twins,” she said pensively. “It’s just that I never anticipated that it would be one of the biggest challenges of my life.” However, faith, instinct and the unwavering support from her family kept her going all those years during her fertility journey.
One year into her marriage, Natasha still found herself unable to get pregnant. Nevertheless, being a doctor in the related field does give one extra knowledge to move along in the right direction. After exploring other possible options, IVF was eventually chosen as the best one—based on the outcome of the fertility tests she had taken.
Going through the motions of IVF
“Of course, I remember the countless hormonal injections, which luckily did not pose any side effects to me,” she shared. “But I’m reminded of it as I treat my patients day in and out. I’m also more empathetic towards them because I’ve been through it all myself.”
Natasha says that IVF treatments have a way of making you feel high and low. Highest is, of course, being told that one is finally pregnant following a test. And the lowest? For her, it was the process failing her for the third time. Nevertheless, she persevered and finally, gave birth to a delightfully cheeky pair of twins, Naim and Zara.
“I feel blessed every day when I see my children,” she added. “If people were to ask what my biggest success in life is, I’d say going through the hard journey of infertility and still managing to come out at the end of it in one piece, and as a mother at last.”
Do What's Best For You
It's always been an issue for women and couples to speak about infertility problems, mainly out of fear of being shamed. To this, Natasha responded fervently, “Infertility has always been a taboo subject not only among Asians but also Western societies. Women have always been taught that it is our fault and should feel ashamed about it. My message to those having fertility issues is this: do not be afraid of seeking the right help from fertility doctors and do not delay the necessary treatments as the pregnancy success rates do drop as a woman increases in age.”
And for those who still are unable to do so, and have exhausted their options? “You do not need to be a biological mother to love a child, and it takes more than blood relations to raise happy and responsible children,” she said. “It doesn’t make you less of a ‘real’ mother, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!”
If people were to ask what my biggest success in life is, I’d say going through the hard journey of infertility and coming out as a mother at last
Dr Natasha Nor
Kim Raymond is no stranger to the Malaysia Tatler scene—often spotted in the trendiest and exclusive events in town, dressed to the nines and being exceptionally radiant. It’s fairly difficult to keep scrolling on her Instagram page and not swoon at pictures of her and her daughter, Skylar. The stylish full-time mother who is now pursuing an online Graduate Gemologist Program with the Gemological Institute of America isn’t frightened of revealing her story; especially when it comes to her darling offspring, and how she was conceived via IVF.
Being part of the who’s who in town definitely has her out and about often, and during her heydays, Kim went through a lot of different phases in life. “I would be lying if I said I always wanted children,” she confessed. “I think only as I matured, I started to feel that longing for a child.” Was she able to pinpoint the exact moment? “It was when I realised that I had everything, and that my next journey was finally motherhood,” divulged Kim.
But that journey ended up being one with a twist: it wasn’t that she couldn’t conceive naturally, or so she thought. She brushed this decision as being impatient, but the words ‘there’s a reason behind everything’ finally made sense after she told this story: “My doctor advised me to keep trying after I began taking fertility pills, but I said ‘Nope! Let’s do the IVF. I want a baby now!’ I was quite adamant,” she relayed, “One thing about me is that if I want something now, I will do anything it takes. And well, I really, really wanted a baby.”
This was also due to the fact that her doctor explained that the quality of eggs decrease according to age group. Kim was thus spurred to carry on with IVF then.
“But later, I found out that I actually had a uterine septum (a form of congenital malformation where the uterine cavity is partitioned by a longitudinal septum), which was making it difficult for me to conceive.” This, too, had resulted in her having difficulties carrying as well, but she notes that the scariest part of the entire ordeal was when she had to inject herself for a whole week.
The Highs & Lows
“The lowest moments were having to go through crazy hormones and then the wait!” she admitted. “The wait to see if I was pregnant. That was nerve-wrecking. The highlight was the excitement that I was taking the next step to have a child. Just the thought that I was doing it, regardless of whether it worked or not—that was a big thing for me.”
