Identity

Motherhood
is a journey

In February, I thought I was pregnant. I wasn't. It was very devastating.

Mom Akitunde. My mom. Oh, man. She is tiny. She thinks we’re the same height. Even before she started shrinking, she thought we were the same height, but she’s 5’2”, 5’1”. Very tiny. Cheekbones and the biggest smile. She has a whole body laugh. There’s a lot of lightness and joy to my mom.

She’s the hardest working woman I know. She works at a nursing home, even though in some cases she is the same age as some of the people that she’s taking care of. She is fully dedicated to that job in a way that upsets me. Sometimes I just want to say, “These people don’t appreciate you. Your managers don’t appreciate you.” But her tenants, the people she cares for, really do appreciate her. She’s been there for over 20 years. I appreciate her so much more now. Now that I’m an adult, we have a friendship that we could not have had—culturally, as black people and as Nigerians. Your parents aren’t your friends. But we do have a friendship now and she’s a lovely, lovely woman. I did not appreciate that until I was thirty-something.

She spent so much time with me in my early years…She put in a lot of work as a mother.

She spent so much time with me in my early years. I learned how to read at an early age. And she would make us do homework. Even before we had homework in elementary school,  we were doing math problems. I was bumped out of kindergarten to read with a specialist because I was reading at a higher level than anyone at the school. She put in a lot of work as a mother. Then she started working in nursing homes. Before leaving she would say, “Okay, do this assignment and I’ll check it when I get home.” But yeah, she’s always worked.

Tell us about your journey to motherhood

My husband and I got married in 2017. Around the one year mark, I said, “We should start trying,” because I had fibroid surgery when I was 30 and I also have a family history of miscarriage and loss. Before my mom had me, she had two miscarriages. That’s part of my name, Tomi. Between me and my younger brother, there’s a four-year gap. She had an ectopic pregnancy with twins. I didn’t know that until I had my experience. Also as the one who tends to… catastrophize, I knew I was going to have a really hard time getting pregnant. No one told me that. I just felt it in my spirit that I would have a hard time getting pregnant because of my mom’s history.

And the work that I was doing with Mater Mea, reading from people who say your maternal history, and your family history can affect your ability to conceive. I didn’t think I would have a hard time getting pregnant, but I thought I would have a hard time staying pregnant. So I figured we might as well just start trying. We started and then my husband lost his job a month into our trying. I have a lot of concerns with financial insecurity. Growing up we weren’t poverty-stricken, so I don’t want to compare my struggle to people who have actually had that struggle, but things were hard. And I did not marry for money. I married for love. I married another freelance writer, so it was definitely for love and not money. The job loss was upsetting. And it was through no fault of his own, the company had to lay off 20% of their staff for reasons that companies give for laying off people who don’t deserve to be laid off.

In February, I thought I was pregnant. I wasn’t.

We asked ourselves, “Should we keep trying?” In February, I thought I was pregnant. I wasn’t. It was very devastating because as someone who is so extra, I was like, “Oh man! Okay, we’re going to do the test on Valentine’s day, because I’m late.” I was just so worked up and the test wasn’t positive. I was also at an age where all my friends were starting to have kids. It’s like when you’re single and everyone’s getting married. I had that feeling of, “When’s it going to happen for me?” So we’re trying and we’re trying and every month, nothing, nothing, nothing. Then I went to my gynecologist and she said, “Everything here looks great. You still don’t have any fibroids. They haven’t come back.” Not to brag, but she said my uterus was beautiful. I was like, “Cool, thanks. I would not know that if you hadn’t told me.” So she told me to use these ovulation strips and if, after doing that for two months, it still isn’t happening, it meant to get my husband checked out. So we did the ovulation strips, and it turned out I was ovulating later than the app was telling me it was, based on my cycle.

So we said, “Oh, that’s the problem. The sperm is missing the egg. And now that we’ve figured it out, we can get this baby going.” Another two months. Nothing. So my husband scheduled an appointment to see a sperm specialist, and it’s not great news. I can’t remember the exact numbers of what they’re looking for, but my husband had a very low sperm count with no motility.

The IVF treatments, the shots, the egg retrieval. It was just so much.

That was very hard for him to hear…and for me too. It was just such a hard year with job loss and doing all these interviews. It came down to him and one other person and they went with the other person. It just didn’t feel good for him, feeling like a provider who can’t provide. Who wants to have kids, and can’t have them. That put us on this hamster wheel of being told, “Go to this clinic and produce a sample and they will analyze it. And then, and then, and then…”I was like, “We have to get off of this because they’re not telling us what this is all for, and it’s not helping our relationship at this point.” I was starting to feel like I was trying to have a kid with a roommate and not my husband. I didn’t realize until this year that it put a strain on our relationship. By the end of the year, we just decided—we’re not talking about it, we’re not talking about IVF. They were telling me that I needed to go to a reproductive endocrinologist to get myself checked out. Because there could be a malefactor, but there could also be a female factor related to infertility. So I decided to do that in January and just have the last two months of the year just for me and my husband.

In January of this year, I got tested. My levels looked great. It was just a matter of having to do IVF and IVF is very expensive. I still had my job, but my job was just barely covering the both of us, not even mentioning the IVF treatments, the shots, the egg retrieval. It was just so much. We found a way to fund it. His parents very generously offered to pay for treatment. It was around that time that I realized that I did not want to move forward with IVF when we had all this “stuff” from the year of difficulty, infertility, and the job loss on top of just my overall anxiety about our relationship. Just all of it. I didn’t feel like it would be responsible to add a baby on top of all of this “stuff.”

I did not want to use a baby that would be… not to be crass, but expensively conceived as a very expensive bandaid for a relationship that is so great in a lot of ways, and has some things that need to be addressed before either one of us feels comfortable moving forward. I really do want to be a mom. But right now I want to make sure that it’s the best decision for me and my husband, instead of just having a kid.