Psalm 127:3 “Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” -a quote I received from our Ninong and mentor, Dr. Jig Mallen.
Pregnancy is indeed one of the happiest moments in a couple’s lives. But for Kat and me, it was never a smooth and straightforward joyful journey. This is the reason why we never talked about it even to our family and close friends until today.
After allowing things to sink in and finally realizing how blessed we are despite our previous experiences, we agreed to share our story. A story of pain, anxiety, depression, and even of losing faith, to finally one filled with hope and genuine happiness with the help of our friends, family, and full trust in the Lord.
December 2018: I was a Medical Oncology Fellow at UP-PGH and Kat was working as a Safety Surveillance Physician in a corporate company in Manila.
Since we were both from Bacolod, I asked my OB friends in PGH who they can recommend and we finally sought consult with Dr. Geraldine Torralba who happily did Kat’s first OB UTZ.
Christmas 2018: We went home to Bacolod for the Christmas break, printed copies of Kat’s first OB UTZ, and gave it as a gift to our parents. They were all as happy as we were.
January 2019: We went back in Manila and was scheduled to have Kat’s repeat UTZ. We were both very excited to see Gabriel’s (that was the name we gave to our first baby) growth. January 5 came, and the UTZ was taking longer than usual. A different perinatologist / OB sonologist was covering for Dr. Torralba so I thought that maybe she was still familiarizing Kat’s anatomy. After a few more minutes, I was already sensing the worried face of the doctor and I will never forget the moment she turned to me and said, “Sir, sure po kayo na may heartbeat sa unang ultrasound noh? Kasi wala akong naririnig ngayon. Update ko nalang din po si Dr. Torralba.” Suddenly, the world looked dark. From that time on, Kat and I did not speak to each other that whole Saturday afternoon. When it was about dinner time, we silently ate a little, hugged each other, and went to sleep. We were both speechless, and just cried our hearts out. All of our plans gone just like that.
A few days later, we went to see Dr. Torralba and she carefully explained to us that pregnancy loss can really happen in the first few weeks. She also encouraged us to rest for awhile, enjoy the time spent with each other, and try conceiving again after a few months. We tried our best to follow Dr. Torralba’s advice, but to be quite frank it was easier said than done.
To help us move on, Kat and I kept ourselves busy with our work, by constantly meeting our friends, and traveling.
At this point, all I wanted to do was to go back home and hug her. Finally, this is it. God gave us our second chance.
3 days later, I finally got back home in Manila. Upon arriving home, Kat showed me a repeat preg test which now had a darker line confirming that it was indeed a positive result. Kat and I hugged each other. We were both afraid but at the same time happy!
2 days later, just before our scheduled appointment with our OB Dr. Geraldine Torralba, Kat wakes me up at 3am and tells me, “Bab, I’m bleeding.” I vividly remember helping her up to go to the bathroom while looking at our bed soaked in blood.
After informing Dr. Torralba what happened, she called me up and made us follow-up with her at the clinic. She did a serum HCG test which showed a significantly elevated result confirming our pregnancy, but Kat’s UTZ showed that there was no embryo already and it was what Kat must’ve passed out at home. Good bye, Gianna (our name for our second baby).
Once again, the dreadful cycle we once thought we were over with haunted us back. Denial – Anger – Despair – Hopelessness – Depression. Thankfully, Dr. Geraldine spent a lot of time telling us to again take some time off (probably because she already knew one life lesson that we later learned -that time really heals everything) and to come back once we are ready to move forward.
A couple of weeks later, we were back at Dr. Torralba’s clinic where she apprised us of the need for Kat to consult an Immunologist and undergo work-up for possible APS (Anti-phospholipid Antibody Syndrome) and / or other immune reproductive disorder(s).
Luckily for us my co-fellow Karen’s husband, Dr. Alric Mondragon, is an Allergist / Immunologist. It was at the lobby of Shangri-la Plaza during our annual PSMO (Philippine Society of Medical Oncology) convention in October 2019 when we first reached out to Sir Alric about our situation. He guided us through the plan in typical Alric fashion (he was my Chief Resident in the UP-PGH Department of Medicine when I was an Intern) -smooth, consistent, very well-explained, and evidenced-based.
A few weeks later and after a series of tests, Kat was found to have Reproductive Immune Disorder Category 1 (her Lymphocyte Antibody Test result showed HLA Class I and HLA Class II of only 2% and 3% respectively).
