My Nine Years of Infertility – Amah Sotade

My name is Amah and this is my story of dealing with my nine years of infertility. I got married at the age of 25 and had my beautiful baby son Philip Jnr immediately. But when we tried to have another baby that is when our problems started. You see, my husband Phil is quite a number of years older than me. Actually, he is 16 years older. He was already 41 when we got married. I know you may wonder why I married a man so much older than me, but the truth is I love him and always have. He is somebody I’ve known all my life as Uncle Phil. He is the much younger brother of my mum’s best friend. But being very good looking and from a rich and well known family many women wanted him and he had courted and rejected all of them until I was all grown up.

When I graduated from university, he was finally able to propose and we got married. For the next four years, it was impossible for me to conceive after the delivery of our son. After some time I came to dread the time of my monthly period. When I saw it month after month I would cry and go into depression. Phil was so nice and comforting. Always reassuring me that I should just relax and everything will be alright. Eventually, we decided to seek medical help after failing to conceive naturally for four years. We went through many discussions as to whether we should go to an infertility clinic and try the IVF technique we were reading so much about.

The clinic we went to really tried and were very supportive but for four years we went through a series of disappointments and heart rending failures. We went through an IVF cycle once a year for four years until Phil was almost making up his mind that we should give up. He had his son and he was content. But deep down I wanted more and I was not going to be satisfied until I gave him more children. Would I only give him one child to inherit all this wealth? I knew people would have something to say about that! One day while reading Punch Newspaper, I came across an interview with one Prof. Oladapo Ashiru the Chief medical Officer at the Medical Art Center (MART) who specializes in infertility. He was talking about many interesting new technologies in assisted reproduction such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).

In the article he mentioned that many miscarriages may be due to abnormalities in the embryo and as the age of the couple increases, the more likely the eggs and sperm may become abnormal. Something spoke to me in the article and deep down I wondered whether this may be the reason why I had been failing to conceive all these years as Phil was in his 50’s by this time. I took the newspaper to my doctor to ask his opinion. He was kind enough to suggest I could the Medical Art Center a try as they were well respected in the field of fertility. At the same time a friend of mine who had been trying to have a baby had gone to medical Art Center and had just delivered twin baby boys! I thought wow. I must check this out.

I talked to my husband and not able to deny me anything he quickly agreed that we should try Medical Art Center. On arriving there all the doctors and nurses were so friendly and informative. They went into so much detail about what their procedures were and did many intense tests. For the first time they discovered that I had polycystic ovarian cyst (PCO) on my right cyst ovary; while Phil had low sperm count. They explained to me that with PCO the ovaries produce many tiny cysts that cannot produce any eggs. The normal ovary should produce one single follicle that will eventually produce one egg. These cysts can be between 20 to 40 in number and the cause of it is not really known but it is not unrelated to some imbalance in metabolism which makes one unable to digest carbohydrates properly- a condition referred to as being insulin resistant. I was therefore put on a diet with very low carbohydrates and prescribed Glucophage which is a drug used by diabetics to control their blood sugar levels. Phil was also treated for his low sperm count with hormones and special and specific antioxidants. He was also given strict diet guidelines to follow and some lifestyle changes he was told he must follow.

They also gave me hysterosonogram which is a scan that sees right through into the uterus to make sure that all my reproductive organs were normal. I was thankful they didn’t discover anything out of place apart from the polycystic ovarian cyst. After the initial investigations it was time to have a consultation with the professor. He advised that we should not only go through their IVF program but that we should also go through the pre-implantation genetics diagnosis (PGD). This is a technique that would diagnose the embryo after they have been fertilized through IVF or ISCI to look at which one of them were normal or abnormal so that only the normal ones would be implanted back to become a baby.

“Many miscarriages are actually due to the fact that the embryo is abnormal” Prof explained. “Nature hates abnormalities and would naturally try to avoid it.” He said.  “Mrs. Sotade, you had many miscarriages because your husband is now in his 50s. I strongly suggest you go through our PGD program. This program will give you a considerably better chance of getting pregnant and having a normal baby” he smiled reassuringly. Well, we could hardly argue with his logic so we agreed immediately to go with the extended and naturally more expensive program. The clinic was so kind and considerate. Because we lived in Benin, they didn’t want me coming backwards and forwards to the clinic to get my injections, so they actually taught me how to give myself my injections! They also taught Phil how to do it too. These drugs were to make sure that I produced as many eggs as possible when it came to time to do the IVF. Phil and I were only required to come to Lagos four days before the IVF procedure. During the procedure, my eggs were retrieved for artificial fertilization with Phil’s sperm.

