Coping with childlessness While waiting on God
These are some of the moving, yet resolute words on a Facebook page - Waiting Wombs - started by 33-year-old Editah Hadassah Trip and 38-year-old Ken Trip Okoye following their 10-year struggle to conceive. The couple, 10 years in marriage, opened up to ESTHER AKELLO on their childless marriage, finding contentment in each other and why they are reaching out to other couples facing the same predicament.
So, how did you meet?
Ken: My campus choir – Maseno University Choir – was on a mission to their school, Koru Girls in Kisumu. Each time we stood to perform or their school choir, which she was a part of, took to the podium we kept stealing glances at each other.
Editah: Then just like that it was over even before it began. We went our separate ways. As a high school student, the idea of a relationship was not even conceivable. We met again in 2005.
Under what circumstances?
Ken: I’d left campus and had joined another singing group. We needed an alto so we sent word out through friends. Well, what do you know? Editah shows up for the auditions and ended up in the group (grinning). But she spent all her time confusing me!
Editah: (Laughing) We became good friends! Six months into our friendship, I moved to Kisumu to be near Ken. Initially, I told my mum that I was moving to Kisumu because my course was cheaper there. I came clean after a while and she was okay with it.
That’s a giant leap for a six-month-old relationship. How did you know it was going to work out?
Ken: Distance does not favour relationships, especially young relationships and I was single and stable. Funny enough, we never discussed the move. We did not even consider ourselves to be in a relationship per se. What kept us going was our friendship. It was never that serious and we never put pressure on each other to act as husband and wife or girlfriend and boyfriend, for that matter.
Editah: For me it was a no-brainer. I prayed to God to bring my way my future husband and then Ken showed up. After two years of courtship, we got married.
Pet peeves after you got married?
Ken: There’s a freedom that a man enjoys when he is single such as not having to answer to anyone and you can just chill with your boys. But when you get married, (sighs) you have to start coming home in ‘good’ time and explain where you’ve been.
Editah: (Smiling) It’s just me making sure you’re okay. After all, if something happens to you I’m the one they’re going to call, right?
Ken: (Laughing) You say that but you know sometimes it’s just you guys snooping to find out who we’re hanging out with! The reason it’s a deal breaker with some men, not me though, is because it’s their ‘me’ time and they don’t want it to be curtailed or monitored. It’s a man thing!
But on the same token, some men really police their wives. Shouldn’t women also just have their free time without being policed?
Ken: In my humble opinion, for men it’s a protective thing. Men are the protectors of the home and it boils down to genuine concern, not even who a woman is with. (Laughing) You know if she goes out with your credit card, it’s you who’s going to suffer! But on a more serious note, women are vulnerable and there are a lot of bullies out there.
Editah: I should probably point out that he struggles with communicating. He returns calls but texts not so much so we’ve just learnt to live with that.
You came out on social media as a couple struggling with conception. Was it easy to share your story with the world?
Editah: After talking to several friends, I realised some people were dying with shame and guilt over childlessness. Often times pressure stems from outside sources and not even one’s spouse. It is not a topic people like to talk about. We decided if we were going to be the sacrificial lamb to help reduce stigma surrounding this issue by sharing our journey, then so be it.
Ken: The pressure is rarely projected on men. This is what inspired us to start Waiting Wombs Trust. I may be a man but I am also a waiting womb. We are each investors and partakers of the process. We hope the trust will give couples a platform to share and support each other without judgment.
When and how did you realise that it would not be automatic for you guys to have a child?
Editah: We realised that something was amiss three years into our marriage. I suffer from endometriosis but according to doctors that is not a good enough reason as to why I’ve been unable to conceive up until this point. We started actively seeking various solutions five years into our marriage.
Ken: We’ve both gone for testing and there is nothing, medically speaking, amiss. At times we take it for granted that we can’t control some things. It will happen when it will happen and at the right time. I’m patient. I’m willing to wait.
How has your family and friends dealt with your struggle?
