By Sola Ogudipe
My name is Sarah. I’m going to tell you a story of my life as an infertility patient. My story will be of interest to you whether or not you are an infertility patient. It is a story of the pros and cons of life, and the fact that as brilliant as nature is, it isn’t perfect.
I wasn’t brought up as a spoiled child, but I have had a great life, and that is not an exaggeration. I’m not ashamed to say it; I had the best upbringing any child could desire in a family that was better than most.
My parents didn’t have deep pockets, but could afford to buy me almost everything and anything I desired. They were able to send me to some of the best schools and I was privileged to live in exclusive neighbourhoods among a host of other choice options.
By the time I was 19; I had lived the near-perfect life of the average teenager and was set to begin a life of my own.
My life had moved along as planned. I studied hard, got perfect grades at school, passed out in flying colours and secured a mouth-watering first job.
As if that was not enough, I met and married the most wonderful man in the world who made me so happy than I imagined I could ever be. He was a medical student when we met and our whirlwind romance led to the altar.
So we got married and expected to start a family as soon as we were more matured, better educated and financially stable.
After a while, I went back to school and obtained a Master’s degree. Not surprisingly, I got another fantastic job with an even bigger pay packet. My husband finished medical school and was in his second year of residency.
Now we were finally ready to start a family. I loved babies and wanted to have many as soon as possible. But things didn’t turn out that way. Little did we know that having a baby was not something we would be able to plan.
A year passed I didn’t get pregnant. What could be wrong? Keep trying, everyone advised. It’s the anxiety, or the stress, or the weather. I heard all sorts of theories that did little or nothing to help.
Another year passed: same story. We consulted one specialist after another. I’ll never forget the day that we met with a fertility specialist who invited us for a chat. That was how we got to know about Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos after visiting several other places and engaging in series of invasive and particularly painful diagnostic tests.
It was at Nordica that we learned we might probably never be able to have a baby on our own. The specialist said it would be in our interest to try some less invasive treatments first but that at the end of the day, if we were to ever get pregnant, it would probably be through In-vitro Fertilization (IVF).
The news of the diagnosis and its repercussions hit me hard. I wasn’t prepared for this kind of news, not at all.
Although the air-conditioner was on in the room, but I was immediately drenched in my own sweat and could feel my dress sticking to my body.
I looked deeply into the doctor’s eyes, in the hope of finding an answer or at least an explanation for the damning diagnosis, but they only reflected my own dark fears and desperation.
I felt my husband’s hand gripping mine firmly and his touch brought me back to reality. My mind became active. I began to think again.
Why IVF? Isn’t that the method for older people that can’t have children? Is IVF not for women who wait too long while they’re busy pursuing their careers and then change their minds and realize they want to have children after all? I’m 25 for goodness sake! My husband is 27. Our life is just beginning. We are young. We have done everything right. This wasn’t supposed to be our fate.
So many questions ran through my mind. What if IVF failed? There were certainly no guarantees. Were we prepared to adopt? Could we live child-free? More questions than answers.
I returned to work after the appointment and somehow made it through the day. I was still in shock. I went home at the end of the day, locked myself in the room and cried harder than I can remember ever crying. I wept in the realization that I may never have a baby. I may never have someone to call me “mummy.” I may never see my husband as a “daddy.” I was mourning for the life I was terrified I would never have.
The year that followed was a blur of doctor’s appointments, diagnostic tests, pills, blood tests, needles, injections, hormones, suppositories, speculums, vaginal ultrasounds, sperm tests, painful procedures, operations, bloating, flu-like symptoms, headaches, weight gain and exhaustion.
Month after month, I went through the same vicious cycle; the same physical and emotional roller coaster. I would go through another painful round of procedures and tests, endure all of the side effects that go along with the hormones I was injecting, and get my hopes up until I received the call from the nurses at the clinic with my pregnancy test results. No, I was not pregnant. The treatment failed yet again. Would I like to try again next month? Yes, I guess I would. Hope is a powerful drug.
And so we continued to try. The longer it went on, the more hopeless I became. The more depressed I became and the more I retreated into my own cocoon. I distanced myself from most of my friends because most of them either had babies or were pregnant. It was hard not to feel jealous. I stopped going to baby celebrations. I stopped going to church where there were babies and pregnant women everywhere.
Seeing babies was a painful reminder of the life I thought I may never have. I started making up excuses as to why I couldn’t attend this event or that event—even places where I thought I might encounter the talk of babies or pregnancy were off limits. The mere mention of babies felt like a physical blow to the abdomen.
All the more so, hearing young mothers complain about their children’s behaviour, their lack of sleep, their inability to go out at night anymore, and so on, and so forth—was enough to make me want to scream.
I couldn’t stand hearing comments like: “You’re so lucky you don’t have kids, you still have your freedom.” To me, these seemingly innocuous comments felt like the most cruel words anyone could ever utter and it took all my self-control not to burst into tears when I heard them. So I avoided them altogether.
While I used to live for the weekends, I now couldn’t wait to get to the office on Monday morning. Work was my escape from all things baby—a place where I could leave the world of infertility behind; where I was judged by my performance and not by my inability to procreate.
The day I finally found out I was pregnant—one year and eight months, two fertility clinics, five intrauterine insemination procedures, two IVF operations and at a huge expense later—I was in absolute shock.
Even though fertility clinics advise against it, I took an at-home pregnancy test. The moment I saw that second pink line, I rushed to call my husband and as soon as he picked up I burst into tears and while forcing out the words: “There are two lines! There are two lines! I think I might be pregnant.” That moment of pure joy will be forever etched in my memory —second only to the actual birth of my daughter.
And now, one year later, as I look down at my beautiful baby girl and watch her smile up at me and laugh her adorable little laugh, I know that I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.