By Sola Ogundipe

Emeka and Nkechi had dreamt of becoming parents long before they were married. She expected he would be a wonderful father because he was so patient and devoted; and he also was certain she would be a great mother because she was caring and loving.

Soon after they signed on the dotted lines, the couple got down to the business of starting a family. Nkechi was a health buff. She ate well, slept well, exercised well and felt as perfectly healthy as could be possible. She checked her weight carefully to be just at the right weight. She was ready.

The week before their wedding, Nkechi’s elder sister, Chioma, who got married a year earlier, had given birth to an adorable baby girl, and Nkechi prayed she was going to get pregnant as fast as her sister. However, that soon turned out to be an unlikely wish.

Emeka who was equally expectant and excited about the prospects of becoming a father, soon got really anxious when this expectation did not materialize. It never crossed their minds that becoming parents or even becoming pregnant in the first place, would be a problem.

As the months rolled by, she found herself begrudgingly throwing away unsuccessful pregnancy tests.  After each disappointment, her worries slowly grew. Each month offered new hope, but the fear of it ending in disappointment grew stronger.

A year passed and still nothing to show. They consulted doctors who assured that nothing was wrong other than anxiety on their part. The doctors explained that about half of all married couples do not achieve pregnancy in the first year of marriage. Just try to relax, they were advised.

Nkechi was not in a panic, but she was worried. She envied her sister, Chioma, who got pregnant barely a month after marriage. Why hadn’t she got pregnant as fast as her sister? Chioma was four years older, but not as dedicated to her health as her younger sister.

She ate too much, exercised too little, drank alcohol and was overweight. Chioma didn’t have anything close to her sister’s near-perfect, yet she had no problem getting pregnant when she wanted.

All these developments worried Nkechi, but she kept hoping that the delay would soon be over. Time passed quickly and their wedding anniversary arrived. But the occasion held no special meaning, on the contrary, it depressed her.

Chioma threw a big party to mark her daughter’s first birthday. It was like a baby shower and friends and colleague brought their babies and young children. Although Nkechi attended the party, rather than lift her spirits, it further depressed her.

Another year passed as they went from one doctor to another. Each doctor had a different diagnosis—but the bottom line was that something was wrong with either or both of them. More tests, examinations and complicated procedures followed. They were becoming impatient.

They had been married five years when they seriously began the first round of assisted reproductive health treatments. The treatments begin with a simple injection in the arm, but gradually grew to be expensive, emotionally grueling and physically overwhelming. As the days progressed and nothing happened, enthusiasm waned.

Nkechi held in her heart the quiet confidence that she would do anything to have her own child. The months passed and she remained on her normal menstrual cycle, which only served as a reminder of her struggles. Every period that she had was more discouraging than the one before it.

Like so many couples, over the next three years they remained hopeful even if discouraged after each failed test. Desperately wanting to be parents, they tried the next round of fertility treatments but soon gave up because it turned their sex life into planned events and led to one surgery after another. Two years later, still nothing, but they were undaunted in their bid to become parents.

One day, everything changed for Nkechi. She was having her quiet time in church wondering if perhaps God didn’t plan for them to be parents, when her monologue was interrupted by a small child who was pushing on her knee and trying to squeeze in between her legs. Behind was the child’s mother who apologised and explained that the child loved to be chased down the aisle.

Nkechi listened as the woman, who introduced herself as Onyinye, explained that she was about to become a mother again. With a sudden pang of sadness, an unusual feeling she had come to know, she felt happiness for Onyinye, but it was mixed with hopelessness and envy because of how desperately she wanted to become a mother herself.

“How far along are you?” She asked. But Onyinye answered with a laugh that she was not pregnant. “My husband and I weren’t able to have children on our own. We have been working with a surrogate mother who chose us to adopt her baby boy. She is due next month and we just can’t wait for the baby to arrive.”

Nkechi was stunned. Adoption? She had never thought about adoption! Over the next hour, she had an inspiring conversation with the other woman about adoption, who shared how she and her husband adopted the first child and had planned to adopt another.  She explained how she wished they had learned about adoption far sooner than they did.

Nkechi couldn’t wait to get home and share the wonderful news with her husband. On that day and at that moment, her heart raced with optimism—a feeling she had lost long ago. As she got home, she rushed through the front door and embraced Emeka with the biggest bear hug she could muster.

Emeka was surprised; bear hugs after church were not the normal way his wife greeted him. He could feel her heavy breathing, and when he turned around and looked into her eyes, noticed something was entirely different about her.

He noticed she had the same look in her eyes, the same hope he saw years ago, when he proposed marriage and she accepted. He asked what was going on, and Nkechi’s hopeful words filled the room.

Emeka’s excitement instantaneously equaled hers, and the couple immediately began calling as many adoption agencies that they could find. But they had to wait a while before really beginning their journey to becoming parents.

Today, Emeka and Nkechi are proud parents of an adopted child. The happy couple openly shares the adoption story and it’s clear to everyone that the child is the centrepiece of their lives. Knowing how much it took for them to become parents and their difficult journey makes being parents all the more appreciated.

They have accepted that their problems with infertility were a blessing in disguise and that perhaps without those struggles, they probably wouldn’t have the child that they have grown to love more than they could ever imagine.

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