On the day of the procedure we were told to get to the clinic bright and early latest by 7:30 for an 8 o’clock procedure. I was not allowed to eat anything that morning. In fact I was to have my last food and drink at 10pm the previous night. I had been given an injection 34 hours previously to ensure the eggs would be ready at this time. Everybody was abuzz in the clinic that morning. All the doctors were in their crisp, starched blue theatre gowns and masks. Phil and I held hands tightly. We were both nervous. We had gone through this so many times but somehow we felt that this time would be different. I held on to Prof’s promise at our first consultation with him. He told us jokingly that “Medical Art Center was the Supreme Court for infertility in Africa.” I know he meant it as a joke but I was going to keep him to that promise and I prayed fervently that god would make his joke a reality for us.

Barely had I been under the anesthetics than the hole procedure was over and I was being wheeled out of the theatre into the recovery room. Phil was right there smiling at me when I opened my eyes. The clinic coordinator came in smiling “I have very good news for you Mr. and Mrs. Sotade” she beamed. “We were able to retrieve 21 eggs from you which is wonderful, but when you see Prof He will give you all the details” she said. When we saw Prof, he confirmed the number of eggs retrieved at surgery and went further, “The next stage is to fertilize your eggs with Mr. Sotade’s sperm.” He said. “We are expecting good results with the next stage since we have so many eggs. So just rest for as long as you want and get up to go home when you feel up to it.” Then the clinical coordinator came and said “we shall get in touch with you in three days to keep you updated as to how the fertilization is progressing” she patted my arm kindly and went out still smiling and carrying her charts. I rested for a bit longer and Phil took me home. And we prayed. And I prayed like never before that this time would be different and the procedure would be a success.

When the nurse finally called on the third day, she told us that out of the 1 eggs retrieved, 11 were fertilized. She also told me that they were going to biopsy 9 out of the eggs to weed out the abnormal ones and we should come to the clinic to hear the results of the biopsy in five days. On the fifth day Phil and I went to the clinic. We were scheduled to meet the Prof himself. On entering his office, we sat down looking at him expectantly. “Well” he nodded looking at our file “I can assure you that it was definitely worth your while doing the PGD.” He said. “Yep! Not only worth your while but definitely necessary for you to have done the PGD as two of the embryos were indeed abnormal and would have been babies born with Down Syndrome.” He nodded seriously. “That danger has now been eliminated as we will discard those embryos” he said.

The prof looked up and smiled first at Phil then at me, and said mysteriously, “from your PGD report, you have two normal male and 4 normal female embryos” he smiled, “so which embryos do you want us to transfer, male or female embryos?” I can’t remember what happened next, but I think I shrieked with joy and burst out crying. And Phil held me tightly but I could see he too was deeply moved as he was shaking. He wanted a girl as we already had a son who was now 9 years old but I wanted to have another boy. In the end we opted to have four embryos out of 7 good embryos transferred. 2 male and 2 female embryos were implanted. We went home and prayed for another 12 days that finally, finally God  will answer our prayers and that I would not see my dreaded menstruation and God would give us the longed for baby. But from the beginning I felt this time would be different because I felt nauseous right away. By the twelfth day when I still had not seen my period I began to believe that it may actually happen this time. We went to the clinic and they did a pregnancy test which tested positive and confirmed that I was pregnant. Phil and I went home in a dream. We were told to come back in another 3 weeks or the fifth week of pregnancy to have an ultrasound scan to see the process of the pregnancy.

Phil of course was by my side when I went to have the 5th week ultrasound and he was there when we first saw three heartbeats showing I was carrying triplets! For the first time in nine years I was actually pregnant. Would god bless us with triplets all at once? It was too much to hope for because by the 6th week one of the embryos had aborted and I was left with two embryos. Medical Art Center has an ante natal clinic only for their high risk patients. They refer all other patients to selected hospitals for antenatal care and delivery of their babies. But I was considered a high risk patient and was therefore allowed to do my antenatal care at the medical Art Center and I was carefully monitored every week at MART throughout the rest of my pregnancy until I delivered our beautiful twins 9 months later by caesarian section. Phil and I are now proud and happy parents of twins, a boy and a girl!

Miracles do happen and prayers are answered in God’s own time.