It was one of the most awkward conversations Aliyah had ever had, and with a total stranger for that matter. It had happened at her first antenatal clinic in her surrogacy journey. The class had been interesting, as the instructor mentioned bits of information about the miracle that was happening in their bodies. Even, she, who was not a primigravida, found new wisdom in what she was saying.
However, there was a lull, when the matron left the class to get something she wanted to show the pregnant moms. That was when the women started to share their experiences; about the one thing they had in common – pregnancy. It soon moved to their expected dates of delivery, and it was a pleasant surprise that Aliyah found she was seated close to a woman with whom she not only shared the same birthday, but also EDD, which both fell in the same month. That was an instant connection for them. Just as they had drifted alongside each other instinctively, they stayed together and talked more.
They compared more notes from their pregnancies, whether they wanted to have their husbands in the labour room, an option the matron just told them they had. While Aliyah’s new friend said she would be cajoling her husband into being there. Aliyah let slip that her husband wouldn’t be there, as the baby was not even his. The emotion on Aliyah’s birthday mate went from shock to disgust, her thoughts read, “So, this my birthday mate is nothing more than an adulterous woman”, her mouth tight, she turned her head away from Aliyah.
Wanting to explain things, she told her she was helping her niece carry her baby. That piece of information only elicited more shock. Knowing it was time to shut up, Aliyah found somewhere else to sit, and that was the end of their brief friendship. Every time they met afterward, it was a struggle for her to say hi.
If you think that was outrageous, wait for it. One of Aliyah’s sisters-in-law was one of those people with the expert ability to detect pregnancy, without seeing the bump. On one of her visits to their house, she had commented loosely that, “Na wa for you people o, so you couldn’t wait for your baby to be at least two years old, you are already pregnant.” It was her brother, who responded off-handedly that the baby was not theirs, but Taiwo and her husband’s.
“What did you just say? She is carrying a baby that is not your own…and under your roof. What did they give you to chop? Yee, this people have killed my brother o. Ye! Ye! Won ti gba Saturday lowo egbon mi, gbe Sunday le lowo. Mom must hear this o. They have turned her son to mumu.” Just as she was frantically flaying her left hand in the air, clutching her head and stamping her feet, she was searching for her phone in her handbag.
Her brother, who had let the cat out of the bag, was now perplexed, and was asking his sister to calm down. When she found the phone, he took it from her. In return, she carried her handbag and headed for the door, searching for her second phone. Looking at his wife’s stricken face, Aliyah’s husband ran after his sister and, after a while, managed to convince her to listen to Taiwo’s story, and why they were carrying her baby.
She came back into the house and sat like a cat on hot coals, gingerly on the edge of the couch, with her expression saying, “Okay oh, I’m seated now. Tell your story, and let me go.” An already shaken Aliyah told her about her niece, Taiwo’s battle with infertility.
Aliyah was one of those babies you will call an afterthought, as her parents had already completed child-bearing, or so they thought, until Aliyah showed up. She was more or less raised by her older siblings, some of whom were already married and ready to start their families. Aliyah is only a few years older than her oldest niece, Taiwo, whom she was being a gestational carrier for.
Taiwo had gotten married before her aunt, and had wanted to wait for a while before starting the baby making business. So they waited. When they stopped using birth control, a baby didn’t come, not until the ninth month into their trying did it happen.
Early one morning, Aliyah had been awoken by her phone and she had somehow croaked hello, after checking the caller ID. In a whisper, Taiwo had said, “I got two lines this morning from the test I took. Do you think, I should do another?” Sleep cleared from Aliyah’s face, as she asked her to go ahead and do another test.
The next ten minutes it took for Taiwo to get another test, pee, wait for the double lines and call her back, were the longest ten minutes of her life. No hint of sleep was again in her eyes. When she got the call, and Taiwo said it was another double line, both screamed at the same time, before remembering that the man who planted the baby, was still sleeping and not in the know yet. They quickly calmed down, and tried to move on with the day, as though nothing extraordinary had happened.
However, that extraordinary happening did not last the whole hog. While in her 15th week, Taiwo was feeling weird and unsettled, and she soon found out why. She suffered these terrible cramps in the middle of the night, and that was how she miscarried her precious baby. It was not only the baby she lost…she also lost her uterus. That baby would the last to ever take up residence in her womb, was what the doctor told her. That was hard news for her to take, but she moved on, as much as was possible to do.
Meanwhile, Aliyah’s life was not on hold. Her long term relationship moved to marriage, and she started her own family, while still supporting her niece, as best as she could. They were having their normal chat one day, when Taiwo divulged that it looked like she might have to consider adoption, as the cost of surrogacy was out of their reach.
Aliyah’s heart broke and, right there and then, she offered to carry her niece’s baby for her, if her husband and their doctor agreed. At first, her husband said no, but he came back home one day and told her she could go ahead, if this was how they could help Taiwo. Taiwo’s doctor was also at first skeptical, given the fact that she was older, but upon screening her, they found she was perfect to carry her niece’s baby.
A frozen embryo transfer was scheduled. Both Taiwo and her husband were present, alongside Aliyah’s husband. During the two week wait, Taiwo moved to Aliyah’s house to take care of her family, while she was on full bed rest. When they got a BFP at the hospital, they were all filled with joy.
While Aliyah was narrating this story, her sister-in-law had sunk deep into the couch, with tears beading her eyelids. She confessed that, for as long as she had known Taiwo, she had known she was TTC, but did not know the magnitude of her fertility challenge. She commended Aliyah and her brother for their sacrifice. But in the end, she still insisted that, “Mom needs to be told.”
So, they told his Mom, who, even though said she understood, acted as though she did not. She would call to find out how her grandchild was doing. And when Aliyah gave birth, she insisted on coming for ‘Omugwo’. It was pretty awkward for both women, one was recovering from childbirth, and the other felt like she had been cheated out of her grandchild.
All of these reactions show one thing. No matter how people say they were accepting of the many fertility treatment options available, including surrogacy, it becomes another matter entirely when it stares them in the face. And that is where discretion comes into play.
But whatever be the case, someone who has given up hope of becoming a mom, is able to become one, through the selfless act of another, and that’s all that really matters in the end.
Baby dust to you all!
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