Tonye never considered herself the competitive sort. All her life, she pretty much always stayed on her lane. She was always the happy-go-lucky one. Nothing ever bothered her.
She started dating Idowu in her final year in University, and by the end of their first year as a couple, they knew they would spend the rest of their lives together. As University led to graduation, then NYSC, they were lucky to get good jobs almost immediately, she with one of the new generation banks, and he with one of the international oil companies.
In the bank, Tonye befriended Dere, a lady who was about her age. They had bonded over their common care-free nature, and love for Sex and the City. Before long, they were doing almost everything together, and Dere found herself the third wheel many times, with Tonye and Idowu. As they were together so much, it hadn’t taken long for Dere to hit it off with Idowu’s best friend, Ohimai. Before long, they were a foursome.
In what came as a surprise to nobody, Idowu and Tonye soon got engaged. As they counted down to their wedding, a few months later, Ohimai and Dere got engaged also. Tonye felt the first tug of envy when she sighted Dere’s engagement ring. It was in a similar design to hers, but with a much larger diamond. She was slighted, as she knew her own ring had been used as the benchmark…the ring to top. And top it, it had. When she mentioned it to Idowu, he brushed off her suspicion, assuring her it was very likely a coincidence.
Tonye and Idowu’s wedding day came, and it was a beautiful and memorable affair…well, memorable until Dere and Ohimai’s wedding. Tonye noted, with annoyance, all the details Dere had copied from hers, and had amplified. Everything was the bigger and better version than what had been at Tonye’s. Even Dere and Ohimai’s apartment bore too many decoration similarities with Tonye and Idowu’s. It was almost as if she was constantly on the prowl for anything her friend did, just so that she could better it.
Again, Idowu brushed it off.
And that was how the friends turned to frenemies. To the outside world, and even to each other, they were still the very best of friends. But the evil seed of competition had unfortunately been sown between them.
Soon, they each started watching out for a bump on the other person. It was like each woman was more interested in when the other would get pregnant, than she herself. As fate would have it, it wasn’t happening quickly for either of them. But the longer the delay, the more frantic they got in their scrutiny.
Tonye had noted Dere’s cycle days, and it was obvious that Dere had done the same. They would casually throw sentences like, “Oh, I think my period is on it’s way. Do you have any sanitary pads? You’re on yours, right?”, just to double check. And that was how they played the game for months.
By Tonye’s second anniversary, she and Idowu privately decided to see a fertility specialist. Idowu’s sister had recommended a good one, and after their first consultation, were convinced they had found the right one. As they commenced their preliminary tests, Tonye tried to keep it as private, or rather, secret, as possible. But this secrecy was short-lived.
Idowu had confided in his friend, Ohimai, more out of concern, considering they had been trying for a child for almost the same amount of time. Tonye had been shocked to her bones, when Dere mentioned that they were also seeing the same doctor. It had taken everything in her not to strangle Idowu for letting the cat out of the bag. But out of the bag, it was!
In a cruel twist of fate, both men were diagnosed with sperm issues. Whilst Idowu’s count was poor, Ohimai’s sperm motility was well below average. In addition, Tonye had been diagnosed with partial blockage of one of her tubes, whilst Dere had hormonal issues. But both women would rather die than reveal their diagnosis to the other. They both lied about having close to perfect results, and swore their husbands to secrecy as well. As far they chose to believe, they both were victims of unexplained infertility.
And so the competition kicked into gear 2!
At every consultation, each woman would ask their common doctor what he had prescribed for the other, and were often left disappointed when this information was not disclosed to them. As they were both on Clomid, they wanted to know how many milligrams of the drug the other was on, and waited with bated breath at the end of each other’s 2-week wait. As all 4 of their individual cycles ended in failure, they found themselves secretly glad that the other person wasnt pregnant yet.
Tonye and Idowu were almost prepped for their first IUI cycle, when Dere mentioned that she was going straight to IVF.
“IUI is a total waste of time. A waste of money. Success rates are not significantly higher than ordinary sex. My dear, I don’t have time or money to waste!”
That had marked the end of Tonye’s IUI plans. She nagged and harassed Idowu, until he agreed to move straight to IVF instead.
Tonye had noticed the fleeting look of anger on Dere’s face, when she informed her that they too were moving on to IVF.
The competition was now in gear 3!
Both women found themselves cycling at about the same time. And, as usual, they were more interested in how the other was progressing. Had the other person’s period come? What was the measurement of her uterine lining? How many follicles did she have?
