Why did you choose surrogacy as a means of becoming a mother?
Every time I got pregnant, it ended up in miscarriage before the second trimester. Since I could get pregnant a few times by my husband, it was obvious that my eggs and his sperm were good, but my body was the issue. So, the logic of surrogacy made sense at that point, and I thought of trying another body. That was why I decided to try surrogacy.
When you decided to try surrogacy, did you face any opposition from family and friends?
When I decided to try surrogacy, I did not inform my family members or friends. They were not going to support me financially; so, all I needed to do was agree with my husband, find the right clinic and raise the money. We didn’t discuss it with family members until I was already pregnant, then we told them we were expecting children via surrogacy. At that point, they (family and friends) could do nothing other than to be grateful and pray for the pregnancy to be successful so that they could come and do ‘omugwo’.
Surrogacy is not well known in Nigeria as a means of childbearing. In what ways have you been able to sensitise people to it?
With me being open about my use of surrogacy to give birth to my twin children and founding a surrogate agency, I have been able to sensitise people and create more awareness about surrogacy in the country. It has encouraged a lot of people to consider the same route I took. Also, it has helped them to relinquish some of their doubts and myths about surrogacy.
How does the agency regulate its activities since surrogacy has no legal framework governing it in Nigeria?
In Nigeria, an agreement by two people signed and sealed is legal and binding. So, despite Nigeria’s need to make more laws about surrogacy, we ensure that our agreement is legal and that our guarantors exist for the surrogate. With the law firms and state security, we are able to impose or implement an agreement in Nigeria.
When a couple say they want to give birth through surrogacy, are they the ones to get the surrogate mother or the agency makes the provision?
When a couple comes seeking to give birth through surrogacy, we first run some health checks to see if they are a good prospect. Also, we check what they need, if the wife’s eggs are good, if the husband’s sperm are good, and if they can actually do this process. After the health checks are done and all is good, then the agency, after signing an agreement with them, goes into the process of getting them a healthy and reliable surrogate to go through with the process. The agency provides the surrogate, monitors the surrogate and pays the surrogate. The couple do not necessarily have to know the surrogate if they do not want to.
What are some of the measures you have put in place to guarantee that the surrogate mothers stay till the deal is done?
In reality, one can’t force a woman to have a child; that will be slave trade or human trafficking. But with the signed agreement in place from the beginning, the surrogate knows that the child is not hers and the bills used for the process are on her if she relinquishes the agreement. Moreover, the children are not related to the surrogate by DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid). That is why I am more into gestational surrogacy than traditional surrogacy. When a child is not related to a surrogate, what is the motivation behind her wanting to keep the child?
Does your agency major in natural or gestational surrogacy?
Traditional surrogacy is where the egg of the surrogate mother is used for the IVF process, while gestational surrogacy does not involve the egg of the surrogate. I major in gestational surrogacy because it is less complicated.
What are those things you look out for while selecting a surrogate mother to guarantee a higher success rate?
We don’t accept just anyone for the role of a surrogate. First, we look at their ages because we want people within the fertile age. Hence, we prefer people who are less than 30 years. Then, we look at their health status and check if they are able to bear a child. Then, we run a mental evaluation on them to know if they are mentally ready for the journey. When these things are in place, we look at their family background. We get to know them personally and their relatives, and such security measures ensure that the journey is safe and stress-free.
What are some of the effects of surrogacy on the child?
(Laughs) From my children, I don’t believe or know any effect of surrogacy on a child. The genes of a child are what make that child. It is how a child is raised that will determine what the child will become.
What are some of the challenges you have faced since you started the agency?
My biggest challenge in the surrogate agency is the cost of a surrogacy. While I wish more people would be able to afford it, infertility is expensive on its own. It is quite painful that many people can’t access this service because of the high cost of fertility drugs and treatment.
How were you able to manage those challenges?
Basically, I do what I can to manage the challenges. I can’t solve everybody’s problem but there are cases where some people cannot afford my service or any agency because of their financial capacity. In such cases, I give them the advice I can; I direct them to good clinics with affordable prices; I advise them on healthier lifestyles and suggestions on what to do to increase their chances of fertility. The least I can do is to help those who are in the same situation I was in.
Apart from the agency, what are your other areas of interest?
Apart from my agency, family is a great interest for me. My two daughters, who are growing beautifully, are the love of my life. While I was unable to give birth, I was eventually able to diagnose the cause of my infertility and it was lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body of a person fights against itself rather than for it. Since I discovered this, it affected not just my infertility, it affected my lifestyle. I then joined groups that help people living with the disease to live a better lifestyle by increasing their awareness.
What will you consider your major achievement so far?
The babies that have been born through me (surrogate agency) are major achievements for me. Friends, family members and anyone who was motivated by my journey of surrogacy and the successes we have had so far are also part of my achievements.
What can be done to gain the approval and support of the government for surrogacy?
We keep talking more and hoping that we will be heard. I am hopeful that laws will be put in place to help people looking for the fruit of the womb. Also, I hope that healthcare for infertility will be cheaper like it is done in some countries. For example, In Vitro Fertilisation is under the National Health Insurance Scheme in some countries and I hope we get to that stage too.
What is your educational background?
I am a graduate of Mechanical Engineering and I have worked in two cement companies before I resigned. I was in a previous marriage before this my present one. When I got married the second time, I decided to resign and focus on my fertility and getting my own children.
When you are not working, what else do you like to do?
I like to read a novel or I go to a park to ease stress. I don’t like travelling, especially by road.