We, Henro and Chrisanne, met each other in beautiful Cape Town, South Africa in May 2014 where we both worked and lived at the time. Just after three, short months we realised we had a unique connection and our relationship had a clear purpose, so in November 2014 we officially started dating. After dating for eleven months, Henro received a phone call out of the blue which led to a relocation to Dubai for work in November 2015. We continued dating in a long-distance relationship for six months, which tested us in numerous ways, and after which, we decided to elope in Citrusdal, South Africa in June 2016. This was a mutually beneficial decision as it made it possible for Chrisanne to live with Henro in Dubai from July 2016. However, this move was not well received by the family members since we did not include them in our decision.
Consumed by the Dubai lifestyle and chasing the next good brunch or weekend away, we always felt a void inside which we potentially assumed a baby could fill. At this point in our lives, we both knew that we wanted children and we actively tried to fall pregnant. While at the same time, we longed for a relationship with God, however we always found reasons not to make it happen. This continued for a couple of years until Chrisanne landed a job in Oman in November 2018. This meant that she would work in Oman during the week so we could only spend time with each other over the weekends. The remote working and distanced relationship caused anxiety and pressure on both of us to the point where Henro began to suffer from increased high blood pressure and life-threatening panic attacks. The attacks would happen sporadically and usually unpredictable and the doctors had no medical or psychological explanation. One day, Henro was rushed from his office to the ER due to a potential heart attack, only aged thirty-two. Fortunately, this was not a heart attack, but a serious panic attack yet it was the trigger event that set everything into motion.
One night, in a frantic state of desperation after waking up in a sweat from a dream, Henro decided to reach out to City Lights via email where he joined the service on October 11, 2019. This service allowed Henro to re-commit his life to God. After this service, and by the grace of God, Henro did not experience any further panic attacks, and his blood pressure had also reduced. This was the start of Henro and Chrisanne’s journey with joining the church and signing to a community group.
The IVF Journey
We had tried to fall pregnant since the beginning of 2018. We attempted all the tricks in the books, but nothing seemed to work. Under closer investigation, we found out that Chrisanne had PCOS and Endometriosis. These conditions independently cause difficulty in some women to fall pregnant, so the combination of the two will significantly reduce your chances of falling pregnant naturally.
In June 2019, we attended a consultation at a fertility clinic in Dubai. After a few months of prescribed medicine, dietary changes, and cutting out alcohol, we began the process of Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) on November6, 2019. Thisdelivered a negative pregnancy result on December 2, 2019. After receiving the bad news and still heartbroken, we went to City Lights church on December 6, 2019 where Starla delivered a powerful sermon directed at pregnancy and fertility while sharing her own testimony. This message was received as if it was specifically prepared for us.
Still desperately eager to fall pregnant, we consulted and agreed with our fertility specialist that a small surgery to remove the “toxic” Endometriosis could create a biologically stable environment theoretically enhancing our chances of falling pregnant naturally. Excited, with the glimpse of hope, we proceeded with Laparoscopy on January 8, 2020 to surgically remove the Endometriosis. The surgery was a success according to the Gynaecologist; however,this surgery only provided a six-month period in which we could fall pregnant naturally before the Endometriosis would return and potentially create the “toxic” environment again. Not wasting any time, we took additional supplements while taking further health related measures so we could increase the odds of falling pregnant. At this stage, various independent Gynaecologists, Urologists, and the Fertility Specialist all came to the same opinion and conclusion; “that there is no biological reason why we should not fall pregnant.”
Month after month, the disappointment and anticipation grew while we were surrounded by numerous friends falling pregnant, our six-month “golden period” had finally run out. At this stage, we had our entire community group, family, and friends all standing behind us in prayer searching for answers. Reflecting on God’s promise, (Deuteronomy 7:13), we knew that God wanted to bless us with a baby, and the baby would come from Chrisanne’ s womb. Constantly praying, Chrisanne felt that IVF may be our only way; however, this would not only be strenuous on our relationship, but it would also be a financial burden considering that we were in the middle of the global pandemic living on reduced salaries. Unsure of which direction to follow, we waited for confirmation or a clear answer from God. By the grace of God, we had only waited for about one month when Henro’s sister-in-law randomly sent a voice note from the middle of the Transkei, South Africa on August 10, 2020 to Chrisanne. At the time, she and Chrisanne predominantly only made contact on special occasions.However, this voice note was extremely specific where she reminded us that God created medicine and using medicine in a response to His promise while taking the journey with Him is okay, and therefore IVF is from God and He would support us if we chose to take this journey with Him. This was the confirmation we were waiting and praying for which made our decision simple, so we proceeded with IVF.
Taking the step in faith, we envisioned an indicative date to start the fertility procedure and enquired about the total cost. This was a nerve-wracking, faith-testing step since our cash flow did not look good due to reduced salaries and we did not want to reduce our savings or take out an additional loan. Shopping around between fertility clinics, we found a few cheaper options which could soften the blow; however, our preferred clinic, which we felt a personal and special connection with were unfortunately the most expensive, (quite frankly because they are brilliant). Again, by God’s grace, our preferred clinic agreed to lower their “all inclusive” price to suite our budget, (it was still quite a large sum of money which we did not have in our bank accounts), but we agreed to proceed. Concerned about the additional funds required over and above the payments already made for IUI and the associated supplements, we still questioned whether this was our own desire or if it was God’s plan for us. In hindsight, we definitely did not have the cash at hand; however, God provided in means that we could not have predicted.