By the time of egg collection, Tonye’s number was 12. She was quite satisfied with this number, until she was told that Dere’s number was 21. Suddenly, she felt like a failure. If only she knew that Dere only had 4 poor quality eggs, and was lying to save her face.
Of Tonye’s 12, 9 fertilised, and 3 were transferred. Dere only had 1 egg fertilise, and that single embryo was transferred. But she told her friend that she got almost a perfect fertilisation report, with 20 eggs fertilising, and 3 embryos transferred.
Alas, both their cycles failed.
Idowu wanted Tonye to take a break before cycling again, but the minute she found out Dere was ready for cycle 2, she decided to go for it.
Tonye initially wanted to have some of her frozen embryos transferred…until she found out Dere was having a fresh cycle.
“But you have so many embryos! How come you aren’t using any of them?” Tonye asked.
When Dere managed to convince her that, as the last cycle had failed, she didn’t trust the quality of the remaining embryos, Tonye also decided that it was best to try a fresh cycle, and discard her own frozen embryos. If only she knew that Dere had none to freeze in the first place.
Because of Dere’s poor response on the last cycle, she had been placed on the short protocol for the cycle. Tonye, without caring to find out why Dere was on a different protocol, demanded to be placed on the same protocol, despite her doctor’s stern warning. The result? She ended up hyper stimulating, and spent 3 weeks in hospital after egg retrieval. Dere, on the other hand, still hadn’t produced many eggs…but of course, she didn’t tell Tonye that.
Despite the hyper stimulation, Tonye managed to get pregnant, and even before sharing the news with Idowu, texted the good news to Dere, who had received it very badly. She had cried all night, and managed to convince her husband that it was time for them to cycle abroad.
Giving the excuse that she didn’t think their doctor was qualified enough, Dere took leave from work, and went to Spain, for another cycle.
Unfortunately, in her 7th week of pregnancy, Tonye suffered a miscarriage. She wept more about not getting the chance to ‘win’ Dere, than over the actual loss itself. She too decided the fault had to be from their doctor.
Upon hearing that Dere had gotten pregnant after her cycle in Spain, Tonye was determined to go to the same clinic. Idowu put his foot down, insisting they take a break to breathe, after which they would continue with their doctor. Their fights during that period were the worst they’d had in the 10 years of their relationship. If only they knew that Dere’s cycle had been successful less because she had gone to Spain, but more because she had used donor eggs.
Tonye was able to get her way, and off she and Idowu went to Spain. But that cycle didn’t work…and neither did the next cycle. By this time, Dere was already in her third trimester, and approaching her due date. In every sentence she made, all she talked about was the son she was expecting…adding salt to Tonye’s wound.
When Tonye tried to push for a third cycle in Spain, Idowu had just about had enough! He vowed not to spend another kobo of his for any cycle in the near future. His insistence that they take a break, to allow their bodies, hearts, and not to mention pockets, recover, was met with tears and screams from his wife. But Idowu would not be moved. And they found themselves falling into the depths of a deep hatred and resentment for the other. A breakup was imminent, as neither of them thought the other was being fair or reasonable.
Idowu confided in Ohimai, about the likely breakup of his marriage, and when Ohimai heard all the details, he knew he had to come clean. He told a stunned Idowu everything about their own journey, from Dere’s poor response and how they’d had to use donor eggs.
When Tonye heard this, she realised she, and not Dere, was to blame for all this madness. She realised that her own treatment plan, and not someone else’s, should have been her primary focus. She realised that she had allowed Dere’s perceived progress dictate her own steps. And it had almost cost her her marriage.
So, she finally decided to take that break. She and Idowu applied for study leave, and went to Cranfield for a one year MBA. While there, she and Idowu were able to reconnect and rediscover their love for each other. For once, she stopped period watching and symptom spotting. Instead, they both opted for a healthier lifestyle, eating better, exercising more, and just living life.
And towards the end of their program, she missed her period. She hadn’t thought much of it, thinking it was as a result of the stress of studying for exams, but when it entered the third absent week, she succumbed for a test, and found out that she was, indeed, pregnant. Their son was born a few months after their return to Nigeria.
Recognising that her relationship with Dere was more toxic than productive, Tonye has chosen to keep her at arm’s length. She got a job with another bank, and was glad to have been able to move on. As their husbands are still close, they inevitably have to meet from time to time. But the few times they do see, Tonye is careful about not falling into the abyss of comparison with her former friend-turned-foe, Dere, especially when she tries to rope her in with questions of her son’s progress. Tonye has mastered the art of giving noncommittal answers, that give no room for any competition.
And as she expects her second child, even that is being kept very close to her chest.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, will take her down that dark road ever again!