‘I am­now a mother’

A woman’s re­solve to be­come a mother de­spite her body re­ject­ing the baby

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - MOTHER’S DAY - By Raquel P. Gomez

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.”

Re­pro­duc­tive-im­muno­log­i­cal dis­or­der

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.

SOFIE'S STU­DIO PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

APAS ba­bies Santi and Lu­cia with Mommy Balot and Dada Edzel.

The fam­ily visit­ing Taal Church.

With baby daugh­ter Lu­cia.

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