Pregnant during a global pandemic: My Miracle baby

Pregnancy in 2020 was a surreal and weird experience of paranoia, masks and fear – of being dragged away to Penny Bay for quarantine of separated at birth with my newborn. Getting pregnant honestly couldn’t be further from my mind.

What strange times we live in. Baby G is now a little over 4 weeks old. I’ve revisited this earlier draft and just publishing now. I was afraid to do so in advance, with the anxiety of jinxing myself given my medical history.

I gave birth via an elective C section as Baby G was not descending and getting too large – medical risks to both mother and child. It really isn’t as bad as people described, I was up and about walking the next day with regular bowel movements after they took out my catheter and pee bag. The idea of it really scared me, but it was also uneventful. Thank god for medicine and anaesthesia. I didn’t need painkillers after day 3. They only give you panadol – what use is that?!

I don’t know if it’s because after cancer, menopause, bilateral frozen shoulders and living with chronic pain had increased my threshold of pain, but I had all these psychological fears about the C section through friend’s traumatic experiences. Now that it’s done, I realised like cancer, the journey is so personal and you are your best advocate. All the fear was unfounded. Listen to your own body, don’t listen to everyone’s story.

The c- section scar is a fine pencil-thin line and the wound’s surrounding area is numb with a weird sensation – as with all major surgeries that cut through muscle and nerves. I still have numbness and weird sensations at my cancer surgery site and it’s been over 4 years.

Self portrait at 32 weeks.

Shock of being pregnant

Having a baby couldn’t be the furthest thing on my mind when I found out I was pregnantin my oncologist’s office – late February. A mad scramble and panic a couple of days later to get an appointment with an Obgyn in Singapore and the husband flying in – initially for my oncology scan reviews, we went instead to Thompson Medical Centre for an ultrasound and heard a heartbeat and “congratulations, you’re 9+ weeks along with a viable pregnancy”.

I was back in Singapore at the National Cancer Centre for my routine scan and check-ups with my oncologists. I’ve done more than a dozen PET, CT, MRIs in the last 3 years since I was diagnosed in 2016 and had several scares in between. I was never claustrophobic until I had to crawl into the machines so often with IV inserted and countless times of radioactive dye.

This routine is typically uneventful and clockwork, you sign papers that you’re not pregnant and you indicate your last period – the nurses have never double-checked that info, apart from verifying your name and ID number, then they tell you to get into your gown and wait outside whichever room. However, this time the nurse asked: “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?”

For someone who’s been told I’m medically infertile from chemotherapy and cancer, and still dealing with a slew of menopause side effects and neverending chronic pain – the usual misery of life after cancer which becomes your new reality, becoming pregnant couldn’t have been further from my mind.

I answered in the affirmative of course not! That’s medically impossible. She saved my future offspring’s life by saying “Oh, that’s what a lot of women say. You never know. It takes two minutes to pee on a stick, I can wait for you and might save you a lifetime of regret. It’s a few dollars only.”

With all the medical odds stacked against me, I didn’t think it was possible but she planted the seed of possibility and what did I have to lose but a few minutes and a few dollars, so I went ahead for a test. You can imagine my shock, I rushed out of the clinic to buy another 4 test kits which all tested positive.

I am actively surrendering to life’s plan and learning to go with the flow.

It took a while to get over the shock and idea. Life was great as I knew it. We were at peace that we would never be parents and I wanted to live fully and meaningfully after cancer and make the best out of life.

Well, I guess the Universe had other plans. I didn’t learn my lesson with cancer always trying to plan and control situations and now I have relented and relinquished all control.

The baby arrives when it wants to in whatever form and manner it decides to and having expectations and a “plan” just sets one up for another emotional rollercoaster and disappointment.

We’ve done cancer, so we are going to try to go with the flow and do whatever is best and safest for the baby.

If you’re ever looking for an Obgyn in Singapore, I highly recommend Dr Jasmine Mohd at Thompson Medical Centre. In my first short encounter with her, she gave me way more information than the Hong Kong medical system in my first appointment with all the milestones to look out for. She reminds me very much of my oncologist surgeon, kind, professional, calm with excellent bedside manners.

With my cancer history, I have found it difficult managing doctors jumping to conclusions with every little ache and pain and sending me for more scans. I would sooner die from radioactivity overdose than cancer itself. So, I like sticking to doctors who are unfazed by cancer and absolutely objective.

In Hong Kong, I’m in private health care in Hong Kong and the cost is just about 4 times or more the private health care system in Singapore. So grateful for health insurance.

I’m grateful for the cheerful, gregarious Dr Grace Cheung who has a lovely disposition who helps me focus on going with the flow and does not chastise me on drinking coffee because it sparks joy, or enjoying the occasional blinis with unpasteurised caviar or stuffing my face with 3 Michelin star restaurant paté en croute – the husband says it’s safe to eat given he made it with the team in the strictest hygiene conditions.

Before the pools closed with the increasingly worrying third wave Covid situation, I was still managing a 1km swim 4-5x a week in my third trimester. I really got off easy this pregnancy, aside from jokes my oncologists make about having survived cancer + menopause + bilateral frozen shoulders all at the same time, I think it’s true that my higher than normal pain tolerance has led to pregnancy being a walk in the park.

I am forever grateful to have the chance to be a mama bear – it’s truly been the best thing ever as we grow and evolve as a couple alongside our child. 💛

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