The Singhs Welcome Parenthood After Long Struggle
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Two years into matrimony, Stephanie Singh and her husband Prince began to get serious about trying to start a family. Unfortunately, as is often the case but rarely addressed openly, the couple struggled to conceive.
“Nothing was happening and my intuition was telling me something wasn’t right,” Singh says. In the summer of 2018 the pair saw a fertility doctor and underwent testing, which revealed that Prince had low sperm counts. Couple that with her irregular cycles, and Singh felt it was a double whammy of bad luck. In the spring of 2019 she was prescribed medication and began going to a reproductive acupuncture specialist, but still was never greeted with a double line on a pregnancy test.
“I thought, ‘Maybe this is God’s way of saying it wasn’t my time,’” Singh says. Life got even more difficult in the months to follow. In April of 2020 Singh’s father-in-law contracted COVID-19 and was on a ventilator for five months. The following month, they tried one round of intrauterine insemination (IUI), which involves placing sperm directly into the uterus. This is different than in vitro fertilization (IVF), during which the sperm and egg are put together outside of the uterus and implanted. Singh wasn’t able to complete IUI treatment because her follicles didn’t mature. It served as an additional heartbreak in this already difficult process.
“It was another reminder that this was not our time,” Singh says. “I’d sit on the couch and cry and cry. I tried not to think about the fact that I wasn’t pregnant, but that’s hard to do when I was getting a monthly reminder of not being a mom.”
With so much stress in their lives, the couple decided to suspend treatments and put their baby plans on the back-burner.
In December of 2020, once her father-in-law was on the mend, they saw Dr. Meredith Provost with the Indiana Fertility Institute for a second opinion. She suggested they do genetic testing prior to IVF. In January of 2021 the couple was shocked to learn that Singh was a carrier for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a severe type of muscular dystrophy where muscles weaken beginning around age 4 and quickly worsen. It primarily affects boys, meaning that if Singh were to have a son, he would have a 50% chance of inheriting the DMD gene. If she had a daughter, she would be a carrier like Singh.
After doing some research, Singh learned that most children with the DMD gene are wheelchair bound by age 5 to 8. Worse yet, the life expectancy for these individuals is mid-20s. Singh was also diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which explained her irregular periods. The Singhs decided IVF would be their best bet, so that they could test their embryos for DMD before implementation. The plan was to do so in May of 2021.
In March of 2021 Singh attended a co-worker’s baby shower, which was emotionally difficult considering all she was going through.
“When I saw other pregnant women, all I could think was, ‘Why can’t it be me?’” she says. “I felt so guilty feeling that way. I was like, ‘God’s not going to give me something if I’m envious of someone else.’ I was in a toxic, negative space.”
When she returned home from the shower, she cried and cried. She was despondent, but she couldn’t help noticing something else – her breasts were tender. Could it be that after all the years of trials, tests and tears, she got pregnant naturally?
This time, when she took the test, the double line appeared and happy tears sprang to her eyes. After sharing the joyful news with her husband, however, reality set in. What if she had a boy? There would be a 50-50 chance that he’d inherit the DMD gene.
“It haunted me, but we couldn’t help but think that after all we’d been through, this was God’s gift to us,” Singh says. “DMD or not, this was meant to be our baby.”
Throughout the pregnancy, there were times when worry would grab hold of Singh and practically paralyze her.
“Some days, thinking about the probability of passing DMD to my child crippled me,” she says. She did her best not to freak out, but it wasn’t easy. Thankfully, she had a fairly uneventful pregnancy, though she did learn in October of 2021 that due to having a narrow pelvic bone, she’d need to have a C-section. The upside? Six minutes after being on the operating table, their baby Leo was born.
Prince announced, “It’s a boy!”
Singh breathlessly asked, “OMG, is he okay?”
Though their infant son appeared fine, they wouldn’t know if Leo was a DMD carrier until he was tested.
“Though it was not considered a medical emergency, for me it was an emergency,” Singh says. Over the course of the next several months, Leo held his head up and did tummy time, but Singh kept in mind that DMD is a progressive disease that doesn’t begin until the child starts walking. Therefore, she felt like she was parenting while holding her breath.
She received a genetic testing kit in the mail during Easter weekend, swabbed her son, said a prayer and sent it off. A week later, they got the results. Leo did not inherit the DMD gene. Singh admits that she’ll never stop worrying, but her biggest takeaway from this whole experience has been recognizing just how little we control in life.
“I’m a control freak, but I had to learn to have faith that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to,” Singh says. “Even if it’s not the way I want it to work out, it’s the way God wants.”
Leo, it seems, lacks the worry gene, as he appears to be over-the-moon excited just to be taking in the world around him. According to Singh, he wakes up smiling and has never met a stranger.
“He flirts with the cashiers at Target,” says Singh, who appreciates, perhaps more than the average parent, just how strong Leo’s grip is.
After much anticipation, frustration and hesitation, Stephanie and Prince are living the dream of parenthood.
“I love seeing the world through my son’s eyes,” Singh says. “He points out cars on the road. He loves trees and flowers. Everything is so new to him. We can learn a lot through babies. They remind us that there are so many beautifully simple things in life.”