Real Life

Against all odds

Your Pregnancy - - Contents -

“NEVER GIVE UP!” This is the mes­sage Katya Pap­palardo, 44, from Jo­han­nes­burg, wants to say to women strug­gling to fall preg­nant. Be­com­ing a mother wasn’t an easy jour­ney for Katya, but to­day she’s the dot­ing mom of four-year-old Sa­man­tha and baby Neve, who was born in March this year. “My pri­mary school motto was ‘Yield Not’ and it has al­ways been the way I’ve lived my life,” says Katya, who be­lieves this ap­proach re­mained her guid­ing light dur­ing years of strug­gling with in­fer­til­ity. As a for­mer beauty queen and fit­ness model, Katya was the picture of health and fit­ness for most of her life. No­body could have fore­seen the strug­gles she would en­dure try­ing to fall preg­nant. DIS­COUR­AG­ING NEWS “When I got en­gaged in 2010, I knew I wanted to start a fam­ily right away,” Katya re­calls. She was 36 at the time and de­cided to visit a fer­til­ity clinic to rule out any com­pli­ca­tions. “I knew all about de­clin­ing fer­til­ity with age, and had suf­fered from en­dometrio­sis and fi­broids (be­nign tu­mours in the uterus), which meant I had to start my fer­til­ity treat­ment with a la­paroscopy to clear my uterus,” Katya says. “The doc­tor at the fer­til­ity clinic wanted us to try fall­ing preg­nant nat­u­rally for six months, but it didn’t work.” In a mis­guided at­tempt to be funny, her doc­tor told her that her ovaries looked like “shriv­elled prunes”. “This is not some­thing you want to hear when you’re des­per­ate to be­come a mother,” Katya says. “The doc­tor also said that although I didn’t look my age, my eggs did. I have in­cred­i­bly low Anti-Mul­le­rian Hor­mone (AMH), which is the key rea­son why doc­tors said I’d never fall preg­nant nat­u­rally.” AMH is one of the most ac­cu­rate tests to as­sess a woman’s ovar­ian re­serve. Low AMH is an in­di­ca­tor of di­min­ished ovar­ian re­serve (DOR), or a de­cline in the ovaries’ abil­ity to pro­duce good-qual­ity eggs, and is one of the ma­jor causes of in­fer­til­ity in women. AMH lev­els de­cline as women age.

