“What I didn’t know was that I would have to wait for 40 years,” Ajibola Otubusin, a retired nurse who gave birth few days ago after waiting for 40 years said.
Born on April 3, 1952, in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, she met her husband, Samuel, in Lagos while pursuing a nursing career at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital in the 70s and got married on December 10, 1977, at age 25 in Lagos.
Like every other couple, they had hope that after a year into marriage, they will welcome their first child, but a year turned two and then 20 and 39, yet she didn’t get pregnant.
Her husband retired as a professor about 3 months ago at the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries Management, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
“I am somebody who has the call of giving. I love to give. At that time, Samuel was studying at the University of Ife while I was at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital for my Basic Nursing Programme. We met through both of our aunts, who were good friends.
“In those days at the University of Ife, if you failed a subject, you would repeat a whole year. He was surviving on only bursaries at the time, which could barely sustain him, so during one of our conversations as friends, I saw he needed help, which I offered.
“I promised I would help him by sending him something out of my own monthly stipends. We were not thinking of marriage. We were just great friends, but then, friendship turned to relationship and then relationship turned to marriage,” she said.
“I expected to bear children and be fulfilled, but then, I started noticing I was unusually becoming sick, I was having some health issues. I initially thought they were small problems but when I went to a hospital at Kainji, I was referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, who told me I was still young and that I was getting sick because I was worried too much about having a baby.
“But I knew there were problems with me. I knew I had a problem with my thyroid. But the doctor insisted I would get over it. I went back to the hospital and this time round, I was referred to the Eko Hospital in Lagos, and there, they noticed I was suffering from hepatomegaly (an enlargement of the liver). They identified five other health problems and from there, I started battling with various diseases.”
In search for a cure to her sickness, the woman had to go back to UCH in Ibadan again where a surgeon took interest in her case.
“The surgeon was nice to me, he said he would send me to India. So I travelled to India. At the hospital where I was referred to, they noticed it was a cystic lesion (a medical condition that causes the development of multiple small, benign cysts on an organ in the body) and that I wasn’t responding to drugs. The cystic lesion overtook my liver.
“I was also tested for having sessile polyps in my colons (a colon polyp is a small clump of cells that forms on the lining of the colon and can develop into colon cancer).
“However, the doctor at the Indian hospital said he would try an artificial insemination since I didn’t have a serious infertility problem. (Artificial insemination is a deliberate introduction of sperm into a female’s cervix or uterine cavity for the purpose of achieving a pregnancy through in vitro fertilisation).”
The artificial insemination didn’t work, but she was determined never to give up.
“Thankfully, I got better after a series of treatment in India and eventually I returned home. Knowing it was only the infertility issue I had to deal with, I intensified efforts again with the support of my loving husband.
“I had been visiting St Ives Specialist Hospital, Lagos for 10 years before I travelled to India but I stopped going due to my poor health. But when my health improved, I went back again early this year with my husband, and I met Dr. Tunde Okewale, who understood our plight and encouraged us not to be shaken by previous experiences. We tried the IVF procedure and here we are today, with our first child!”
When she discovered she was pregnant, she said she didn’t believe it was true, but she however prayed it was.
“It was on February 22, 2018, I discovered it, but I still had some health issues. I was still seeing blood, so I didn’t believe it. I went for a scan and the doctor asked whether I was doing any stressful work. He asked me, ‘Do you want to lose this pregnancy?’ I asked, ‘Which pregnancy?’
“He then showed me the monitor and I noticed some activities in my womb. I said, ‘Wow, this might be my time!’ I breathed a sigh of relief on that day. My joy became fully made.
“Meanwhile, I still told my husband not to think too much of it, maybe the doctor didn’t want to make us sad, that’s why he said I was pregnant. But my husband encouraged me. He had always stood by me.”
“It is normal in our environment that if you are childless, people would call you various names. But what helped me is my husband’s faithfulness and support, as well as my own positive attitude. I don’t easily get angry over issues. When people told me something negative or called me names, I would just go back home and pray instead of crying.
“Some people in my husband’s family confronted me, ‘Release your husband, let him go. Stop tying him down, you are a witch.’ But I usually told them jokingly that I was not tying my husband down. As a matter of fact, if he wanted to marry as many as 10 wives, I told them I didn’t care. It’s even better for me because I would have some peace.
“My husband taught in the university and where he worked, he could have also married any female lecturer. But he is a devout Christian. I remember a man in his family once told me, ‘You married the best person in our family. If you had married someone like me, I would have left you a long time ago.’ I told him, ‘Thank you, sir.’”
Now, after 40 years, her first child has made all her mockers become her friends within the past few days. They have been calling to congratulate her.
“I think it’s better when people are negative because it’s an opportunity to draw you closer to God. But when you are angry in your heart and you keep malice, it makes the results of your expectations to never come.”
She further encouraged those in similar situation like she was to be patient and wait for their time.
“So my message to women in similar circumstances is that they should hold on. They shouldn’t go about visiting herbalists and taking concoctions because they want to have a baby.
“That was a decision I took right from time. There were suggestions that I should visit herbalists, but I didn’t give in. You don’t know what concoctions you would take and would spoil your womb. The best thing is to be patient until one’s time.”
Taofeek Ogunfunmilayo, the doctor at the Atoke Medical Centre in Abeokuta where she gave birth, also expressed shock over the incident, he noted that he had never seen such a thing in his years of medical practice.
“Mrs Otubusin came here for the first time in April, following referral from St Ives Fertility Centre. She was referred here when the pregnancy was just two months old and I took over her antenatal care. I had to introduce some drugs because of her age, but thank God things went smoothly.
“When the pregnancy was 16 weeks old, we did cerclage insertion for her and what this entailed was that it would help close the opening of the womb into the vagina so that the womb wouldn’t open too early before the baby got matured.
“We monitored her on an outpatient basis until the pregnancy was 30 weeks old. Then we had to do foetal kick-chart, wherein the mother would know the well-being of the baby in the womb. With the procedure and help of some radiologists, the pregnancy progressed. Immediately it clocked 36 weeks and two days, that was on October 20, we planned her for surgery. I told the specialists at St Ives and they also came here.
“We took her to the theatre room at 11am and by 12.30pm, the surgery was over and behold, it was a boy, weighing 2.5kg! We wanted to feed him with formula before because we thought the mother was stressed and should be allowed to rest after the surgery. But by the following day, she was already breastfeeding the baby.”
“Since I have been practising, I have never seen anything close to this: a 66-year-old woman becoming pregnant and having a baby. She is one of the oldest women to have had a baby through IVF.
“It is amazing, and I am happy it happened in Nigeria, because it shows we are moving forward. It is really a success story because many women have been calling me since Mrs Otubusin’s story broke. But for the high cost of IVF, I believe many women passing through similar challenges would have had their stories changed,” he said.