Battling Cancer And Infertility To Become A Mother

They say mothers are the most sacrificial people on earth—they would do anything for their children. Most mothers only start their journey of sacrifice after falling in love with the sleeping child in their arms, but there are those who have to begin their journey way earlier, when they realize they would do anything to have children.

Yvonne Chua, 39, has always dreamed of being a mom. While others aspire to be CEOs and doctors, all she wanted was to mother three children of her own. But that simple dream proved more difficult than she ever imagined.

She married Victor Wong, a pastoral supervisor when they were both 27. Husband and wife are staff members and have been longtime members of City Harvest Church. “After we got married, we wanted to spend a few years alone with each other before trying for a child,” says Yvonne. “Just when we were ready to try for a baby, I found out that I had thyroid cancer.”

The road to overcoming cancer included two operations and two rounds of iodine radiation. After the treatments, Yvonne had to wait another half a year before she could try for a baby. By then, she was already 32.

“We tried to conceive naturally for three years but it didn’t happen. It was very discouraging,” she says, adding that it was mental torture for her. “I kept asking myself why? What did we do wrong? And since we are Christians, I wonder if there was something wrong with my faith. Why was God withholding this gift from us? Well-meaning friends would tell me to trust God, but in my mind I just kept asking myself what else we could have done.”

Many condemning thoughts entered her mind until one day, Yvonne received encouragement from the Life-Giver Himself, Jesus. She read the story in the Bible of the blind boy who was brought before Jesus. The disciples had asked Jesus, “Who sinned? The man or his parents?”

“And Jesus said it was not the sins of the people, but that the boy was blind so that God would be glorified,” Yvonne says. “In fact, everyone had sinned! So it was not a matter of who sinned. Sometimes, things just happen this way. That Word gave me assurance that it is not my fault. Sometimes, there is no explanation for things that happen.”

In 2012, the Wongs decided to see a fertility specialist at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Both of them were 35 at that time. “The doctor advised us to go for IVF because only IVF would work for us. We were truly devastated,” Yvonne recalls.

The first round of IVF saw Yvonne going through six weeks of injections, blood tests and scans. But at the end of the six weeks, there were nothing to celebrate.

“We were heart-broken. Victor got hit the worst. He felt like he couldn’t do anything to help me, that he was so useless. He said to me, ‘Let’s not have any children, I love you and you’re enough for me.’ Victor is a person who loves children. He loves his nephews and nieces, and he is so good with them. So for him to say that, I knew his vision had died,” Yvonne remembers, tears welling up in her eyes.

Yvonne, however, felt that she wanted to give it her all. “I told myself since the government gives us three grants for IVF, I will use all the chances I have to try for a child. At least I can say I have no regrets when I look back in 10 years.”

After the second round of IVF, Yvonne and Victor finally conceived. Beautiful Celine was born a healthy baby in 2013.

Looking back, Yvonne shared that IVF was a step of faith for her. “I know of many Christians who think that IVF is ‘trying to do God’s work for Him’ and they don’t really approve of it. That’s why many Christians don’t like to talk about it.”

But Yvonne has never shunned away from the topic of infertility and IVF. In fact, she has shared openly on her blog about the down-and-out moments of her journey to motherhood.

“When I was fighting cancer, nobody blamed me for it. I don’t see why infertility is different,” she reasons.

She saw a problem, she got a diagnosis and she was determined to deal with it. “Instead of retreating in fear, I decided to do something in faith and I went for IVF.”

What is parenting her miracle baby like?

“It was very unreal for a whole year,” Yvonne laughs. “After praying and trying for so long, it felt very unreal to be pregnant and to birth a baby. Sometimes I would go to the crib and check if she’s still there, to make sure she is real.”

Even though it was tiring and she had to survive on very little sleep, Yvonne felt happy all the time.

Friends call her a chill mom, but Yvonne says she has to fight herself from being over-protective. “I’m a paranoid person by nature. And because Celine was so precious to me, I told myself I need to leave her to God. God is not just my Father, but also Celine’s heavenly Father. He will be there for her.”

In 2014, Yvonne bravely decided to try for a second child. “A year after we had Celine, I went back for IVF with the extra embryo. It didn’t happen and I tried and tried again. With the fifth and last IVF I was going to have, I thought the results would be the same, it wouldn’t happen, but I got pregnant!”

This pregnancy, however, was not as smooth as the first. Yvonne experienced a lot of bleeding and her first doctor was not very positive.

“At one point the doctor told me, ‘You can’t control miscarriages’. I was shocked. It had never crossed my mind that I would miscarry. After she said that, all sorts of negative thoughts started to fill my mind,” Yvonne remembers.

Yvonne then saw a different gynecologist and heard the heartbeat of the baby for the first time. But when she returned for a routine check the next week, the baby’s heartbeat had stopped.

“We cried and cried in the car on the way home. It really made no sense why it happened, but I knew that God was with me,” she says.

She shared that the night before she went for the checkup, she saw in a vision a boy with a big head. She knew immediately that he was abnormal. She couldn’t sleep that night; her heart was grieved. But in the midst of the grief, she felt God’s presence and knew that He was there with her.

“When the first round of IVF failed, I thought that was the most difficult thing we had to go through,” she says. “But to hear the baby’s heartbeat and then to miscarry—that was even harder.”

Joining online forums and reading about what other mothers had gone through, helped. “There were a lot of women going through more complicated issues than me, so I was thankful that at least IVF worked for me,” she says.

One lesson she took away from this was to not be afraid to talk about it. She realized that infertility is a taboo topic for many couples—they don’t want to talk about it and they don’t want to go to the doctor to find out what is wrong.

“We went through that period too. I didn’t tell my mom that we were going through a rough patch because we couldn’t conceive,” Yvonne says. “I remember a phone call when my mom and I were talking about my brother’s child and she told me if we had kids she would be happier. I broke down and cried after the phone call. Eventually when I finally told her about the IVF process, her heart broke for me and she never mentioned children again. Sometimes we need to share our struggles with others so that they can understand.”

Yvonne encourages couples to not be ashamed of their inability to conceive, and advises them to see a doctor. “A friend of mine went through a few rounds of unsuccessful IVF treatments. She decide to seek help from another doctor. The doctor did a body check-up for her and found that she was low on iron. After being put on medication, my friend conceived naturally! So just go and find out what’s wrong—the problem may not even be as bad as you imagine it to be.”

Now, the Wongs are happy with their three-year-old. “If a baby comes it’ll be good,” says Yvonne. “But if not, Celine is enough for us.”

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