A BIG GIFT Katya started with in vitro fer­til­i­sa­tion (IVF) treat­ments in Jan­uary 2011. “My first failed IVF re­sults came out the week my mother was di­ag­nosed with can­cer. She died within a week, so I was a to­tal mess and we aban­doned our mis­sion.” Af­ter build­ing up the courage to at­tempt fall­ing preg­nant again, Katya and her hus­band vis­ited an­other fer­til­ity clinic. “But, we went through two more IVFs, com­pris­ing a failed im­plan­ta­tion and the sec­ond batch of em­bryos not even de­vel­op­ing prop­erly in the lab,” she says. “The doc­tor there told me I should con­sider get­ting an egg donor. I was dis­heart­ened and angry. I didn’t want to give up.” They re­turned to the first fer­til­ity clinic and one la­paroscopy fol­lowed the next. Her uterus and fal­lop­ian tubes were checked for block­ages (HSG) and the com­mon IVF pro­to­col (in­volv­ing self­in­ject­ing one’s belly to stim­u­late fol­li­cle pro­duc­tion), were car­ried out yet again. De­spite all th­ese at­tempts, Katya was still not preg­nant. She be­gan re­search­ing fer­til­ity vo­ra­ciously and nat­u­ral fer­til­ity meth­ods struck a chord. “I put my­self on var­i­ous sup­ple­ments and tried re­flex­ol­ogy and acupunc­ture.” But it was not un­til un­der­go­ing the GIFT pro­ce­dure that she fi­nally fell preg­nant with Sa­man­tha. GIFT, or Gamete In­tra-Fal­lop­ian Trans­fer, is an early as­sisted re­pro­duc­tive tech­nol­ogy tech­nique used to achieve preg­nan­cies in cou­ples who have not been able to con­ceive us­ing con­ven­tional treat­ments for in­fer­til­ity. Fer­til­i­sa­tion hap­pens nat­u­rally af­ter the eggs and sperm are placed di­rectly in­side one of the fal­lop­ian tubes. Although she de­scribes her preg­nancy and lit­tle girl as a “mir­a­cle”, Katya’s fer­til­ity woes didn’t end af­ter giv­ing birth to Sa­man­tha. “Af­ter giv­ing birth nat­u­rally I had to un­dergo a di­la­tion and curet­tage (D&C) pro­ce­dure to re­move half of the placenta that wasn’t de­liv­ered nat­u­rally.” This led to the de­vel­op­ment of Ash­er­man’s syn­drome (the for­ma­tion of scar tis­sue in the uterus) which would need to be la­paro­scop­i­cally re­moved be­fore start­ing to at­tempt to con­ceive again. Katya was over­joyed to fi­nally have the baby she had dreamed of for so long, but it took a while for her to bond with Sa­man­tha. “I found be­ing a first-time mom over­whelm­ing with­out hav­ing my mom to con­sult.” To­day there’s an un­break­able bond be­tween the bub­bly four-year-old and her mommy. “Af­ter Sammy was born I re­mem­ber telling a friend that I fi­nally know my rea­son for ex­is­tence!” A PROJECT OF PAS­SION De­spite the hard­ships of her first ex­pe­ri­ence with fer­til­ity treat­ments, Katya longed for a sec­ond baby. “So many peo­ple told me fall­ing preg­nant the sec­ond time could of­ten be eas­ier, but it wasn’t.” For three and a half years Katya and her hus­band did ev­ery­thing in their power to con­ceive an­other child. The cou­ple spent thou­sands on GIFT and IVF treat­ments – both with­out suc­cess. “I longed to give my daugh­ter a sis­ter, be­cause af­ter my mother’s death I felt it wasn’t easy be­ing an only child,” she says. The monthly discovery that she wasn’t preg­nant deeply sad­dened her. “I re­mem­ber telling my hus­band that it makes a woman feel in­ad­e­quate when it seems so easy for ev­ery­one else to fall preg­nant, but you can’t. He told me it didn’t mat­ter, but it didn’t ease my sad­ness. It also didn’t stop Sammy from ask­ing me ev­ery day where her baby sis­ter was and why she was tak­ing so long to ar­rive. I’m pretty frank with Sammy about ev­ery­thing, but this was a lit­tle too dif­fi­cult to ex­plain.” Katya de­scribes her­self as a re­al­ist with a be­lief in science, so she pushed on and did ev­ery­thing she could to boost her fer­til­ity. “I charted my basal body tem­per­a­ture for nearly two years; con­sid­ered hyp­no­sis; tried acupunc­ture again and spent thou­sands on vi­ta­mins and nat­u­ral fer­til­ity sup­ple­ments in the hope that some­thing would change the qual­ity of my eggs.” When she read about the ben­e­fits of hav­ing a clean, al­ka­line body, Katya dis­carded most of the med­i­ca­tion she was tak­ing and fo­cussed on bal­anc­ing her pH. It was ac­tu­ally an iri­dol­o­gist telling her that she had a toxic gut that started her cleanse. “Years later, my brother be­ing di­ag­nosed with prostate can­cer in­spired me to com­bine three an­tiox­i­dants (one anti-can­cer, and two pro-fer­til­ity) to­gether with the pH-bal­anc­ing base pow­der.” Katya thinks this made the dif­fer­ence to her health. A LIT­TLE MIR­A­CLE “Dur­ing this time a friend told me about the fer­n­ing kit, which I used for four months,” Katya re­calls. Fer­n­ing kits, which are avail­able at phar­ma­cies, work by test­ing the salt con­tent of the saliva – in­creased oe­stro­gen lev­els lead to in­creased salt. When the salt con­tent is high, your saliva dries in a fern pat­tern which can be seen un­der a mi­cro­scope. She had charted her ovu­la­tion be­fore, but Katya no­ticed that her charts showed her ovu­la­tion later than it ac­tu­ally was. “This led to us tim­ing in­ter­course in­cor­rectly, which ob­vi­ously makes all the dif­fer­ence. I be­lieve the fer­n­ing kit helped me to cal­cu­late my cor­rect ovu­la­tion date and that it made all the dif­fer­ence.” When her gy­nae­col­o­gist told her she should make peace with not be­ing able to have any more chil­dren, Katya be­came even more de­ter­mined. “I told her to watch me and two months later I was preg­nant with Neve!” Prior to fall­ing preg­nant, her motherin-law had taken her along to a Chris­tian healer. “I have been ag­nos­tic for most of my life and it was to­tally out of char­ac­ter for me to go. Now I’m not sure what made the dif­fer­ence, but some­thing did, be­cause against all odds I fell preg­nant nat­u­rally, and that’s why Neve is a mir­a­cle!” She did a preg­nancy test while on hol­i­day in Spain and lit­tle Sammy was there to watch both lines on the preg­nancy test turn pink. “All the doc­tors were wrong. I be­lieve I fi­nally fell preg­nant due to per­sis­tence, de­sire and a dose of di­vine in­ter­ven­tion!” Her sec­ond preg­nancy was not easy. “I was very sick and had ter­ri­ble SPD (sym­ph­ysis pu­bis dys­func­tion) and ex­ces­sive round lig­a­ment pain through­out. I also lost faith in my gy­nae, be­cause she didn’t seem keen on nat­u­ral birth, es­pe­cially since at week 38, Neve was breech. Luck­ily, a friend’s mid­wife rec­om­mended a gen­tle and un­der­stand­ing doc­tor who helped turn Neve, and she was born nat­u­rally.” Sa­man­tha adores her baby sis­ter and Katya couldn’t be hap­pier, although she ad­mits her life re­volves around two lit­tle peo­ple th­ese days, with lit­tle time for her­self, her busi­ness or a so­cial life. Af­ter all she has been through, Katya says she would love an­other child. “I adore ev­ery sec­ond of moth­er­hood, be­cause I have wanted this for so long.”


Katya’s two ador­bale daugh­ters, Neve (left) and Sa­man­tha (right).

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