Vanguard Newspaper 07 April 2018
30—SATURDAY Vanguard, APRIL 7, 2018 ‘MISCARRIAGES: O, God please not again!’ Angela was 36 when she married Tony in June 2009, and ready to start a family. At 48, Tony was much older but that didn’t matter because they were in love. He was loving and caring and made her feel very special. Tony was a widower. His first wife died about eight years earlier, ironically, during childbirth. Angela recounted their infertility story during a recent encounter, recalling how they had plans and looked forward to raising a big, happy family. They even chose names for their yet-to-be born children and the likely months they were to be born. If it was a boy, he would be called Anthony, while a girl would be Angelina. Read on: “I clearly remember it was in October 2009 when I thought I had become pregnant. We set to work with our baby making home work; unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. A few weeks after we had begun our plans, I got my period, and we were a bit disappointed, but kept on going, then kept on trying the next and the next and the following months without success. After three more months of trying, I went to see my gynaecologist for some tests and all came back normal, except that I had high levels of prolactin. He put me on a drug called bromocriptine which I took religiously. Another three months went by, yet I did not get pregnant and there was no baby. In June of 2010, I remember I missed my period. It had been quite a while since that happened, and excitedly, I took a home pregnancy test. Lo and behold, it returned a positive result. I was pregnant! I was ecstatic. Tony was beyond happy! Over the next few days, he didn’t allow me to lift a finger. I wasn’t allowed to do anything. Tony did everything for me, washing, cooking and cleaning. I was treated like a baby, carried, fed and even bathed. All I did was eat and sleep. Sadly, the pregnancy wasn’t viable because I was spotting from the first day. I went back to my gynaecologist, who put me on permanent bed rest, but that pregnancy was doomed, and despite all efforts, I ended up having a miscarriage after around five weeks of pregnancy. We were devastated but encouraged each other to get over it and continued with our monthly baby making ritual. Five months later, I missed my period again and another pregnancy test turned out positive. But again, just like the last time, I began spotting from day one. O, God please, not again! I was horrified. The sad experience with the first pregnancy was still fresh in my memory and I knew right away this was not a good sign at all. To be honest, that experience had robbed me of much optimism and all of a sudden, I really wasn’t so enthusiastic about this second pregnancy. Nevertheless, I carried that pregnancy all the way to the 12th week. I was permanently on bed rest, walked on eggshells and was very, very careful not to get upset. Despite my efforts, I had a second miscarriage. Once again my heart was filled with unhappiness. It was really bad. I withdrew into a shell and cried my eyes out. My third pregnancy occurred in May 2011. Like previous occasions, I missed my period after several months to trying and a quick test confirmed I was pregnant. I later got to know that this third pregnancy was what doctors call a chemical (false) pregnancy. Sure enough, two days later I got my period (the day I was supposed to get it) and it was just normal, like every month. We started trying again and exactly three months later, I found out I was pregnant again. My hope returned but we remained cautious. I was placed on 24-hour, bed rest. Alas! around the 10th day, I started having some light brown spotting. In the pit of my stomach I was concerned something was wrong again. In a healthy pregnancy, the HCG levels double every 48-72 hours. Mine didn’t double fast enough. The doctor was certain I was going to lose the pregnancy. And I did. Four miscarriages in just over one year! I was utterly defeated. I started to think, for the first time, that maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe this was more than just “bad luck.” The last miscarriage itself physically wasn’t difficult, just like a heavy period. But the emotional turmoil was devastating. It hurt so much to know that I lost my baby, yet again, but strangely, I didn’t cry. I just sat like a robot for days, not talking, eating or sleeping. There was a heavy weight bearing down in my heart and a deep, hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. All through this period, Tony was fantastic, cuddling and comforting me. I tried to be responsive, but the burden in my heart was too heavy. The storm broke one evening about a week later. We were at home watching TV. It was a comedy feature and quite arresting. I was so engrossed I didn’t know when I burst out laughing. Tony was startled; he looked at me in concern, but immediately, began laughing too. He laughed so hard he fell off the sofa and that made me to laugh even more. Tony pulled me down on top of him and we rolled on the floor as we continued laughing. I was laughing so hard there were tears in my eyes and ‘O, God preserve our baby!’ Tony held me close and laughed in my face. It was a magical moment. It had been a long time since we shared such closeness. But quite unexpectedly, the laughter choked in my throat and for a moment or two I could not breathe. I felt an overwhelming sadness and despair. One moment I was laughing, the next I was weeping uncontrollably. I cannot remember how long I cried, but I slept off and woke up much later still lying on the living room floor with Tony beside me. I had a throbbing headache, but at that point I later got to know that this third pregnancy was what doctors call a chemical (false) pregnancy in time, I felt an uncontrollably strong urge to make love. The doctor had advised us to wait until after I had my next period to try again, but I couldn’t wait to get pregnant again. My wish did not come true until about two months later, I knew without a doubt that the journey to my next conception began that night. This fifth pregnancy felt completely different right from the start. It felt strong. I had very strong symptoms shortly after ovulation. The HCG levels were encouraging. It went from 79 to 250 in just two days—more than triple. This pregnancy was a strong one and I went on to have a healthy baby boy in August 2012. When my son was a little over a year old, we decided to start trying again for a second child. The doctor said we could start trying to get pregnant right away, so we did. We went to the village on a vacation, which coincidentally was right around ovulation time. The last day of our vacation I felt very nauseous and threw up. This was very similar to my last pregnancy, so I excitedly told my husband. A week later, a pregnancy test confirmed my suspicions; I was pregnant again…first try! I was excited, but I couldn’t really believe it had happened so fast. I went in to get my HCG levels drawn and my first number was 112, which seemed okay. However, my second number came back and it had dropped to 76. I was losing another one. I was very sad, but mostly just shocked. I hadn’t really expected to get pregnant so fast and it was gone before I even had a chance to get used to the idea. We tried again and, immediately I became pregnant again. This one also felt good. I went in the morning I got a positive test but the HCG numbers were low and quickly droppedto 7; another failure. We tried to get pregnant again and succeeded. My first HCG number was 54, the next draw was 72, doubling time 79 hours. At this point I knew it wasn’t going to work. My third draw came back—94. Not even close. It was over again, even though I had done everything right, eaten well, no stress took all the medications, exercised right, rested well, prayed fervently, I did it all, and I still lost it. It was one miscarriage too many. At this point I was just confused and angry. My body let me down again. I am not “infertile” because I have a son and I get pregnant every time I try. My problem is recurrent early trimester miscarriage. I’m grateful for the miracle of my son, but how many times do I have to go through this? How many times can I withstand the trauma? Is there really is something wrong with me? Is it fixable? My story continues.
SATURDAY Vanguard, APRIL 7, 2018—31 Widows are tagged as witches in my community —Ekiti youth who looks after them •Olayiwola Oluwatosin By Ebun Sessou Olayiwola Oluwatosin is the founder of “Toosin Quota”, a foundation that caters for widows in its own little way. She was in Lagos recently when she spoke with WW on her passion for the “Unreached” (widows) and the fear she nursed because of the stigma placed on widows as witches. Tell us why you embarked on empowering the widows? It was a passion I developed as a child. I have feelings for people who are not happy. I have passion for giving no matter how little it is. Making unhappy people happy is what I enjoy doing. The Bible tells us to give and in the process, we will receive in return. It further explains that we should give first before expecting to receive from him. It is scriptural. Give and it shall be given unto you. I do not think of collecting back from the same people I give. The fact is that once I give to them I get better things in return. So, why did you choose widows? I realized that widows are more neglected in the society. When I was about to start the foundation I told two of my mentors, Uncle Raheem Akingbolu and Akin Oludare that I would like to relate with the youths in the society in my hometown (Aramoko, Ekiti) but I realized that most of these youths have different ways of sourcing for money unlike the widows. They also have lots of strength to work; they are also exposed to lots of empowerment programmes. But, the widows do not have. The youths depend on many people for survival but widows are neglected. In my community, there is this notion that you do not help widows because they are witches and they could kill you if you help them. So, most of the widows in my community are farmers. They go to farm despite their age. The stigma is on the widows such that no one is ready to help them. But, I felt that helping the widows would break the breach. When was the foundation established? Three