Returning to the fertility clinic during the second week of October 2020, the preparation for our IVF journey has begun, which involved taking further pills and multiple daily injections. At this point, we still did not have the full amount, but Chrisanne’s boss had miraculously agreed to pay out a bonus, (after neglecting this conversation for months), for the increased workload Chrisanne had to endure during the pandemic. This amount was sufficient to cover the first of two payments required, and the second payment fell into place in a similar manner. After a couple of weeks of daily hormonal check-ups and adjustments, the egg retrieval happened on November 7, 2020. They extracted 16 eggs, which were then fertilised and monitored for 5 days resulting in 4 healthy embryos. Due to the large number of eggs retrieved and unstable hormone levels, we were unable to proceed with a fresh embryo transfer as this would have resulted in Chrisanne’s body going into shock (hyper-stimulation syndrome). This was disappointing as we were emotionally ready to proceed with IVF.
Without realising it, God knew better. Skipping the fresh transfer on November 12, 2020 allowed us to visit South Africa for the December Holidays, something which would not have been possible if we were in the first trimester of pregnancy. This holiday was extremely important to Henro since his grandfather, with whom he was very close, was at the stage in his life where his days were numbered, and hospital visits were more serious and frequent. By the grace of God, we arrived in Cape Town on December 18, 2020(in the middle of the pandemic where international travel-bans change daily) and had an amazing holiday with the family and Henro’s grandfather. On the way back to the airport on January 5, 2021, we received the news that Henro’s granddad had passed away peacefully in his sleep, a few hours before our flight departed. Without knowing it at the time, this gave Henro the closure he needed, while allowing the end of one era to make space for the beginning of a new one.
Back at work, barely recovered from the emotional pains of Henro’s grandfather’s passing, Chrisanne began to feel the pressure of IVF building inside of her with every passing hour. She felt that the “ball was now in her court.” Sherealised how much money had already been spent, she became anxious for the physical abuse her body would have to endure with all the injections and the risk of not falling pregnant again. This was a spiritual attack that she had never experienced before, and one which most woman fortunately do not need to experience when trying to fall pregnant naturally. Receiving as much support as one could expect from friends, family, and community, no one could fill the “emotional void” which Chrisanne experienced. Again, God knew Chrisanne’s heart. The same day she started her cycle,she received a phone number of another lady in our church who went through IVF numerous times and held the ammunition Chrisanne so desperately needed.
Excited about the prospect of becoming parents, we realised that God had supplied our every need, (and even the needs we did not understand at the time), over the past fifteen months. Some would call many of the events which we hadexperienced as a "coincidence," but we knew that each one was specifically prayed for and answered, therefore a higher power was undeniably at play. We felt the Holy Spirit guiding us to take our faith to the next step. As a commitment to God,and a declaration of our promise to raise our soon-to-be baby as God’s child, we arranged with our community group leaders to be baptised on January 22, 2021. We felt that if we did not step out into faith, that this IVF cycle would not be a success.
Ready to continue to the next step of IVF with God on our side, we completed the Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) on January 25, 2021. Based on the “pregnancy due-datecalculator,” the estimated date of the birth would be October 13, 2021, which was also the birth date of Henro’s brother’s biological daughter three years earlier, (she was also a true blessing as they had already adopted six children and did not plan for her arrival).
Patiently waiting in faith, we received a positive pregnancy test result on February 1, 2021. This result had set into motion the following 12 weeks of injections and daily/weekly check-ups with the fertility specialist until we were given the "green light" to proceed to the hospital’s Obstetrics department for conventional pregnancy care for the remainder of the pregnancy.
Headstrong and motivated, we planned to have a natural birth by any means possible. Setting out the birth plan and having multiple consultations with our Obstetrician and Midwife, we were prepared and ready for a "smooth ride" throughout the delivery.
During our routine visit in week thirty-eight, we received the exciting news that Chrisanne was dilating, which means we had started the early stages of labour. Understanding the stages of labour, we went home anxiously waiting for the intensity and duration of the contractions to increase…ready at the drop of a hat to rush to the hospital to deliver our precious Mila. Nearly two weeks later, two membrane sweeps, two stretches done, multiple kilometres walked to allow our baby to "drop" into position, hours of bouncing on the birth ball, and all other tricks in the books attempted, we still had not progressed. Concerned and eager, we consulted Henro’s brother, (who is also a doctor), and his wife and received the confirmation that we needed to move forward with the various stages of medical induction.
Two days after being admitted to the labour ward, two pessaries provided, some more sweeps and stretches, more walking, and numerous hormones injected, we agreed to move forward with the artificial membrane rupture and oxytocin hormonal drip to start the active labour. As brave as always, Chrisanne agreed to push the hormonal contraction stimulation to the maximum recommended level, andcontinued for a total of six hours until the pain became unbearable, (unfortunately the epidural did not take effect), sowe proceeded to the surgery ward for a C-section. This result did not come as planned; however, we both experienced peace with the decision and during the surgery. The surgery was a success, and our Mila was born at 15h28 weighing a healthy 3.24kgs. It became evident that during the surgery, a natural birth would have been improbable due to the size of Mila’s head and the density of Chrisanne’s tissue. Thankful, relieved, and emotional, we left the theatre with our own little M&M. And can you believe it… as we left the theatre, the power tripped in the hospital.This was the first time since opening the hospital, (three years prior), that the power has gone out in the hospital, (and also the first time for us to experience this in Dubai in six years). Henro’s brother is of the opinion that the power tripping may have a spiritual significance over Mila… We will surely pray over this, and we are excited to see what God has planned for her.
God has taught us valuable lessons throughout our journey:
(1) Our timing is not God’s timing (Psalm 31:15), (2) that all good things come to those who wait patiently (James 5:7-11 and Romans 8: 22-25), and (3) God will not put us through anything which is beyond our ability (1 Corinthians 10:13).
We are thankful for the character in which God has developed in us, (Romans 5: 3-5), and are excited to support our community, family, and friends with any of their struggles in the future.