Editah: You know at first people just assume that as a newlywed couple, you’re still in your honeymoon stage in the first year. Then the second year they get nosy and start teasing. The third year they start monitoring for ‘signs’ and start questioning. Everywhere you go someone asks ‘what are you guys waiting for?’ It never occurs to them that something could be up.
Ken: Our families have been very supportive of the fact that we are yet to have a child. Society, however, is something else altogether but there are people who are genuinely concerned. We’ve learnt to identify and embrace such people.
Have you considered other options aside from natural conception?
Ken: We are considering all our options and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is one of them but it’s cost prohibitive. So we are reserved about it at the moment. We are also open to adoption but there’s no definite time plan.
Editah: We also know that in our case, there is nothing wrong with us per se so we are content with being a waiting womb. We are giving natural conception another go.
How did you find peace with your situation?
Editah: Initially, I’d get irritated when people asked what we were waiting for. What concern was it of theirs if we had not had a child yet? It was painful to deal with but over time I have learnt to develop a thick skin. (Laughing) Now I give an answer depending on my mood. Thankfully, I’ve never blamed myself or felt that we are running late. So many couples have children years into their marriage.
Ken: It’s given us life perspective. What of couples that don’t make it to the other side because they cannot support each other through it? (Laughing) When people ask why we are waiting, our answer is usually, “We are going to work on it tonight. We’ll get back to you.”
Is it that easy to grow a thick skin?
Editah: I do have moments when I’m low. I stopped attending baby showers because of oestrogen-filled moments like when you are holding a child. I have no problem holding a baby but sometimes tears (of joy or sadness) would freely flow while in my heart I’d be crying out to God to remember me like he did Hannah.
Ken: Some months are harder than others. There are months we think this is it and then it doesn’t happen. That can be disappointing.
Does trying so hard to get pregnant strain your sex life?
Ken: There are moments when it’s more work than pleasure like when doctors advise an optimum time to try for a baby. But it has never been stressful per se.
Editah: When we started out, we would check in regularly with doctors and treatments. After a while you start feeling like specimens. We just decided to trust that it would happen in its own perfect time. Now we just enjoy our marriage.
So how do you enjoy your marriage?
Editah: We try to travel at least once a year. We also visit with family and our house is always full of our nieces and nephews. We make music. We are a musical couple so we are involved heavily in that. I’d definitely say our marriage is blessed.
Ken: Let’s not forget our cat Yona! We are also friends. There are definitely moments when we can’t stand each other, so the friendship helps.
So how do you deal with those moments when you can’t stand each other?
Ken: As far as differences are concerned, we are not the shouting type. If I notice she’s not okay, I’ll probably ask her about it. Often times she’ll say ‘nothing’. That definitely means something is up! (Laughing) Then when we are just about to go to bed, she starts talking! As a man I can choose to be happy or to be right. When I feel being right can cost us our happiness, I sacrifice: I believe the same applies to her.
Editah: When I’m low, I talk or cry. When Ken is having a bad day, I can tell from his eyes. I give him space, which can be hard because as a woman, instinct demands I find out what’s going on.
You fall back a lot on your friendship as a key to the success of your marriage. How would you describe it?
Ken: We play, dance and sing together. We have our own little inside jokes. Marriage takes a lot of work. There have been heartaches and disappointment. Talk of ‘the other’ woman in a relationship and redefining boundaries – those moments are there intentionally or unintentionally. It takes time but it is also a lot of work.
Editah: If the world turns against me or if I mess up, I know Ken would have my back. You know sometimes as a woman you just need to release, cry and not have to explain why you have to do that? He always tells me to cry on his shoulder during such moments.
Ken: (Laughing), Yeah I can double up as a girlfriend when she needs me to.
Editah: It’s friendship that has sustained us. I also pray for my husband. He’s the scriptures guy and tends to be the encouraging one in our relationship while I’m more of the prayer warrior.
What would you tell couples struggling to conceive?
Ken: Don’t give up. Be patient and most importantly, support each other
Editah: Trust God. Find happiness in giving joy to others and enjoy life’s little moments. Society should also stop putting unnecessary pressure on childless couples.
Published April 2017…