Philippine Daily Inquirer
‘I amnow a mother’
A woman’s resolve to become a mother despite her body rejecting the baby
The Instagram and Facebook posts of Ernalou “Balot” Del Rosario is mostly about her family—photos that show her with husband Edzel and two children, two-year-old Santi and three-month-old Lucia. It’s a happy family in everyday scenes—going out-oftown, relaxing at home, celebrating birthdays, eating dinner, or playing with children.
In all of them, the mom to two bouncing kids exudes the happiest smile. The joyous feeling can be attributed to her becoming a mother, finally, after going through a seeming insurmountable ordeal in her journey to motherhood.
In 2012, the year she got married, she suffered a miscarriage, losing her five-week baby. She felt devastated. Life went on. She and husband settled on a new home and got a dog they named Sachi. Still, she hoped to conceive again.
A year later, her prayer was answered. The pregnancy test was positive. But she again lost the weeks-old baby and was devastated all over again.
“More than anything in the world, I wanted my family to be complete. No, I did not want anything else but to be a mom. I did not want a promotion, I did not want a new car. Everything in my life was perfect except for a little bundle of joy in my arms,” she wrote in her personal blog in October 2013.
“Twice, motherhood has been deprived of me. In most of my alone time, I keep thinking where I have gone wrong—all the ifs, and should-havebeens—should have stayed home, should have not done this…I can count a million things but there is nothing I can really do about it now,” she wrote.
Then in 2014, Balot discovered the reason why she was having miscarriages or couldn’t keep the baby full term.
She was diagnosed with reproductive-immunological disorder (RID), more commonly known as Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome or APAS, an auto-immune disorder that can cause pregnancy-related problems, such as multiple miscarriages or stillbirth.
When she heard of her diagnosis, she was at a loss. ”I did not know how to react. During that time, when you search online about what APAS is, there were very few resources about it so I was left in the dark. It was a very frustrating time,” she said.
“When I lost my first pregnancy at five weeks, I was made to believe that miscarriages were normal and that many women lost their babies all the time. During those times, I have heard it all (misconceptions about the cause of miscarriage)
—‘ Di ka kasi nag-iingat,’ ‘ Masyado kang stressed,’ ‘ Ang layo ng nilakad mo,’ ‘ Mahilig ka sa soft
drinks,’ or ‘ Mababa matres mo.’” “Until now, there are many people who do not know that these immune disorders can cause reproductive failure (whether pregnancy loss or failure to conceive). Even myparents couldn’t wrap their heads around the concept of a mother’s body rejecting its own baby.”
Balot underwent several tests and she was diagnosed to have three out of five categories under reproductive-immunological disorder: she doesn’t produce the antibodies needed to protect her pregnancy; APAS which is a blood clotting disorder; and an overactive natural killer cells that consider the baby as a foreign entity.
With her now detected condition, Balot was advised by her doctors to undergo lifestyle changes and medical treatment in order to make her body “baby-friendly.”
“It was hard to pinpoint what needs to be changed because even until now, specialists are still not clear with what the main cause of these immune disorders is. I was told it was lifestyle choices so I had taken drastic measures to hopefully address my condition.”
She quit her corporate job, changed her diet and underwent a fitness program, and even tried acupuncture.
“However, what changed the most is my relationship with God. Being diagnosed with reproductive-immune disorders has strengthened my faith more than anything else. Prayers have helped me endure all the pricks and needles that my pregnancies entailed.”
By “pricks and needles,” Balot refers to the treatment she had to endure to suppress her hyperactive immune system that attacks the baby.
For nine months, she had to inject her tummy twice daily with blood thinners as excessive blood clotting could lead to delayed growth of fetus and other pregnancy complications.
Prior to getting pregnant, she too had to undergo a procedure involving the injection of white blood cells taken from her husband into her skin to prepare her immune system for pregnancy.
Balot’s and Edzel’s eldest child was born in May 2016 and their second child Lucia in February 2018.
“It took us two years before we could hold Santi. The treatments were emotionally and financially draining. I got pregnant naturally. It was scary time. We did not announce our pregnancy until the 9th month for the fear that it might be jinxed. Every day was an emo- tional and physical battle of keeping the baby considering all the medication and treatments that I was taking. Every morning when I woke up, my first thoughts were: Is my baby still there? Is he still moving?”
According to Dr. Valerie Tiempo Guinto, chief at Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, APAS affects up to 20 to 40 percent of women who had at least two miscarriages worldwide.
In the Philippines, women only become aware of the condition after they had repeated miscarriages, according to Dr. Guinto.
“Most of the women become aware only that they have APAS after they had repeated miscarriages because the risk of catastrophic APS, where severe clotting happens in many organ systems resulting in severe morbidity or mortality, is very low. However, in contrast, the risk of losing a pregnancy when a woman has APAS, without treatment, can go as high as 80 percent. Therefore, many of these women get diagnosed only because they lost their pregnancies.”
Facebook support group
Balot’s difficult motherhood journey also led her to a Facebook support group all abou ta-pas and RID, where mothers with RID condition share their experiences.
The online support group was established to spread awareness about RID. The administrators of the group are also APAS and RID patients.
Balot currently runs a website Chronicles of a Clueless APAS Mama (www.callmebalot.com) that also spreads awareness about APAS and RID. As a happy fulfilled mother, Balot feels blessed beyond words.
“When I couldn’t get pregnant, I had made peace with the thought that children are gifts from heaven and you cannot demand them from God. But with Santi and Lucia in my life, I am always reminded of how big our God is compared to our seemingly insurmountable problems. When I look at my kids sleeping soundly at night, my heart overflows with so much gratitude. I am now a mother. I could not ask for anything more.