Kim was overjoyed as she was extremely lucky to get pregnant on the first try; only 1 embryo survived after all the tests. It was almost a miracle.
"It does not make you any less of a woman"
Wannabe-mothers on the other hand, may put themselves down and are too hard on themselves if conceiving naturally doesn’t work, but Kim’s spirit is infectious. “I always tell everyone that there is nothing wrong with going through IVF. It does not make you any less of a woman. You still carry your baby for the same amount of time as every other woman, and you give birth the same way too!”
The same passion trickled down to when she was asked about how some women are ashamed of not being able to give birth. She responded steadfastly, her answers echoing Dr Natasha’s previous opinion on the matter, “Accept it and move on to the next step. What is important is how much you want a child, and how much joy that child will bring to your family. Be it through IVF or adoption, it doesn’t matter. What people think should not even matter.”
What is important is how much you want a child, and how much joy that child will bring to your family
Even the managing director of Mimpi Kita (one of the biggest Malaysian-born labels in the fashion scene) is no stranger to fertility problems. Despite her flourishing career, there was a void, or a calling, rather, that needed to be fulfilled. “Of course, as a wife and a woman, having a child is the ultimate part of your relationship,” admitted Nurul. “It completes your life.” However, her journey to completion wasn’t that easy, despite her readiness from the very beginning.
The second year after her marriage was filled with specialist appointments, to have both her husband and herself checked for sperm count, G test and hormone tests. Even local massages were in the mix for a good 5 years. But still, nothing... Nurul had an explanation for this. “It’s just a matter of rezeki (good fortune). I believe that if it’s meant to be our rezeki, it will come.”
After 6 years of marriage and trying to conceive at the age of 31, she and her husband were at what seemed like the end of a rope. “After a Laparoscopy test, the fertility specialists told us that both my husband and I had no problems,” said Nurul. That meant that it was an unidentified case, an unresolved one, because there wasn’t a problem to fix to begin with. They gave IUI (Intrauterine insemination) a shot, but it was, unfortunately, unsuccessful as well.
A Bittersweet Journey
By this time, as all options were exhausted, IVF was that one thing left to try. “My first IVF cycle wasn’t something I want to remember,” Nurul recalled sadly. “It was unsuccessful before we even transferred the embryo because all 8 of them died; the thought of going through it again was scary.” Nevertheless, the persistent Nurul gave it another shot 3 years later and mercifully, she got her rezeki—Adam and Noah.
Nurul was pragmatic about the entire experience. “IVF was a tough process for me because it affected my emotions, and it was slightly painful. But I took it positively because my aim was to have a child of my own,” she confessed. “For me, nothing comes easy. Sometimes you just have to go through hardships; the sweetness will eventually come at the end.”
We commend Nurul for being so open and upfront about her journey into motherhood, but many women out there don’t feel comfortable doing so. Addressing this, Nurul insisted that fertility issues were nothing to be ashamed of.
I just couldn’t believe the 2-striped sign! The moment we’ve been waiting for our whole lives
That Life-Changing Moment
“There will always be challenges in everyone’s lives. Personally, there were times that I was so down that I cried and cried,” she said. “I tried every single method—IUI, traditional treatments, supplements, living a healthy lifestyle and eventually IVF. If that didn’t work, then I would have had to accept my fate.”
After listening to that harrowing story of all the trials and tribulations she and her husband had gone through to finally become parents, it was only fitting to ask about that life-changing moment. Nurul recounted the event: “After 10 days of waiting, I woke up for fajr prayers and I did the test straightaway at home. I just couldn’t believe the 2-striped sign! The moment we’ve been waiting for our whole lives!” Nurul exclaimed happily. “It was just surreal that those 2 long-awaited lines finally materialised!”
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- PhotographyBrian Fang/M8 studio
- StylingAndrea Kee & Farah Dinana (hijab styling)
- Stylist's AssistantSarah Hamzah
- Art DirectionLiew Chiaw Ching
- HairKeith Ong using Shiseido Professional
- Make-UpEmmy Agung, using Clé De Peau Beauté & Sonia Pang using Shiseido