Former beauty queen Mrs Ibidunni Ajayi-Ighodalo opened up about her search for a child in a rare interview with Thisday’s Nseobong Okon-Ekong.
The wife of Trinity House founder and accountant, Pastor Itua Ighodalo also talked about dedicating her life to helping others through her Ibidunni Ighodalo Foundation, IIF by funding IVF treatment for couples who are hoping to have their own children.
When the CEO of Elizabeth R got married in 2007, her expectations were like those of every many married woman, to give birth to children. Her wedding to Itua Ighodalo, was celebrated, even if it was attended with a heat of debate from his previous union.
Nonetheless, friends and family members rallied round to give them the much needed support, while other interested members of the public attracted by their individual and combined eminence followed with keen enduring attention.
Close to one decade on, the loathing generated in some quarters at the onset of their relationship has definitely receded.
The rumour mill which spewed torrents of lopsided and coloured tales that caused the couple a lot of trauma, even if a bit, has withdrawn, but the pain of those turbulent years live with her still. For one who keeps to herself, the scrutiny of her marriage in the public, led her to sew-up. She reduced the number of persons she called friends to a handful, becoming more and more engrossed with her husband.
“I have heard stories of in-laws calling the woman painful names. Those are hurtful things to say. There are names you don’t want to call a woman that is looking up to God.” Mrs Ighodalo began…
She continued to share her experiences.
“People may not want to be mean, but they don’t know that certain statements and body language hurt. When you are waiting on God, you can be sensitive to what people say or do and they might not know it will hurt or hit you. It is good to raise awareness and understanding about childless couples. Friends and relatives should be a bit more sensitive to women or couples who are waiting on the Lord. I know that because of our culture, the pressure is so much. The shoes of women who are waiting on the Lord are not very easy shoes. Emotionally, mentally and psychologically, hormonally, when you are going through treatments, it’s a rollercoaster-you deal with in-laws, society, friends, there’s a lot going on.”
“People who get married and have children don’t know how lucky they are. I mean you are even careful not to get pregnant again, you are so blessed by God, you should thank God every day. It is not easy to find yourself in a situation where your friends are doing school runs, you don’t know what that is, you don’t even know what your first trimester is. The friends you had bridal showers with are having baby showers, it takes the grace of God to remain sane, honestly.”
On her 35th birthday last year, she decided to turn the lemon that life had thrown at her into lemonade. It had become her fashion to write a wish list on the day she was born and then tick-off the accomplished ones on her next birthday.
Every year, she scored high on every point, but one: The issue of childlessness had become a sore point that could not be addressed.
She had prayed and sought different avenues for a medical solution, but the problem just could not be wished away.
Although she enjoyed the understanding and love of her husband and in-laws, the quest for a child consumed her.
“I had tears in my eyes when I told God, ‘you know what? This is enough. You are going to do it when You want to do it, in Your own time and if You are not going to do it, let it be left undone. This is You. I trust You. Right now, it’s ok, I’m going to live my life. I found out that I had stopped living, because that was all I wanted. I said no, I’m going to be happy, live my life and leave it all to God. I’m grateful to God for my own family, for the family I’m married into.”
Those statements to God with tears in her eyes opened a window to air her bottled emotions.
It lifted a huge weight off her shoulders. As she cleared her mind of the cobwebs of trying to have a baby, she was amazed to receive one of the most altruistic ideas with clarity. Her husband was no less enthused when she shared the idea with him.
“My focus now is to help others, one at a time. I want to make a family happy and with the help of God, their prayers would be answered. I know the pain and what it feels like. It will give me joy to see them jumping and rejoicing, saying that they are expecting their own children. I have seen it happen. I have seen the two sides during my course of treatment. I said God help me, let me do this. When you focus on helping others, you don’t know the blessings that come back to you. It is difficult but I said Lord you have put this in me, You have to provide. You know when God gives you a vision, He makes the provision. I have been amazed at the response. It is unbelievable.”
“When I was going through some treatment, I would get to the clinic and someone who has just done a pregnancy test was being told that it didn’t work, it was always so devastating for me to hear them wonder aloud where they would get money for the next treatment. I have met women who came to the hospital to get the treatment but they couldn’t afford it. Some couldn’t even afford the test to know what was wrong. I have also met women who decided to share their burden, this is how financially draining this treatment can be. If you have extra eggs, you can sell them in exchange for the treatment. When women share eggs left from a successful IVF on another women or they use the woman’s extra cycle that has been paid for, these are ways women support one another because getting an egg donor can be very expensive.”
“It is so strange and funny, but when you sit back and think about it, every family has somebody who is waiting on God for a child. The person might be your cousin or mum’s sister. There are certain ways we will treat the person. But do you know that there are certain ways we treat somebody else coming into our family with the same issue? We don’t treat them the same. It is not intentional. If you have in-laws who are not nice to you, they will think it’s your fault. They will call you names, talk down on you. If your in-laws have somebody in their family who is waiting, they will never speak to the person like that. We really need to have a support system and also learn to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.”
The graduate of Microbiology from the University of Lagos is using the platform of IIF to award grants for fertility treatment such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Frozen Embryo Transfer and Intrauterine Insemination. She was forced to change her initial plan to help one or two couples when she received tons of applications. The plan has now changed to accommodate 28 couples.
“There are some couples that have applied that have been married for between 20 and 25 years and when I read their history, they have come to a point where they are tired. I even found out that it was their family that applied for some of them. A lot of people have asked me why I don’t face my life, why am I trying to be Mother Theresa. What is it? Is it that you have so much money you don’t know what to do with it. I can’t even explain it.”