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'Sana Po Soon': The Painful Journey Of Trying To Get Pregnant With Endometriosis

"While 'pandemic babies' filled my social media feed, there I was writhing in bed. Nakakainggit."
PHOTO BYELAINE CARAG-CALDERON

Last March marks two years since I underwent laparoscopic surgery to treat my severe endometriosis. To be honest, it already seems like a lifetime ago that I was wheeled into the operating room for a procedure that major—the first time in my life ever.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis when I was in my early 20s, and I didn’t really grasp the gravity of it at the time.

To the unfamiliar, endometriosis is “a disease where tissue resembling the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) is found outside the uterus,” according to the World Health Organization. It’s often hard to detect due to the nature of its symptoms, but my first OB could immediately tell upon my first consultation and examination. 

Before then, I used to spot most days of the month. I also braced myself for long painful periods that rendered me useless for days. I thought it was normal for everyone. 

While being treated, I learned I had superficial and cystic ovarian endometriosis. As far as I can remember, it’s just “this thing” I’ve lived with most of my adult life. 

For years since learning about my illness, I was put on birth control to hopefully regulate my hormones and manage my symptoms. My five- to seven-day periods became three days, and it allowed me to live without pain for the most part. I thought, “Wow, okay na ako!” But I eventually had to wean off the pills when my husband and I started discussing marriage and building a family.

'While “pandemic babies” filled my social media feed, there I was writhing in bed. Nakakainggit.'

Fast forward to my early 30s in the middle of a global pandemic, my periods started becoming worse—unbearable even—month after month. Some cycles were manageable, some I’d find myself in the ER being given intravenous pain medication because my usual OTC ones would have the worst side effects. While “pandemic babies” filled my social media feed, there I was writhing in bed. Nakakainggit.

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To this day, endometriosis still has no cause or cure. All I can really do is manage symptoms with pain medication. Anything else would directly affect our chances of conceiving, so there are no other choices if my husband and I want to get pregnant.

I never really thought of myself as infertile, and I’d always believed we could be blessed with a child naturally—but going through inexplicable pain knowing what I know about endometriosis now made me start to think otherwise. I remember looking at my OB-GYN’s prescriptions, which had “infertility” and “minimally invasive surgery” listed as her specializations, and I told my husband, “Infertile pala ako.”

RELATED: Dear Wives Who Cannot Be Mothers Just Yet, I Feel Your Pain

At that point, my condition had already progressed so severely that my doctor was already discussing IVF with me and my husband. Since we weren’t ready for the option yet, she advised me to undergo laparoscopic surgery for pain management so my husband and I could continue trying to get pregnant naturally.

It was a lot to process at the time. When I was in my teens, I thought if I did life right, the same way my parents did, I’d be raising my own family in no time. Instead, at 33, I still had to have my mother sit with me during my OB consultations because I still felt like a little girl who had no idea what was happening. 

The pandemic made logistics for my surgery even trickier (and more expensive), but we’re thankful it went well. It’s also been a big relief being treated by one of the best infertility doctors in the field. I lost my left fallopian tube that day because it was already too damaged by my worsened condition. The number of eggs my ovaries can produce was also affected, but my OB said it’s still possible to conceive naturally—it would just be harder for me than everyone else.

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Elaine's journey to conceiving a baby was made more complicated and difficult by the global pandemic.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ELAINE CARAG-CALDERON

My OB was respectful and supportive of our decision to try and conceive naturally, too. We’re not entirely closed off to the idea of IVF, but financially (and even emotionally) speaking, we’re not there yet. “Kung ibibigay sa atin, ibibigay sa atin,” is where we’re basically at.

My husband and I have changed jobs, adjusted diets, and even tried hilot and acupuncture. As an insufferable workaholic, I’ve consciously tried never to overexert myself since my surgery.

'Whenever I’m delayed by even a few days, I can’t help but feel hopeful. But when... my period starts, I can’t even describe the emotional and physical pain melding together—it’s just crushing.'

And don’t get me wrong, there have been several close calls. Whenever I’m delayed by even a few days, I can’t help but feel hopeful. But when the chronic inflammation kicked in and my period started, I can’t even describe the emotional and physical pain melding together—it’s just crushing. I can’t count how many times I’ve already said, “Ayoko na,” to my husband and my parents. Afterward, I’d find myself lying, saying, “It’s okay. It happens,” even if I felt differently. I’ve developed such a strong defense mechanism that I can’t even tell if it’s good or bad. When the “Ganito pala ’yung feeling” hits you, it gets harder to grapple with. I’ve learned to answer the “Wala pa ba [kayong anak]?” question with “Sana po soon,” hoping it comes true one day. Baka kasi kung ma-trigger lang ako, lalo pang hindi ibigay sa amin.

I have many questions of my own, too. Are we getting too old? What if it doesn’t happen for us? Are we even ready? Why me? I was never one to throw pity parties, but lying in bed while on sick leave from work, trying to sleep the pain off tends to mess with you. The what-could-have-beens are the worst.

It’s a lot to work through, but what has given me strength is my husband’s unconditional love and support as he holds my hand during the painful bouts of endometriosis flare-ups and random stabbing pains. I find comfort that we have Yoyo, my stepson, who I know is going to be a good kuya when the time comes. My parents, who have been there for me since my period pains in high school, have constantly assured me in their own quiet ways that it’s okay. 

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The author with her husband Calde.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ELAINE CARAG-CALDERON

Our close family and friends have been awesome as they continue to voice their support for us. Getting random “Sana sa susunod na magkita tayo, may baby na kayo!” messages from loved ones living across the world give me more hope than I could express.

I still don’t know what the future holds for us. Whether we’re going to be blessed with a child or not, I’ve resolved to take each month as it is. The waves of doubt come and go, but I find myself still so grateful for the life my husband and I have.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I know as early as now that it’s the same for when you’re trying to conceive while dealing with infertility. It’s actually these earnest conversations with my loved ones, especially those who have gone through or those who may still be going through their own struggles in building a family, that I find assurance that everything will be okay. With them, I never feel alone.

Elaine Carag-Calderon is a strategy and logistics manager of a Sydney-based social media agency and former editor in chief of a youth-oriented website. She has a stepson through her husband, who still calls her tita. They are continually trying to conceive.

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