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  • Mom Who Overcame APAS Twice Vows To Help Women With Similar Autoimmune Disorders

    "There was never a day that I did not pray for the safety of the child that was inside of me," she said of her pregnancy after two miscarriages.
    by Balot Amechachura-Del Rosario .
Mom Who Overcame APAS Twice Vows To Help Women With Similar Autoimmune Disorders
PHOTO BY Courtesy of Balot Amechachura-Del Rosario
  • "Your body is killing your baby." These are probably the last words a woman who yearns to be a mother wants to hear. It brings unimaginable pain to be told that you are the reason why you are not carrying your pregnancy to term. How ironic, that one wants to become a mom and yet her own body decides to do otherwise.

    I am now a mom to two wonderful rainbow babies, Santi and Lucia. But before I was able to hold them, I had been through hell and back. 

    My motherhood journey started in 2012, right after my wedding. My husband and I had been together for six years before we tied the knot. I was 28 years old when my pregnancy test results came out positive in my fifth week. We were ecstatic to be first-time parents and immediately went to an obstetrician to confirm my pregnancy. I had an ultrasound, but we were told to wait another week because there was no heartbeat yet. "Masyado pang maaga," was what the doctor said.

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    Twenty-four hours after the ultrasound, I bled. I did not know what was happening. First, I thought I was bleeding because of the procedure. Little did I know that I was already having a miscarriage. It was the first time I lost a baby, and I experienced the deepest kind of grief I have ever felt in my whole life.

    When people around me learned about my miscarriage, many were sympathetic, but some were just cruel. "Ingatan mo kasi," someone told me at work. I wanted to scream at his face, but I just didn't have the energy to retaliate. I just let comments like this slide. There are so many insensitive people in this world; there's nothing I could do about it.

    My heart bled when I realized that a lot of women go through miscarriages, but not a lot would talk about it. I, too, chose to suffer in silence, shutting out the people who were trying to reach out. I didn’t think that anyone understood what I was feeling at that time.

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    It might have been too early. Yes, we did not have a heartbeat to begin with, so technically, my baby was not "alive" yet. But for me, the moment I saw two red lines on my pregnancy test, I was already a mother. When I lost that pregnancy, I didn't just lose a child—I lost all my dreams that came with it. It was utterly heartbreaking.

    When I lost my first baby, I also lost my husband. When I miscarried, I also lost my marriage.  

    Everything just went downward spiral in the months after my miscarriage. I was not clinically diagnosed, but I think I had postpartum depression. I poured all my energy into my work—at least it was one area I could still control. My relationship with my husband was strained, and we both didn't know how to deal or cope with our loss. I hated him for acting so nonchalantly about what happened, and he hated me for the "monster" that I've become. When I lost my first baby, I also lost my husband. When I miscarried, I also lost my marriage.  

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    It took several months before my husband and I reconciled and agreed to work on our marriage. Shortly after we got back together, I got pregnant again. My husband doted on me and gave me everything that I asked from him.  We moved to our new house, excited to start anew. This was it, I told myself. I was finally going to be a mom. But that happiness was short-lived.

    On my 11th week, I had spotting. I told myself it was just implantation bleeding and there's no need to worry, holding on to the fact that on my last checkup just a week before, our baby's heartbeat was strong. There was no reason to panic. But still, I rushed myself to the hospital and had another ultrasound. The doctor was eerily quiet and called another sonologist to confirm what she saw on the screen.

    I already knew what was happening even before they uttered the words. Tears streamed down my eyes as I felt a deep punch in the gut. "We are sorry. We don’t have any cardiac activity," they said. The baby had no more heartbeat. I lost the baby... again. I thought, "Ganun ba akong kasamang tao para di mabigyan ng anak?"

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    I wanted to vomit right there and then. Everything was a haze. I looked for the nearest restroom and slumped on the floor, not knowing what to do. It was happening all over again. It felt like a sick movie. I wanted to punch someone.  I wanted to shout. I wanted to curse and blame God for allowing this to happen. 

    The next thing I remember was that my husband and I were already back in the hospital for my dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure, which is usually done after giving birth—only, there was no baby to bring home. They called my baby "products of conception." I wanted to kick someone in the face. My baby had a name; his name was Basti.

    When I asked my doctor what happened, she told me that I might have APAS. My mind reeled, "What the hell was APAS?!" It was 2013 when I was diagnosed with the condition, and there was not much information about it. I was on a wild goose chase, finding abandoned blogs and very few medical articles. I poured my grief into researching about APAS.

