PORTRAITS OF STRENGTH : Finding Strength on a Bumpy Road (Jessie Chai)

Jessie Chai’s Pregnancy Story: Finding Strength on a Bumpy Road

I am a woman with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), one of the most common hormone disorders in women. For years, I knew that I was different. My periods were different compared to the other girls. I only got mine every couple of months. One day, I decided to take a trip to the doctor’s office. They ran some tests, took my history and then diagnosed me with PCOS. I was 17 then. I was told that having a baby in the future could be a challenge. If only I had known how big of a challenge it would be.

Fast forward years later, with marriage and wanting to start a family of my own,  I got pregnant for the first time at 30 years old after trying to conceive for a year. Nothing can beat the pure joy and indescribable feeling that I felt! But the happiness didn’t last long as I had a miscarriage in just the second month of my pregnancy, without any sort of reasons. Even though pregnancy was short-lived, I can still remember my heartache and grief from the loss.

Then came my second pregnancy 2 years later. Even though I was able to carry my baby for longer this time, I lost her after a premature delivery at 22 weeks. That was the darkest time of my life. I had to go through my confinement month without a baby to nurse. I was devastated and no matter what I was doing, the tears just wouldn’t stop coming. There was this huge hole inside of me, a feeling of emptiness. Reality struck hard when I had my first ultrasound check in the hospital after the premature delivery. Looking at the empty womb displayed on the screen, my tears fell uncontrollably. I finally realized why I felt so empty inside. It’s because I couldn’t feel my baby anymore. She’s gone forever.

The doctor diagnosed me with an incompetent cervix, i.e. my cervix is ‘weak’ and not able to retain a fetus until it’s matured enough to be born. She advised that if I ever got pregnant again, I should have a cervical cerclage procedure done (to stitch up my cervix) in the 12-15th weeks of pregnancy. I blamed myself because all this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had a weak cervix. This cycle of self-blame and sadness lasted for more than a year. I couldn’t even close my eyes nor fall asleep without holding my husband’s hands ever since the incident happened.

One fateful night, I woke up in the middle of the night and looked at my husband with his arms still holding me in his sleep, as if telling me that he’ll always be there for me. I knew he was grieving and hurting from the loss of our baby too, but at the same time, he was worried about me. At that very moment, I realized I must let go of my sorrow and be strong for both of us. Since then, I tried avoiding all potential triggers that might remind me of our loss, especially drama shows with babies and news of baby abandonment. Slowly I got better and found strength – to try to get pregnant once again.


“Strength is the ability to overcome pain and to not fear facing it again in life.”


I wasn’t getting any younger and I thought I owe it to my husband and most importantly, myself to try at least once more. I started taking traditional medicine for a year to strengthen my body, and in November 2019 I went for fertility treatment. I got pregnant again in January 2020 at the age of 35. It was really great news for me. I did my antenatal checkups as scheduled and was planning to have the crucial cervical cerclage procedure in my 12th week. But out of everything I could have prepared for, a global pandemic was certainly not on the list.

When I was 12 weeks pregnant, Malaysia was under Movement Control Order 1.0 due to COVID-19. During MCO, no elective surgery can be conducted in the general hospital. Meanwhile, the private hospitals required COVID screening before admitting any patient as part of their SOP. However at that time, COVID tests were unavailable at any private medical facilities. Thus, no private hospital could perform the procedure for me. I felt helpless and feared the worst – that I would not be able to protect my baby from premature delivery again.

Thankfully, I had my supportive husband, family, friends and colleagues who gave me lots of mental support throughout my 3rd pregnancy. I prayed for God’s help. A few weeks later, in my 16th week, I was able to get my cervix stitched up in the hospital. My bed rest journey started right after the procedure. I tried my best to do most of my daily activities in bed to reduce the pressure on the cervix as my baby grew. I had countless e-meetings with my colleagues, video calls with my family and assignments completed, all on my bed! My only wish was that all of my efforts could help my baby stay longer in the womb and be born at full-term.

And, it happened! I gave birth to my precious baby girl at 38 weeks of pregnancy. She is healthy and perfect. Now we are proud parents of our 4-month-old bundle of joy.


-Jessie Chai-

Leave a Reply