Ana always wanted to become a Mom. When she met her now-husband, Jamie, they tried getting pregnant a year into their relationship – first, the natural way, and then, through Intrauterine Insemination (a procedure where sperm is directly injected into a woman’s uterus). Two years of trying, however, didn’t lead them to the pregnancy they were longing for. Ana was already heading towards turning 40. Knowing that the clock was ticking, she finally resorted to her backup plan – frozen eggs.
Back in 2017, 36-year old Ana started reading up on mature oocyte cryopreservation or egg freezing in layman’s terms. She was single at that time and living in Bangkok, where the hospitals she contacted only allowed married women to freeze their eggs.
“I looked into the possibility of doing it in Manila, and found Kato Repro Biotech Center on the internet. They use Japanese technology and know-how, and their medical director, Dr. Richie Mendiola, trained under Dr. Osamu Kato, one of the pioneers of assisted reproductive technology in Japan,” said Ana.
Upon her first visit to the clinic, Ana went through a screening procedure called Ovarian reserve testing to check the quality and quantity of her eggs. The results were promising. Ana still had a good amount of eggs viable for freezing, but at her age, she needed to act quickly.
Egg freezing also came with a hefty price tag. The procedure plus one-year of storage and medication was worth P180,000. For every succeeding year of storage, it’s an additional P12,000. Ana explained this was already quite a reasonable rate compared to other countries.
Ana described the whole experience as “PMS compounded tenfold.” Hormone stimulation medication had to be injected into her stomach for ten days. She was irritable and bloated. She couldn’t even administer the injection on herself at first, so she sought the assistance of a friendly neighbor, who happened to be a nurse, until she could manage on her own.
Another turning point in Ana’s life came eleven months after she had her eggs frozen. She finally met Jamie while on holiday in Thailand. They pursued starting a family of their own, but it wasn’t easy.
Ana and Jamie decided to proceed with In Vitro Fertilization. IVF is a complex procedure wherein an embryo (retrieved from a woman’s uterus) is fertilized by sperm in a laboratory setting. In this case, Ana’s frozen eggs were used.
Young and healthy couples only see a 20% likelihood of conceiving within a month. Meanwhile, success rates of conceiving through IVF sharply decline at the age of 42 and beyond. And with each round, chances of getting pregnant gradually decrease. With age as a major factor, the odds of pregnancy were looking quite slim. But Ana and Jamie persevered.
“Of the five, three were successfully developed into a blastocyst, a five-day embryo. We used one,” shared Ana. “I think the biggest challenge with doing IVF is preparing yourself mentally and emotionally. I really didn’t know how I would have taken it if we didn’t get the results that we hoped for. I think that would have left me completely shattered. So, huge props to couples who pursue IVF more than once. Their resolve is inspiring.”
IVF also meant another set of hormone medication in order to implant the embryo in her uterus. Ana was stricken with nausea so severe, even simply getting out of bed proved to be a struggle.
After everything they went through, Ana and Jamie now get to hold their baby boy, Jose, in their arms. “Exhausting. Exciting. Emotionally and physically challenging. Educational,” is how Ana would say life as a new Mom is like. And she’s enjoying every second of it.
Of course Motherhood has its own challenges, too. Ana, Jamie, and Jose are currently based in Tokyo. Getting full-time help in their area is not only difficult but expensive. “I have someone come in to help clean the apartment and care for the baby about twice a week. It also helps a lot that Jamie can work from home and help take care of the baby when I need to work, shower, or do chores. Our little Jose has sat in on a lot of Jamie’s Zoom meetings,” said Ana.
We all know that Motherhood is a 24/7 job, and that it’s no easy feat. Many Moms may also be able to relate with Ana’s struggle to conceive. But throughout the long, and possibly arduous, process from conception, to pregnancy, to Motherhood, the rewards that await are surely far more fulfilling than one could ever imagine.
What Ana loves most about being a Mom? It’s seeing the bond between her son and her husband grow stronger each day, hearing her baby’s laugh, gurgles, sneezes, and snores. And getting to witness the wonder and awe in Jose’s eyes as he keeps on discovering something new in the world.
Ana’s journey as a Mom has only just begun, but it will definitely be an incredibly beautiful chapter of her life.