years ago. How has the feedback been? I started in my grandmother’s compound and they were thirty widows that started the foundation with me. At first, I gave them N500, drugs and food each in Aramoko, Ekiti. The feedback was good and the second year, the widows rose to 50 in number. And on the third year, the widows were 150 in number. After that, we decided to register the foundation and also get a record of the recipients on the platform. We are not empowering widows who have the capacity to remarry but, those who cannot marry again. We are dealing with the widows who cannot work again. We are considering widows from age 70 and above. The third year of the foundation gave me the morale that the future is great. You have limited the foundation to your community, why is that? There is a parable that says charity begins at home. I fell that my people need me the most. For me, it is better to start the foundation from the grassroots. I believe, it is better to start in my community, then the tentacles would spread across. The vision is actually outside my community but I have to start from the community first. There are insinuations that NGOs are after the financial gains instead of concentrating on impacting on people’s lives. I am an insurance marketer. I am an insurance agent. The truth is that, I have passion to help the down trodden and that is what I love to do. Most times, I do not earn my salary yet I help people. I believe that if those around are happy, then, I am happy. Another thing is that NGOs are politically motivated, what is your take on this? I am not doing this because of politics but if in the course of the foundation, my people want me to go and represent them in the government, then so be it. How then do you get money to finance your foundation? I use my commissions. God has been using my clients for me. Most times, I design envelopes for people to donate their widow’s mite. Although, I have people that support the project but I do not want it to be politically motivated. So, I resist any political moves towards the foundation. Right now, I am on red account but I am good. What measure are you putting in place to The youths depend on many people for survival but widows are neglected. In my community, there is this notion that you do not help widows because they are witches and they could kill you if you help them ensure that politicians do not hijack this in future? I avoided that last year. I have been resisting pressure from politicians and that is not a problem at all. Although the politicians are part of the community so, if they are invited to take an assignment, I make sure that they do not go beyond the assignment they are given. I ensure that they do not go aside the rules and regulations of the platform. What are the challenges? As a single lady, I do not have husband to support me. I also have siblings that I cater for in my little way. As an insurance marketer, it is not easy to get funds. Nobody is ready to help. Another is the fear of the unknown. Someone once told me that the widows would kill me and so, I was advised to halt the foundation but, I resisted the advice. The widows were tagged as witches. So, I went to the mountain to seek the face of God on the foundation. Although, I nursed the fear but with time, I overcame it. Are there plans to extend the foundation beyond your community? Next year, we are reaching out to six towns in Ekiti West local government. And we are going to empower more widows. How do you generate the widows? The first criteria is the age. I have people who go after this age range of widows we require. We are looking for widows who cannot afford to eat. There are some widows that have families that take care of them. My grandma is part of the platform but she has never been a beneficiary of the foundation because her children can take care of her. Growing up, was there anything you noticed that propelled you to do this particular thing? I believe that God deposited lots of virtues in me and I have tried all my best to ensure that I do not lose the focus. Growing up, I liked to give money to people. There was an event that was held in my hometown when I was small and I told someone that I wanted to give money to people and I was advised to give it in my family’s name which I did and I was happy. But, the next day, I had no money for transportation because I was to travel. At the same time, I was happy because when the names were rolled out, my family’s name was included. How do you hope to sustain the foundation? Aside my sources of income, I am looking at spreading the tentacles to the next level. I am already talking to a friend in the United Kingdom on how international organizations could help the foundation. I am open to international partnership. Here in Nigeria, I have spoken to some companies and they advised that I should register the foundation first. The registration is in progress. Why did you attach glamour to it? The widows do not understand the valentine language and my aim was to bring love back to them. The foundation is celebrated during valentine season and thus the slogan: “Bringing love back to the widow”.