• When I’m at Work, I’m not Mrs. Ajayi, He’s Not My Husband

It is fast becoming the vogue to see couples, who have moved from being partners at home to sharing a workspace. Tola Ajayi, one of such, the Clinic Manager, Nordica Fertility Center, Lagos, co-manages the hospital with her husband where they help childless couples actualise their dream of having children. Her husband is the Medical Director of Nordica Fertility Center. The beautiful woman, known for her caring nature, is a friend to all, an attribute fast fading in our medical institutions. With a warm hug and big sunny smiles, she talks about the journey so far, challenges working with her husband, Nordica Fertility Center at 15, their recent outing on Endometriosis and being a sex therapist. She speaks with Omolola Itayemi

Over the years, you have been working with your husband, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, how has it been?
Well, I think I will call it great. Though it was a bit tough, I never thought I could work with him. He just came home one day and said …you are coming to Nordica. I was trained as a nurse. I was working at a neurology clinic. One thing I decided since the day I joined him almost 11 years ago was that when I’m at work I’m not Mrs. Ajayi, we will relate like I work for him. But the moment we get into the car I become Mrs. Ajayi. When he calls me at work I answer ‘Yes Sir’, that is the only way we can function because if you allow emotion to come in, you won’t be able to function. So, I don’t put emotions to it at all when I’m at work, he’s not my husband at all.

Any challenges working here?
Sometimes, I have contrary opinion to his and because I cannot confront him, I just keep quiet. Maybe we now talk about it later. Sometimes, if I feel strongly against what he says, I do send him a text or whatsapp message of ‘No, No, I don’t think this would fly.’ We may be in the same meeting. I just quickly send a message about my opinion about it because I will not want to oppose whatever he’s saying. That sometimes is a challenge. If I’m right, I will not let him rest until he listens to me and he knows. I will not let him rest. I will keep bothering him until he listens to me.

You are a sex therapist, tell us what it entails?
I do fertility counseling, I do sex and relationship counseling. They are all interwoven. That’s why I had to go for training so that I will know what to do talking to our clients. We have issues about sex among people who are fertility challenged. Sometimes, they don’t even have sex again. Sometimes, it has become like once in six months, sometimes two times, some couple maybe only during ovulation and other clients it’s a no- why are we doing it? Sometimes, you see the men coming to the clinic unable to produce semen maybe there’s no erection. The man would come in to confide in me, ‘madam I don’t have erectile problem o, I can perform outside. It’s only with the woman’. Sometimes, they don’t find each other attractive again, so there’s no sex.  Meanwhile, the man says he’s fine outside.  Looking at that, it’s not a sexual problem, it’s a relationship problem. Things like that you have to work on it for them to get over it.

Your dress sense is admired by all, have you always been this way?
This has always been me. Right from growing up, this has always been me. I had my low cut almost 20 years now because my last daughter is 16 years and I have started wearing low cut before I was pregnant for her. I just got fed up one day and cut my hair. I just like to be happy. I believe that the situation in the country might not allow someone to be happy. When you look at the situations around you, you will not be happy but I choose to do some things that will make me feel good. My dressing is one of them. I do not owe anybody any explanations. Whatever will make me happy is just what I want to do. There are two colours; Nordica has orange and blue. I bought five orange, five blue afro wigs. I picked orange. I use the wig to express how happy we are. Valentine we used white and red; Christmas we used green. White and red, for independence we wear green wig, endometriosis, we used yellow wig because that is the colour for endometriosis. I know someone who makes wigs. She has a factory. Anytime I need a particular colour, I will just let her know and she will make it for me. It’s the norm here, part of our dressing anytime we have to celebrate, I order for the colour of the day of the event while ordering for the wigs. We appear this way because Nordica was 15 the day we had endometriosis gala and because we had the event, we didn’t feel the anniversary so we decided to make some fun with our clients. And they all love it. The colours make them look so good.

You recently had Endometriosis day/gala night. Tell us how it all went?
It was a beautiful outing. The turnout was impressive. We had the awareness walk in March; we always want it to coincide with International Women’s day. We had a walk and a lot of people joined Diamond women and it turned out well.  The awareness of endometriosis is gaining ground in Nigeria. Someone will call to say; I think I have a friend who might have endometriosis from what you people are talking about.  We are getting there. We are not yet there and a lot of people do send messages on instagram, or facebook messages to Dr. Ajayi that they have endometriosis, how can you help? We also had a special round table, which we invited two doctors from Germany to have a talk with our doctors on the current diagnosis and management of endometriosis and the turnout was very impressive. To round it off, we had endometriosis gala on Saturday. We want to raise awareness and see if people can donate to the foundation.  It’s a way to tell people to support the foundation. We had the media merit award that night which was the third edition. We also had secondary school essay competition, the second edition and incidentally the school that won last year also won this year and the English teacher was recognised.

What are the key things to know about Endometriosis?
Endometriosis as you may be aware is a debilitating condition which affects one in 10 women. It is a condition in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus, typically on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, intestines or other areas in the pelvis. It is most characterised by late diagnosis as most physicians tend to miss it. With all that we know today, we are bringing a message of hope to sufferers, new technologies and treatments are becoming available to manage the condition.

Even as a grandmother you look good, tell us your secret?
Now, I exercise. I wasn’t doing that before.  I eat right; I eat lots of vegetables and fruits. I don’t eat late. I drink a lot of water. I take about 4.5 liters of water in a day. I drink a lot of water. I exercise and I pray. Up till two years ago, I wasn’t doing anything fantastic. I eat whatever I want to eat, I changed because I saw a friend diagnosed with cancer and it progressed until she died and that really shook me. From that moment, I decided to have a change in my eating pattern. I don’t stress myself because I know that whatever I’m not in control, I cannot do anything about it so I don’t put it on my head. But my look has always been a blessing from God. Even my style, I grew up with that type of life with my mum. She used to be a major distributor of laces when we were much younger. Then we were not wearing many dresses, we were so much into lace and gold. That was my style then. I wore laces and gold alot until I met my husband and my dress sense changed.

What kinds of clothes do you prefer to wear?
To work, I wear everything. I wear dresses, I wear trousers, but now I am beginning to tilt towards three quarter pants and a jacket. I’m doing more of that now. I like to wear trousers a lot. My casuals are usually like top and jeans, leggings and top. I love my owambe outfits too.

Can you tell us the number of children from this centre since inception?
We have about 2,500. Why we cannot say this is the number is that some people when they get pregnant, we don’t hear from them again. Sometimes they even change their phone number. Sometimes, they don’t know it’s for their own good because we want to see how the children are growing, because we probably need to look into their developmental stages because a lot of people still believe that IVF babies are not normal babies but we are saying they are normal babies and I want to see them grow so that we can monitor them. We want to see their performance in school. The ones that we have now, we monitor a lot of them and they are doing very well. That’s why I will not want to put a number but we have about 2,500 and we count more because we have a lot of multiples, we had five babies, four, and three, there are plenty of twins.