Growing up as an LDS member in the beautiful city of Montreal, Quebec, I realized early on that I was an odd duck. My parents, who are originally from Togo in West Africa, joined the Church before I was born, but my father stopped attending when I was a child. Being fourth out a five siblings, I also grew up between two brothers. Let’s just say, I am the girl who played football and made the boys cry, but also the one who went through the Young Women program and completed my Personal Progress twice.
I joined the Army reserve at age 17 after spending many years in the youth cadets’ organization. It just seemed a natural progression to me. Although I had some supporters, I knew many who disagreed with my choice. I guess it was not the place to be for a proper young lady. Being a Black Mormon woman, I found myself being a triple minority fighting to claim my space in a homogenous and harsh setting. Despite the obvious struggles, the lessons I have taught and learnt in the military are invaluable. They made realize that as a woman, I could do all things. Moreover, I would have never thought that there, in that somewhat hostile environment, I would find my eternal companion.
In addition to my engagement to the Canadian Forces, I completed a B. Sc (honours) in biomedical sciences at the University of Ottawa and obtained a M. Sc in Human Genetics from McGill University. Although I had previously planned to go on a mission, I prayerfully chose to marry at age 20, a semester prior graduating with my bachelor’s degree. My husband and I originally had a five-year buffer zone where we had decided not to have children, but once again after much prayer and pondering, we adjusted our plan. Our first precious child was born when I was 22 years old, three weeks after submitting my master’s thesis and one week before presenting my seminar. Once again, I was taking the road less travelled. I found it difficult to find an adequate role model in my field. I had married young, and I had children young. My educational and professional ambitions were, on one side, not taken seriously in academia, and on the other side, seen as a threat to my spirituality and my abilities as mother.
After my daughter was born, I chose to stay home for a while. I was in great need of rejuvenation. Once again, cheers were heard on one side and disappointment on the other. I did hear the religious culture murmuring that only at home could I be a good mother, but I also heard from others outside the Church that spending most of my time with my children was a waste of my time and my potential. Both statements were painful to bear, as I could not hear the truth in either. Nothing was set in stone, but I knew I would further my education when the time would be right. I was staying attentive to my spiritual promptings. During that short period, another child was born, a beautiful son.
Then, I heard the call. It was earlier than expected, but it was time. I applied to medical school as I had intended to do in the past. With two young children, my plans were met with scepticism. I got accepted in the school of my choice and started in August 2015 just after celebrating my quarter century. I think about my short period at home with joy and gratefulness despite the challenges. I feel it is in my own home with the people I love the most that I learned the most crucial lessons designed to help me move forward in the plan laid out for me. Motherhood made me a stronger individual, a more loving person, a more efficient student, and a better physician-in-training.
I have a strong testimony of personal revelation, that spiritual knowledge has sustained me through every major decision I have made in my life. I am walking my path despite opposition that I face inside and outside the Church every step of the way. I am grateful for my cheer team led by my wonderful husband. As I write this essay, I think of my swollen womb safely carrying our third child. New challenges are on the horizon. I receive looks that are at times of encouragement, even admiration, and at other times, of disbelief and cynicism. I continue my marathon with optimism, hope, and greatly needed adaptability. I say to you, women of faith, walk your path, no matter how rough it may be. My story is not about opposition. It is a reminder that the spirit will guide you in your endeavours. Our spiritual and temporal journeys are unique and personal. In times of uncertainty, my soul could hear a whisper saying, ”This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21). I was given enough to make a step forward. So, I did.