Mrs Fabiku Adeola, who welcomed a baby girl after 12 years of being childless, recounts the traumatic experience in this interview with EMMANUEL OJO
Briefly tell us about yourself.
My name is Fabiku Adeola. I have some businesses I run. I have a restaurant, a boutique and a supermarket.
You recently welcomed a baby girl after 12 years of being childless, during which you made five attempts at In Vitro Fertilisation and had a number of miscarriages. How do you feel finally becoming a mother?
Hmmmnn…. Well, I met my husband in 2009 and he already had a child from a previous relationship, so, coming into the marriage, we all felt that all was going to be well and there wouldn’t be any cause for running helter-skelter. After the first year, we didn’t think much about it. We just thought that such things happen, hoping that by the following year, everything would be fine. And then the fifth year, sixth year, seventh year and nothing was coming forth, then pressure set in.
We started with private hospitals. They started off with giving us different diagnoses. One said I was not ovulating; another said it’s PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome); some even assured us that we would be fine and so on, before we heard about IVF.
IVF was new in Nigeria then and a lot of people were skeptical about it. Some people felt that it was a taboo because it doesn’t follow the conventional method of fertilisation. I spoke to my husband about it and we started. Our first attempt was in a hospital on Dolphin Estate. I had this condition which might have been as a result of my age, because I started early. I was in my 20s when I did the first IVF. I had this condition called OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome) where one has so many eggs and after the retrieval, one starts retaining fluids and all that. My tummy was bloated. I was on bed rest and fluids were drained from my abdomen. The fluid kept coming back. At a point, it was a matter of life and death but I thank God, we left the hospital and went to another in Ikoyi. You can imagine the millions of naira that was spent.
I had the first and second IVFs in the first hospital we went to. We went to another hospital where we had the third and the fourth. After that, some of my family members suggested that I should try surrogacy and all that. We gave surrogacy a shot too but it also failed. It failed totally; there was no pregnancy at all.
I took several concoctions. Now, I’m happy that I can just look back and smile at the whole thing because at a point, it became a life-threatening issue. I began to wonder if God really exists. I even contemplated suicide to end everything but God really stood by me.
Each time I went for a scan and I was told that the baby was no longer growing, I might have to undergo an abortion or that a miscarriage was imminent, I would just break down. My husband was my father, friend and all through this journey, unlike how our African men can be, he was just my best support system.
Do you mean you had repeated miscarriages?
Yes. IVF itself is tiring. I can sit back now and treat someone who has infertility problem. That’s how good I am now, the process of stimulation and picking the eggs and all. I took hormone stimulation and fertility injections almost on a daily basis and what some of these injections do is that they make you add weight. There was a scenario I won’t forget in a hurry. I came out of our house that very day and a tenant of ours saw me and said, “Madam, you are getting too big o, you really need to watch it.” I went in and shed hot tears because she didn’t know what I was going through; she didn’t know the kind of injections I had to take on a daily basis.
How did you manage the pressure from society?
It was just God. People were telling my husband many things. Some were feeding me with so many things too. It’s funny. You know how people can be. Some would go behind me to tell my husband all sorts and some would come to me too in his absence to tell me all sorts. We are best friends, so, we told each other everything. That’s why I can never overemphasise the fact that people should marry their best friends. It got to an extent that people knew we (my husband and I) don’t keep anything from each other; so, they were cautioned. We never kept secrets. It was just God that held us together.
Did waiting for so long before having your first child bring about any strain in your marriage?
Well, yes actually. There’s actually a limit to what I can say. At a point, one would flare up. I was actually the one who wanted to leave the marriage but he kept holding me back, cautioning me and reminding me that that could be the devil’s strategy to end our marriage.
He has actually been everything. When you talk about a man that will stand as a father, my husband has been one. It’s normal for couples to fight but there was never a time he told me to leave his house or anything of such. He kept fighting third parties to steer clear. He told everyone, even family members, that we would be fine. God has been faithful. God is the foundation of our marriage and he has held us together.
It was in the sixth attempt that I was able to carry (a pregnancy) through to delivery. And it was actually my first attempt in that hospital that I tried.
Can you give an estimate of the amount of money you spent on the IVFs?
The first one was N4.5m, the second was about N4m because we got a discount. The third one was about N6m; the fourth was N5m. For the fifth, we had deposited about N5m because we estimated about N15m for surrogacy. That’s about N24m I have estimated so far. Aside these, we still had to get drugs, pay for medical assessment even before the IVF and many more. We spent over N30m apart from other hospitals we visited.
What impact did it have on the family finances?
(Laughs) At a point it wasn’t a matter of ‘we need to eat’ again. We were looking for money to buy drugs. We had got to the point that we couldn’t stop anymore. IVF is actually the height of infertility treatment. It got to a point that each time we went for infertility treatment, once we mentioned that we had previously had IVF, they didn’t bother attending to us anymore, they just referred us back to IVF.
We had to just keep going. It wasn’t a matter of when at that point in time, it was a matter of how much was in our purse. We were constantly making contribution towards that project. There was even a time we did piggy banking in the house with the intention that at the end of the year, the money would be sufficient to aid the IVF we were to do. We bought a piggy bank and we saved from January to December. When we broke the piggy bank in December, we realised N4m, which we intended to use for surrogacy. We added N1m to make the initial deposit but the surrogacy failed. You can imagine what that can do to a couple. Money that we would have ordinarily used to acquire some landed property or even buy a car, we took it for surrogacy and it was a failure. Imagine how much a piece of land sold for in 2011 and having to put N5m into IVF!