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    I stumbled upon a Facebook support group for women with similar conditions and I learned that women who have recurrent miscarriages (sunod-sunod na pagkalaglag ng pagbubuntis), are possibly suffering from APAS. APAS is just one of five reproductive-immunological disorders (RID) where a woman's immune system rejects the fetus because it sees it as a foreign object. In some cases, RID can be a cause of unexplained infertility. 

    I found my tribe. It was the first time that I did not feel alone in my journey. There were hundreds of us going through the same challenges.

    I was inspired by the stories of mommies who have overcome the condition and were able to finally hold a child in their arms. I was spiritually renewed with their stories.

    I found the best doctors and went through all the necessary treatments for my condition. It was emotionally, physically, and financially draining, but we did what we had to do so we don't have any regrets. We had to make many sacrifices. I took a sabbatical from corporate life and had to turn my bad lifestyle habits around.

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    Despite the renewed determination to try to conceive again, my husband and I were not so lucky. More than the expenses piling up, the psychological effect of undergoing treatments was more taxing. Waiting was painful, mainly because you don't know if you're really waiting for something or not. We did all novenas, prayed to the highest heavens. Kulang na lang sumayaw kami sa Obando.

    Almost a year had passed, and there was still nothing, so my husband and I decided to give up on our baby project. We told ourselves that we were okay with not having a child. We had done everything humanly possible, and it was enough. We started our marriage together, just the two of us — a baby is just a bonus. Maybe it was just really not meant for us.

    A day after this surrender, I had a moment. I don’t know if I was going crazy, but I heard a whisper in my ear that I would get pregnant if we made love that night. I shared this with my husband, and he just laughed it out, thinking I was only making "my moves."

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    A month after that whisper came, I was pregnant. I knew then with all conviction that the baby I was carrying was a gift from God. From the moment I knew that I was expecting again, I knew that the baby I was carrying was a boy. He was a testament to God’s infinite blessing in my life, like all the childless women in the Bible who were later on blessed with a son: Sarah had Isaac, Rebekah had Jacob and Esau, Rachel had Joseph and Benjamin, Hannah had Samuel, and Elizabeth had John.

    During her first pregnancy, Balot had intralipid transfusions when she was two and 8 months pregnant.  
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Balot Amechachura-Del Rosario
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    My husband and I told only our close family members and friends about the pregnancy for fear of jinxing it. It was not easy. I had to inject blood thinners on my tummy every 12 hours and have monthly intralipid infusions. I woke up every day in fear. The first thing that I'd do the moment I wake up is to check if my baby was still moving. There was never a day that passed that I did not pray for the safety of the child that was inside of me.

    I made a promise to Him that if he would give me this child... I will make it my personal advocacy to help other women who are in the same boat as I had been.

    God was in every step of my pregnancy. I prayed every time I injected, asking the Angel Gabriel to continue protecting my baby from my killer cells. I made a promise to Him that if he would give me this child, I will praise His name in any way that I can, and I will make it my personal advocacy to help other women who are in the same boat as I had been.

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    On May 2016, four years after my first miscarriage, I held my son, Santi. It was surreal, and yet there I was, holding the most precious thing in my life. I could not stop my tears.

    Balot with her husband and their two wonderful rainbow babies, Santi and Lucia.
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Balot Amechachura-Del Rosario
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    The promise I made became my blog, where I shared my journey, as well as the stories of many rainbow babies. I also became one of the administrators of the Facebook support group that helped me get through my miscarriages. 

    Prevention, as they say, is better than cure, and one way of prevention is spreading awareness and information. Another personal dream of mine was to put up a foundation to promote awareness on RID in the Philippines. I've handled many advocacy projects in my previous job, and I have seen how the power of information changes lives. 

    I can’t tell you that the journey of an APAS mommy will be easy. I also cannot say that all treatments will be successful. I can only tell you that we have to do what we can and let God do the rest. And if a baby is not given, know that you are complete, no matter what. I am praying for and with you every step of the way. May you have a rainbow baby in your arms.

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    If you want to know more about reproductive-immunological disorders, check out the author's blog, Chronicles of a Clueless APAS Mama at www.callmebalot.com, or visit the All about APAS and Immuno-Reproductive Cases support group at www.facebook.com/groups/allaboutapasandrid. 

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