The Raw Unfiltered Side of Infertility and IVF Journey with Patricia Tan
Patricia plays many roles in her life and proudly calls herself a ‘24/7 juggler’, and rightfully so. Professionally, she is a headhunter at a global firm where she focuses on talent recruitment for companies and advisory services. Patricia is also a devoted mother, wife, daughter and infertility advocate. She enjoys Jack Neo movies, karaoke, Asian food and mostly spending time with her family and my girlfriends who are like sisters to her.
Patricia shares with us about the struggles that she faced during her long IVF journey and how she was slowly able to find things along the way that helped her form a healthier perspective and gave her strength.
During the last 5 years, I went through IVF, gave birth and joined a fertility support group as a volunteer. Professionally, I have also moved to a global firm with more responsibilities. I’m a full time headhunter and my daily responsibilities include meeting clients and candidates. I work on finding the best talent for my clients and also provide talent assessment and advisory services.
My journey to motherhood wasn’t an easy one as it took me 6 rounds of IVF, countless needles, 3 major surgeries to finally carry my baby in my arms. It was a long and lonely journey of infertility. This led to my mental health deteriorating rapidly and it was not at the optimal level, I also experienced many negative thoughts. I didn’t feel worthy at all and it was dark. I was grateful for my family and girl friends who were there for me. I couldn’t have done it without their support and love.
I reached out to ladies in the US who went through or were going through fertility treatment. I seeked advice and tips from them, they were my community of support. The advice I received that I resonated with most to focus on the present and be grateful. From then, I started writing 10 things I was grateful for every single day. Even the darkest days. I wrote down even the simplest gestures such as a greeting from a neighbour in my gratitude journey. Practising gratitude got me through the darkest years of infertility.
After my IVF journey, I decided to become an Infertility advocate and volunteered. I went through my IVF journey without support as society still saw it as taboo then. Infertility and the IVF journey was a very lonely journey for me and hence, I wanted to give back to society and be of support to women going through the same.
Infertility is difficult to live with. I felt worthless, broken and ashamed. I remember telling my husband that maybe he should find another woman who can give hichildren.
It was a book that saved me, ‘Option B’ by Sheryl Sandberg. That book reminded me that not everything that happens, happens because of us. It is not always our fault. So I stopped blaming myself and having self sabotaging thoughts. Another thing I learnt was that nothing is permanent. The truth is — it will get better. It’s just a matter of time. In other words, you don’t have to deny that you’re feeling sad or hopeless — but you can also take heart that one day soon, you’ll feel a little less sad and hopeless.
Last but not least; I channelled my energy to work when I took a break from IVF treatment. Sometimes it is important to listen to your body and do what’s best for your mental well being.
I often heard the phrase, ‘Women shouldn’t be so career oriented or ambitious'. I think to each their own. There is no right or wrong. I remember during fertility treatment; there was often unsolicited advice that I should quit my job and focus on family planning.
This instilled negative thoughts in me and I thought that perhaps it was the stress from work that resulted in my poor egg quality. I don’t have the answer till today but I do still think about the possibilities and all the ‘what if’s.
To get away from all the negativity, I even took a short sabbatical but I became even more stressed. It was then that I realised, my life shouldn’t be on hold just because I’m not a mum. From then on, I continued travelling and working to ensure I don’t lose my core identity.
During my fertility journey, my only source of comfort was actually work as it gave me the space to be myself and not just another IVF patient. Work gave me a sense of achievement in my life during a slump and it was also a good distraction. So I guess everything has its own timing, whether you quit or don’t quit, you will get pregnant.
My role model is my mum who single handedly brought me up since I was 5. What struck me most about our story was that she never griped or grumbled -- at least not to me. What did she do? She took the bull by the horns, got to work and made things happen for her family. ‘Complain less and do more’ is the best motto in life.
I don’t think I’m good at balancing my career and personal life even now as a full time working mum. I’m constantly feeling the guilt as a mum when I’m at work, and guilt as an employee when I’m at home early to play with her. I try my best to just live day by day and embrace the present.
I want to tell women, ‘You are not behind in life, your journey is just different’. We are all on different paths, just as we all have inherited different genes, luck, hookups, handouts, strengths, weaknesses, and so on.
We do have a certain amount of control over our lives, but no one can control everything. We all have our hurdles and no one knows anyone else’s full story.
I always go for black or white or beige. Also because of my profession. I tend to go for more of a corporate look most of the time. If I were to choose between comfort or style, I’d definitely choose comfort.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photos c/o Augustine Yuen
This series is part of our International Women’s Month where we talk to astonishing women who tackle professional and personal life fearlessly while living, as intended. Aligning with this year's theme #embraceequity, we are thrilled to share the stories of women who have risen up against the odds in the different aspects of their life.
This year, As Intended is supporting Daughters Of Tomorrow (DOT) to raise donations to enhance their impact towards social mobility for families of women in the DOT community.
Daughters of Tomorrow is a registered charity organization with IPC status in Singapore whose mission is to facilitate livelihood opportunities for underprivileged women, and support them in achieving financial independence and social mobility for their families.
The lack of childminding support can be one of the biggest factors preventing a woman from being gainfully employed. Singapore Tote Board will match dollar for dollar for donations made and Tax Deduction Receipts (TDR) will also be issued for donations above $10. You may like to learn more, and choose to donate directly to: https://www.giving.sg/campaigns/asintended