Did you consider adopting a child?
We did actually. At a point, a nurse that used to visit us spoke to me about it. I was open to it actually but there’s this thing as Africans. I thought of it that ‘can the child really be like my own biological child?’ I couldn’t suggest it to my husband at all. He is a typical Ondo man. I could not raise it with him. I just kept nursing the thought.
Were you pressured at any point to seek solutions outside your belief?
Of course. We are Nigerians, we are Africans. People in our neighbourhood suggested all sorts. That’s why I mentioned herbs. During the medical treatment too, some brought herbs to me. Imagine trying to combine drugs and herbs! That was the situation. It was horrible. After taking those herbs sometimes, I would have diarhoea and vomit. Ha! Infertility is something that I don’t wish even my enemy. Infertility is draining!
Before I got married, my parents were attending MFM (Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries) and my husband is a Redeemer. You can imagine two people of such faith together. People recommended all sorts of agbo (herbal concoctions); some even suggested some rituals with goats, chicken and the like.
The most devastating scenario for me was to see some mentally-challenged people on the road having babies effortlessly. A family member even advised my husband to seek help with other women.
There’s a Yoruba proverb that says, “Children attract children to the world.” At a point, I opened my doors to scores of children. That’s where my nickname “mama” came from. I was usually the first person to visit women who just put to bed with my bowl of pepper soup with the hope that maybe God would answer me too. There were some children I welcomed into my home that I didn’t really know where they came from. I did things I would not do ordinarily. At that point I needed help and I needed God to intervene fast.
What impact did the long wait have on your faith?
I won’t lie to you, at some point, I stopped going to church. I considered that if there’s God, why would I have to go through all that? Why should I wake up early and go to church? I’m a worker in church and my husband is too. I had no motivation to go to church anymore. I couldn’t pray. I just pleaded for God’s mercy and compassion.
What was the weirdest advice you got?
It was the call for adoption. For my husband I think the weirdest advice was to try another woman. I married quite early and I didn’t expect to go through what I went through.
How was the feeling like during the last pregnancy that went through to delivery?
I was indoors all through. I couldn’t shout. It still feels like a dream up till now. I just all of a sudden became so cautious. Everyone was a suspect. Even sometimes you suspect that your mom is a witch. That was how traumatic the experience was. I was in bed all through the period. I went from my bed to the hospital and back to my bed.
I’ve been having successful confirmation of pregnancy at each IVF procedure but there were miscarriages along the way. Each one done on me was confirmed positive except the one of surrogacy.
At what point during the pregnancy did you usually have the miscarriage aside that of the second trimester?
After the sixth week. There was even a time I conceived naturally and I didn’t know. I lost that baby too.
The memories of the miscarriages in the second trimester are the most traumatic. The pregnancy had proceeded to about 24 weeks where I had already started feeling the movement of the baby. I had started buying my baby items in bits at that point. I sat down one Sunday evening and I started feeling funny all of a sudden. I went to the hospital and on getting there, I started contracting heavily. I felt maybe after a little bed rest, I would be fine. By midnight, a terrible labour pain started. I felt that even if it was to go that way, for a tiny baby at 24 weeks, it shouldn’t be that much. I lost a lot of blood. At a point, they were mopping blood under my bed. By morning people started coming. According to my mom, I was just staring at her; I could neither do anything nor say anything. It was a stillbirth.
Eventually when the baby came out, they ran around for the placenta to be cut off but I was too weak to even do anything. What was even mind-blowing about the whole thing was that after the whole delivery process, I was discharged to go home and as soon as I got home and rested, the next morning I got up to start a new process all over again.
At 24 weeks, there was nothing they could do. I was told that the child could have been resuscitated if we were in a developed world but this is Nigeria. It was at that point that my husband and I considered travelling abroad.
How did you feel when the baby finally arrived?
You know how it feels when they say that you are expecting a precious baby. I did everything possible to keep the pregnancy. I kept all the instructions and avoided making mistakes. I just prayed that God should just give me that one. I was very watchful and cautious. At the 24th week, we were scared because of the trauma of our past experiences. Every week for us during the pregnancy became like a milestone. The end of each week in our house was a thanksgiving service because we were a week closer to having a baby. At the 28th week, when we started buying baby items, we bought with faith. Scan told us we were expecting a baby girl and the usual thing is that people usually go shopping happily but we were shopping with fear in our hearts.
What’s your advice to couples experiencing a delay?
Truly we are Africans but go out, seek medical attention, seek medical help, know the roots and your medical history. My husband did not say that he already had a child, there was nothing wrong with him, he came all out because you never can tell. He gave all the support and we had good communication. Couples should communicate effectively. Some people have some fertility issues that medical science can take care of but because they have not explored it, they haven’t got the required result.
Also, in all things, put God first. IVF should be embraced and not seen as abnormal because it doesn’t follow the conventional way of childbirth. It’s a medical breakthrough and God gave the knowledge for it. Science is science, God is God. Merge everything together and keep trying and one day God will show up.