‘Waiting To Become A Mom’ By Tomi Akitunde

“We all have a story to share when it comes to our struggle to build a family. Do you know how much power our stories have? They can change policies, make someone realize they are not alone, and can erase the stigmas and biases so many of us face.” In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week®, we’re sharing Tomi Akitunde’s story.

A couple sitting on a bed looking at a negative pregnancy test

I didn’t think about marriage or children until I met my husband Scott in 2013. Or I did, but as eventual inevitabilities. The sun rises in the east, it sets in the west, and I’ll probably be someone’s wife and mother one day.

 

We talked about our children…as if they were already here.

 

Unlike becoming a journalist or moving to New York, being “someone’s wife and mom” weren’t goals I had and they weren’t honorifics I thought I would have to work hard to receive. They would just be milestones I would reach whenever I was supposed to reach them, like getting boobs or growing a few more inches.

I thought of Scott as a father before I ever thought of myself as a mother. When we first started dating I had a vision that’s so clear, sometimes it feels like a memory: He was walking toward the corner outside my first New York apartment, heading toward the bodega, with an about 3-year-old boy on his shoulders. I could only see their backs, but I knew they were mine. My husband carrying our son.

I can’t remember when I could start hearing my biological clock ticking, but that shit got real loud in my early 30s. I would cry when I saw mothers and fathers loving on their babies in commercials, I would cry when I saw children abandoned or abused. (“Who would do that?” I would sob into Scott’s chest. “How could somebody hurt a child? Should we start fostering kids?!”)

 

 

Tomi and Scott, parents in waiting.
Tomi and Scott, parents in waiting.

 

We talked about our children—three, two boys and one girl, just like my family—as if they were already here. We knew their names and had hopes for the type of family culture we’d build with them: reading books and watching old-school cartoons; Shabbat dinners every Friday night and trips to Lagos, Nigeria and Kansas City, Missouri so they could connect with their Jewish and Nigerian heritages.

I cooed at babies in a way most people reserve for viral videos of unlikely animal friendships and puppies who haven’t grown into their paws yet. Facebook and Instagram must’ve caught on because the sponsored ads on my personal accounts went from fast-fashion dresses to strollers, breast pumps, and cribs. I created an Instagram collection and Gmail label called “Frieki Baby” and “Baby Frieki” respectively (a nod to our relationship portmanteau Friekitunde) to house posts and articles about sleep training and registry must-haves that had no relevance to me at the moment, but I knew one day would.

I was 32 when we got married. We had a plan: Enjoy it just being the two of us for a year, and then start trying. At that point, I wasn’t so removed from the idea of motherhood.

After a few years of working on mater mea and hearing stories from women like Rhonda RossTakiema Bunche Smith, and Tori Johnson-Jones, I saw viable pregnancies and births as the miracles they actually are. I also knew that my medical history of fibroids and my mother’s own experiences with miscarriages might affect my ability to get pregnant and/or carry a pregnancy to full term.

All smiles in December, after my uterus got a clean bill of reproductive health.
All smiles in December, after my uterus got a clean bill of reproductive health.

 

So at the end of December 2018, we started trying. February 2019, my usually punctual period was late. The date my fertility tracking app told me to take a pregnancy test fell on Valentine’s Day.

 

I swooned at the significance and got real corny, y’all—How beautiful would it be to find out our love created a new extension of our love on this day of LOVE?!?!

I Googled early pregnancy symptoms and was convinced each one had me written all over it. We recorded a video to capture our Valentine’s Day Eve excitement, but hours later discovered my period was just on CP Time that month.

Looking back now, that video—us with huge dopey smiles speaking to our “maybe baby”—was the first artifact of our infertility journey. We wouldn’t have confirmation that was what was happening until months later, but in the meantime, I started collecting negative ovulation kit strip tests and re-upping my Honeypot Co. tampon subscription. I saw the pictures of sonograms, felt board announcements, and cradled bumps of strangers, received the “I’m pregnant!” sit-downs with and texts from close friends and acquaintances. I was so happy for them, but I was ready to be happy for me, too.

 

The Valentine’s Day pregnancy test.
The Valentine’s Day pregnancy test.

 

Usually, fertility specialists ask you to try for a year before you get the infertility diagnosis, but with me knocking at 34 (and a year away from the very rude label of “geriatric pregnancy”), we went to a male fertility specialist in September 2019 and learned that the chances of us conceiving without medical assistance were slim to none. We also learned that the specifics of Scott’s diagnosis meant that we wouldn’t be good candidates for IUI and would have to go straight to IVF-ICSI.

We spent the rest of the year getting Scott’s sperm analyzed, and talking about our options as two freelancers who did not have the same bank accounts as the venture capitalists and finance bros and women our doctor was used to seeing in his Midtown office.

I won’t have a ‘We weren’t even trying!’ or ‘Trying was the fun part!’ story…

 

I felt cheated out of what I thought my motherhood story would be. I won’t have a “We weren’t even trying!” or “Trying was the fun part!” story; the way I will become a mother to those children we’ve been talking about for years will require so much effort. And there is nothing fun about being in a room with drawers full of porn DVDs (mostly starring Asian women for some reason?) and remotes in plastic bags as your husband does his business in a cup. (Funny at times? Yes. Fun? No.)

Our timeline got pushed back to figure out the money, then to figure out our relationship, and now coronavirus has pushed it back to an unforeseeable future as IVF has been deemed a nonessential procedure. The virus has only amplified my desire to be a mom, and it is unclear when that will happen for me.

 

When will the shelter-in-place orders drop?

When will I feel safe to venture outside of my home?

When will I be ready to start the hormone treatments, the egg retrieval, and embryo transfer?

When, when, when?

 

I don’t have any answers to those questions. And plenty of women who have different stories but are ultimately in the same “wait-and-see” space that I’m in probably feel equally lost.

So as Mother’s Day approaches and we celebrate the women who brought us into the world (or cared for us as if they did) and as mamas and mamas-to-be reflect on their motherhood journeys, I’m holding space in my heart for the mamas in waiting and the moms of angels ready for their rainbow babies.

I’m so happy for you moms. But I’m ready to be happy for us, too.

 

 

This post was originally published on mater mea and republished on The Tot with permission. Tomi’s essay was also part of a special series in partnership with Permission to Write called Mom/Me: An exploration of motherhood and beyond. This collection of poetry, essays, and visual media showcase the many facets of motherhood and our relationship to it. 

 

 

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