Procreation is normal. The ups and downs associated with preparing for the baby’s arrival is also expected. However, throwing in fertility issues of an African couple and a growing global pandemic, the idea that a surrogate from another country is the solution to a childless African couple is absurd as far as the typical African mentality goes.
But that’s exactly what happened to the couple, Patrick and Enitan Goredema.
“When we got married we started trying and the doctor told us to try for a year and if nothing happens come back. We did that and then we had to do so many tests and after the tests nothing was happening. Then we did IVF and nothing was working. After the IVF and all my embryos were wasted I was diagnosed with endometriosis which means implantation would be very difficult. So that’s when we started looking into surrogacy,” Enitan explained.
Patrick, who is from Zimbabwe and Enitan from Nigeria, share similar cultural backgrounds where having someone outside of marriage carry a baby is a far-fetched idea on the African continent.
In Nigeria, the concept of surrogacy is an underground alternative for procreation. In the sense that it is an option but only after socio-cultural pressures have led a woman to that solution. Here, it is a means to an end, because for the African woman, her place in a matrimonial home is not secure until she can bear a child. Women could be outcast, shunned, subject to potential public disgrace and humiliation for not being able to biologically have a child.
In Zimbabwe, development in surrogacy has advanced, the practice is accepted more and hospitals and other health-related services offer the legal arrangement as and when it is needed.
Though, for this couple, circumstances were a little different and in their favour.
“We were just lucky we were in Canada and the fact that we got to know our problems in the first two, three years it very much helped because at that point we were like ‘I guess we are just going to live without a child or we’ll leave it in God’s hands as they say’,” Patrick said.
“Trying for six years really took a toll on us. I remember certain times my wife was coming to me saying ‘hey, you know what? Patrick, feel free to leave the marriage if you have to because I know you are an African man and you need to have your babies’ and stuff like that. And that really hit me hard during that time.
We had been dating for four years before we got married. So when she was saying things like that, it was devastating. We cried a lot; emotions were flying and then it dawned on me that we really may not have a child. It was a nightmare. We grew apart at some point but then we made up and then said ‘hey, we have to work together here!’”
Five years in, after their second time attempting IVF, and their chances got slimmer and slimmer, Patrick started looking into solutions and found surrogacy.
“He did all the research and I was very opposed to it because at the time I was not open-minded. I was still hopeful that I will get pregnant and even while he was telling me about it all, I was telling myself, I know I’m not going to do it.
At that point, I wasn’t even thinking about myself anymore. I was thinking about ‘oh, what would people think?’ I was at that point where I was ok with actually adopting.”
After finding out adopting was a longer process, they decided on surrogacy.
They queried processes in South Africa and Kenya, in search for an African surrogate, but settled on a woman from Tbilisi in Georgia.
“The regulations were not favourable to us in those places but one of the things that made us come to Georgia, was that the birth certificate that we would get would have the mother’s name on it. While, the other countries required the surrogate’s name over the mother’s.
Honestly, we only went looking for an African surrogate because we thought there would be a transferral of genes and the baby might come out mixed,” they both said laughing. “We were not very educated about it, but now we know that it doesn’t work like that.”
Enitan and Patrick flew to Georgia to start the process and then upon returning, they met their surrogate for the first time over a video call.
“The first time that we skyped with her, I think she wanted to impress us. So she was wearing a dashiki and she had her hair in braids like mine and I was wowed; ‘you didn’t have to do that but thank you’. When we were talking to her she told us she got good vibes and we did from her too.”
A match made in heaven of sorts, information came that the baby was due on 13 April, 2020. it was a worthwhile experience but there was just one more hurdle – countries started locking down due to the global spread of COVID-19, and this included Georgia.
The Goredemas missed the birth of their son. They did however see the baby being born by caesarean section in a video sent to them.
“Before the video was sent, that day we didn’t sleep. We stayed up till about three in the morning and when she gave birth, oh my goodness! It was the most beautiful day. The cry of the baby was so beautiful to my ears. It was a very joyful moment,” Enitan said.
“For me, it was wow we did it, am I really ready for this?” Patrick added.
As soon as they got the chance to get a flight out to Georgia, they did. They quarantined for two weeks in a hotel on edge and then finally laid eyes on their beautiful baby boy.
Day 14 came, and at last, after every hurdle thrown at the couple, they dressed up in their finest clothing and went to meet their son for the very first time.
Now, back in Canada, at home, they are one happy family.