S'pore mum spends 6 months in bed to save troubled pregnancy

PHOTO: S'pore mum spends 6 months in bed to save troubled pregnancy

SINGAPORE - For six months, she lay on a hospital bed.

She avoided any attempt to even sit up and limited herself to a short shuffle to the bathroom once a day.

Dr Jennifer Kee was not in any way hurt, but she was doing all she could to keep the miracle child growing inside her womb.

"I was so grateful for at least having the chance to be pregnant. I was focused on bringing this chance as close to the finish line as possible," says the 39-year-old housing agent who has a doctorate in life sciences.

The child growing inside her was truly a surprise. For about 10 years, she and her husband, Mr Adrian Lim, a programmes manager at a multinational company, had been trying for a child.

It had been a lifelong dream for Dr Kee, who grew up in a family of four children. Except that the dream was dashed after a routine appendicitis operation she had when she was 22.

Dr Kee recalls: "I remember waking up and having a nurse tell me that there was a cyst in my right ovary and that it had been removed."

Knowing full well that it would curtail her chances of getting pregnant, the couple tried to get pregnant through natural means.

When their efforts proved futile after a year, they opted for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) but there were no results after two rounds.

The couple also sought help from traditional Chinese practitioners and experts overseas, including those based in Thailand and the US, but they all had the same message: That it was close to impossible for the Lims to have a biological child.

Bouts of anger and denial through the years were common, reveals Dr Kee, who confesses to wondering if she could have done something better.

"There was also a period of time when three close friends got pregnant. Occasionally, I would even have friends telling me that they conceived without even wanting to. These little things added to my painful yearning (for a child)," she says.

"I remember a random stranger who asked me as I was crossing the road whether I was married and why I wasn't having kids. Chinese New Year also became a chore as well-meaning relatives queried us about why we weren't having kids. It wasn't like I didn't want them. I couldn't have them," Dr Kee laments.

After close to a decade of heartbreak, Dr Kee and her husband gave up on the hope of conceiving naturally.

Then one day, she started bleeding.

Finally, a month later, when she consulted her doctor, Dr Christopher Chen, who runs a specialist practice in reproductive medicine in Gleneagles Hospital, a surprise awaited her.

An ultrasound revealed the presence of a baby.

"I absolutely did not expect it to see a foetus. Her track record was so bad," Dr Chen explains, referring to his patient's complicated medical history.

But the surprise and happiness was short-lived as Dr Kee's bleeding was a sign that a miscarriage might be coming.

Dr Chen, who had helped in the world's first IVF triple pregnancy, quickly diagnosed that his patient had life-threatening complications.

Besides being unusually low-lying, Dr Kee's placenta had invaded the uterus walls and had embedded itself so deeply that it could cause serious bleeding, possibly leading to death, after delivery.

Still, the Lims were so overjoyed with their shot at parenthood that the bad news did not dampen their spirits.

But because the pregnancy was so unstable the visit to the doctor quickly turned into a six-month-long wait of hoping and praying for the safe delivery of the child.

"We woke up each day not really knowing if we were going to lose the baby. We just focused on the present... taking one step at a time," says Mr Lim.

Dr Kee was on a constant drip which administered drugs into her system to help keep the pregnancy.

Despite the many needles, plus the fact that her muscles started weakening from the long days of bed rest, Dr Kee kept at it.

Things took a scary turn at the 8½-month mark of her pregnancy. The baby's heartbeat was dropping. Dr Chen then decided to deliver the child the next day.

Dr Chen recalls: "It was with great anxiety that I did the operation. I even called a colleague to be on standby to help if the bleeding was unstoppable, which could mean losing the mother.

"It was a miracle that there was minimal blood loss during the 1½-hour-long operation."

On Sept 27 last year, the Lims welcomed their miracle baby, Elizabeth.

Though the whole journey cost the couple a "low-six-figure" sum, they are happy with the privilege of being parents and they treasure every moment with their daughter - even if Dr Kee wryly admits she cannot say that she enjoys changing diapers on sleepless nights all the time.

Says Dr Kee, who has put her career on hold to stay home with the baby: "I am really grateful for this opportunity to spend time with Beth.

"We know that she will only be a baby once in her lifetime and this is truly such an enjoyable time we have together."

This article was published on May 11 in The New Paper.

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