Sir Alric explained that we don’t have problems with conceiving, however both Kat’s and my tissues are too similar genetically and that Kat’s body considers her placenta foreign hence, her immune system activating against the baby. He also explained to us that one treatment option he would recommend is for Kat to undergo Lymphocyte Immune Therapy (LIT) which means that I would be donating some blood, then a laboratory will process it and extract the lymphocyte which will then be injected subcutaneously to Kat to “sensitize” her body to “foreign” tissues and by doing so hopefully increase her LATM-IgG. We initially planned for 3 cycles of LIT then we’ll recheck Kat’s LATM-IgG levels.
November 1, 2019: Kat and I visited the Parish of San Pascual Baylon and Diocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora Inmaculada Concepcion de Salambao also known as Obando Church in Bulacan to offer our prayers and our pettitions.
January 2020: After 3 LIT sessions, we rechecked Kat’s LATM-IgG levels. Unfortunately, it did not increase. Sad na naman kami ulit because the treatment might not be working. Okay, cge sad is an understatement. We were both extremely devastated, and the cycle returned: Denial – Anger – Despair – Hopelessness – Depression. But then again, Sir Alric comforted and encouraged us not to lose hope and recommended that we continue with 3 more LIT sessions but this time, it will be from a third party donor. And so we did: Feb 2020 – LIT 4th session. March 2020 (first week) – LIT 5th session.
And then COVID-19 happened. Luzon was placed in lockdown and UP-PGH was designated as one of the COVID-19 referral centers to which me and my co-fellows will be having COVID-19 duties. At this point, Kat and I had to live separately and she had to move to her sister Mikee’s place as a precautionary measure.
At this point, we were both confused. We didn’t know if we’re supposed to be happy or sad. Happy because she’s pregnant; sad because we’re still not done with her LIT sessions, we were not together during the lock down, and access to medical facilities was very difficult at that time in case something happens. I contacted Dr. Geraldine Torralba and Dr. Alric Mondragon during this time and they both comforted us and told us to take things one day at a time.
Since all establishments were closed because of the ECQ, Dr. Torralba arranged for Kat to have an UTZ at PGH to confirm the pregnancy (Thank you, Mikee for accompanying Kat!). Kat’s UTZ confirmed the pregnancy but showed subchorionic haemorrhage. To be honest at this point I did not feel anything anymore. The sadness of the past two miscarriages consumed me in a way that left me no more space for additional sadness nor joy. I remember telling myself, “Hay Lord, if You’re going to make us jump for joy again then kukunin mo lang naman pala, huwag na lang.” The next day after knowing Kat’s UTZ result, Sir Alric arranged for Kat to have her 6th LIT sessions in his clinic in QC kahit ECQ. Maraming maraming salamat po sa lahat ng tulong ninyo. Kat and I will forever remember the kindness you showed us during those very difficult times.
From there, Kat had her UTZ every two weeks to monitor the embryo and the status of the subchorionic hemorrhage. This was the time when I think I prayed the hardest. I told God, “Lord, if You really want us to have this child, please protect her and keep her safe.”
You know what happened next? A MIRACLE. The subchorionic hemorrhage disappeared. And the embryo was growing as expected. And the rest is history.
July 2020: Kat and I were finally able to go home to Bacolod and was transitioned under the care of Dr. Cristina Gozar (Kat’s OB), Dr. Mjo Ibarra (Perinatologist / OB sonologoist), Dr. Shelyn Espeleta (Anesthesiologist), and Dr. Leslie Mallen (Endocrinologist) because Kat had gestational diabetes mellitus and isolated maternal hypothyroxinemia (We know right?! Toxic talaga pag doktor ang pasyente!!! lol), and of course. Dr. Judah Gozar was our pediatrician.
Fast forward to November 2020:
To the team of doctors, residents, nurses, and paramedical staff who took very good care of us and Anaiah, THANK YOU will never be enough. Your acts of kindness and words of comfort and encouragement will always inspire us. Rest assured of our prayers everyday.
To our family and friends, and all our MD friends who also shared their own stories or stories of their family members with pregnancy challenges that inspired us to continue to have faith, thank you for all the support and prayers.
To the mothers and fathers out there who are having difficulties in trying to have a successful pregnancy and are caught up in the dreadful cycle of Denial – Anger – Despair – Hopelessness – Depression, NEVER LOSE HOPE! MIRACLES DO HAPPEN.
Keep on praying! As Sir Alric and Sir Mike San Juan (one of my Oncology consultants who constantly checks on me and also offers prayers) always remind me, EVERYTHING IN GOD’S TIME.
We just have to keep the faith because God truly answers. Anaiah! ❤
-Kat and Fred