42 year old seasoned actress, Gabrielle Union, was interviewed by Redbook Magazine, and one of the questions thrown at her, was about making babies with her husband Dwayne. She responded that it hasn’t happened for them yet and then added “There is a certain amount of shame that is placed on women who have perhaps chosen a career over starting a family younger. The penance of being a career woman is barrenness. You feel like you’re wearing a scarlet letter”. In the comment section where I read the story, some people were shaming her for indeed giving so much attention to her career, and I was like “Can’t a woman follow her calling and talent passionately again?” As Gabrielle continued in the interview, she highlighted the fact that Corporate America is not nice to pregnant woman “The reality is that women are discriminated against in the workplace for being mothers. As much as there are strides being made – you get pregnant, your career takes a hit. You can’t have a bad day. Don’t you dare cry at work. Don’t raise your voice”. For a long time, I kept thinking about the statement she made, and people’s reaction in the comment box, and I remembered the story of a lady I know.
Kate graduated from the University at 22, and was lucky to get a good placement in a bank for her NYSC. She applied herself to her job and proved to be an excellent staff, that she was retained upon the completion of her service year. She worked so hard! Everyone at the office praised her doggedness and diligence; from one department to another, she proved her merit, whether it was in Marketing, Service or E-banking. All these she did, while writing the appropriate professional exams. Her mates from school, and colleagues at work, got married every other Saturday, but Kate did not have time to date. Few people knew her story, but those who knew understood why she was so sold on her job. Her job was the means of livelihood for her entire family; it was what put food on their table, paid their rent, brought drugs for her ailing father and paid fees for both of her younger ones. Her parents had borrowed and toiled to put her through school, making sure to drum it into her ears that she was their only hope. She couldn’t disappoint them; memories of her family kept her working long after her colleagues had told one lie and run off home, or logged on to social media to chat with friends and lovers, during work hours.
Her hard work paid off as she got two promotions in five years, and got transferred to a branch that allowed her bring in bigger accounts and earn bonuses. “You earn so much, but you still look like a student!” one of her colleagues teased her one day, highlighting again Kate’s bland nails, knock off bags, well worn shoes, and braids that begged for mercy. “I hardly have the time to go to the salon or boutique” Kate defended herself, which was partly true. The part she left out was that she was saving rigorously to develop the plot of land she had acquired in a remote part of town, and still had to take care of her family, so she couldn’t spend on frivolities. Her colleague was educating her on the virtues of online shopping and that hairdressers and manicurists could easily come for home service at her place, but Kate quickly added “I don’t have any boyfriend I am trying to impress anyways, so what is the point?” Her colleague who had tried countlessly to get Kate more fashionable gave up; Kate had a quiet stubbornness that people respected.
At 31, she had buried her father, trained her two siblings, moved her family into the house she built, rented out the other flats, given her mother Landlady’s rights, and also gave her brother start-up capital for his business. Her career was still looking great; she was promised a managerial position soon, and had successfully gotten two professional qualifications. Finally, she could breathe and sleep without worry. She decided to put herself out there. Helen, the colleague who was always on her case to dress better and who had turned into her bestie, was enlisted to help. Helen did a great job at transforming Kate, and she also took her to places she called “spots for meeting eligible bachelors”. By the second month of her transformation, Kate had successfully sifted through four guys and agreed to date the most eligible; Taiye.
They got married and decided to go see a Fertility Doctor after their eighth unsuccessful cycle. That was when Kate discovered that she had multiple uterine fibroids. Some were big enough to have been detected via pelvic examinations, and the others were only visible during an MRI scan. She proceeded to have a myomectomy, and took the necessary time away from work. The news went round her office, and although some staff were empathetic, a good number of people felt she brought it on herself. A lot were kind enough to whisper behind her back, but one woman wore their heart on her sleeves. Upon her return, one of her colleagues came to her desk and while congratulating her on a successful surgery, enjoined her to get pregnant as soon as possible “Time is not on your side” she said “Get pregnant before the Fibroids return”. Kate thanked her for her advice and waited for the lady to leave, but the sermon wasn’t over “You know we career women that decide to get married and have babies later, we do not know that nature abhors vacuum. The way weed grows on an empty field is the same way fibroids grow on a womb that should have carried babies”. It took the grace of God for Kate to stay sane throughout the lecture; all she kept thinking was the lady implying that she had brought on her fertility issues upon herself, by getting married late.
Kate is not the only one is such a predicament; a good number of women choose to focus on their careers in their twenties, and then find love and settle down in their thirties. Some get lucky and have babies immediately, while others have to go the TTC route. Society, ever ready with fingers to point, accuses such ladies of bringing pain upon themselves, because ‘they spent so much time on their careers when they should have been making babies’. I have heard a lady say smugly about some of such women “We will see whether it’s career that would take care of her in old age”. As I tried to come to terms with such insensitive comments, I thought about some of my friends that went the TTC route albeit being in their early twenties; some of them as students, some as house-wives. The biological clock theory has been put to shame time and time, with many women having fertility issues that have nothing to do with age, and a lot of older women getting pregnant, and giving birth every day.
I have a friend whom, fresh out of Law School, was desperate to marry. Her desperation came as a shock to me, and I would often laugh when she would ask me and our friends to ‘look for husband for her’. This 21 year old was from a rich home, buttered and pampered with money, and already had a job as a Junior Lawyer waiting for her in her father’s firm. We all thought she was going to work for a bit and enjoy being single, before settling down, but girl was hearing none of that. Ask her why the rush and she would tell you she didn’t want to get so carried away with her career, that she would end up marrying late and having issues with getting pregnant. Ask her where she got that from, and she would point fingers at her mother’s friends and a good number of aunties. Everyone was quick to tell her that being a career woman, came with the curse of barrenness; so she was advised to get married early, have babies, and then build a career. She did get married that year, to a boyfriend she had dumped years before. Months after the elaborate wedding, she was calling for an annulment; her husband had lied to her about his line of business, and she couldn’t stay married to a drug baron.
While sharing my thoughts with a friend, she said “There is no way around pleasing people. You marry early, they ask you if your father was chasing you out of the house. You marry later, they get on your case about making babies”.
If all of us women decide to ditch our careers and focus on making babies, I wonder what our world would turn into, and where our daughters would find role models from as they go to school. The reality is, career woman or no career woman, infertility is no respecter of persons. It is by God’s grace that we shall all carry our babies.
Godspeed to us all!
Join the conversation with any of our TTC and Pregnancy Groups here.