Four years ago, Felicia Tan watched her babies die in her arms – her heart shattered as they took their last breaths shortly after birth.
In a span of 11 months, she had lost three babies after suffering late miscarriages during the second trimester of her pregnancies. Born too early at 23 and 21 weeks respectively, baby Dominic and twins Elvis and Louis did not survive their extreme premature births.
Tears had flowed when Young Parents interviewed Felicia in 2014, when she was still struggling to come to terms with her losses. Today, however, the graphic designer is full of renewed hope and joy.
After an emotional decade, she is now mum to a healthy boy, Titus Low, whom she fondly calls her “rainbow baby” in her third and latest book, A Gift From Heaven.
“Like a rainbow that comes after a storm, Titus has given me a new chance at motherhood. We’ve gone through a lot of hardship to have a baby but, now, the worst is over,” says Felicia, who previously penned two books, To Baby with Love and Lost and Found, detailing her traumatic miscarriages.
In June, Titus will turn one, a happy milestone Felicia never thought she would ever celebrate during those dark days.
Even more amazing is the fact that Titus was conceived naturally after Felicia’s agonising, decade-long struggle with infertility. Previously, she conceived via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
After her second tragic miscarriage, she steered herself away from a near-emotional breakdown and instead, focused on seeking answers: Why was she unable to carry her babies to term?
“We didn’t want to rush into another round of IVF without finding out why I kept miscarrying. Moreover, I was so physically and emotionally drained after the second miscarriage,” she says.
Felicia consulted a gynaecologist specialising in high-risk pregnancies and paid over $2,000 to undergo a battery of health tests. She learnt that her blood sugar levels were on the high side, placing her at a higher risk of gestational diabetes.
She was also tested positive for a type of vaginal bacteria. Her doctor said those two factors might have caused the premature labours.
“Even so, the findings were not entirely conclusive. The exact root cause was not found and we ended up returning to square one,” Felicia says.
Although her biological clock was ticking away, Felicia decided to take a step back from the mayhem of another IVF procedure to focus on rebuilding her health. Previously, she underwent a total of three rounds of IVF.
While the fertility treatments helped her to conceive, they also left her physically, emotionally and financially drained. By then, she had also grown weary of going in and out of the gynaecologist’s office.
Related: “I spent $100,000 to get pregnant”
“We did all we could, but things were not moving. I decided to stop all medical consultations and let nature take its own course,” she says.
Then overweight, Felicia gave her lifestyle a complete overhaul, losing 6kg in under two years through regular exercise such as circuit training, swimming and cycling.
Besides loading up on folic acid supplements, she also downsized her meal portions as well as her favourite snacks and desserts, swapping junk food like French fries for nutritious avocado shakes. Folic acid supplements are usually taken by pregnant mums and women who are planning to conceive to reduce the risk of brain and spinal birth defects.
By an odd quirk of fate, Felicia found out that she was pregnant shortly after she told her gynae at her last appointment: “Enough is enough. I’ll see you again when I conceive.”
And then, a miracle.
“Imagine my joy when I peed on the pregnancy test kit and saw the double lines that we had waited for for the longest time. It was the first time we conceived naturally – without medical intervention – since we married 10 years ago,” she says.
Even so, it wasn’t time to celebrate yet. With her pregnancy classified as a “high risk” one, Felicia had to undergo even more tests and scans, as well as hormone jabs.
She also developed gestational diabetes, which meant constant monitoring of her blood sugar levels and making drastic changes to her diet.
Felicia recalls how she was especially apprehensive about the halfway point of her pregnancy, during her second trimester. Like a recurrent nightmare, the traumatic scenes of Dominic, Elvis and Louis’ deaths came back to haunt her.
“Thankfully, work kept me busy during that period. It was also around the Chinese New Year period, so the festive celebrations took the edge off the jitters. Thankfully, the second trimester went by without much issues,” she recalls.
On Week 35, Felicia went into labour and delivered a healthy 2.4kg baby.
This time, the pain of childbirth paid off and she heard her little one’s feisty cry at birth.
“Cradling Titus in my arms felt so unreal, especially after all those years of waiting and tears. I finally had my rainbow baby in my arms,” she says.
Today, Felicia is busy juggling work and her Mummy duties, as well as the book launch.
But she has not forgotten about Dominic, Elvis and Louis, and still visits their niche at the Choa Chu Kang Columbarium on their death anniversaries.
She intends to tell Titus about his older brothers when he is older. “We want to let him know how hard it was for us to bring him to this world,” she says.
Felicia adds that her previous losses have given her a more positive mindset, which helps her deal with the steep learning curve of parenthood.
“I’ve learnt to appreciate the small things in life,” she adds. “While challenging, the parenting issues we face are really not a big deal now that the worst is truly over.”
(Photos: Felicia Tan)