I have this feeling that often when the subject of infertility or barrenness pops up, it is often the face of the woman that comes to many people’s minds. Why that is the case, I do not know, but I certainly know that that is one of the many things that must change in our society.
The pressure exerted on childless women is often hurtful and insensitive.
In some communities, I learnt that a woman’s worth is measured by her ability to reproduce. This is a society where a child is valued way more than its mother.
In Africa, women are often blamed when they fail to conceive and Zimbabwe is not an exception. Women are often publicly ridiculed, humiliated and ostracised by friends, relatives, neighbours and in some cases by their partners.
While efforts have been made to address male fertility, the subject remains a taboo and a woman is often blamed for failing to produce a child without testing both couples for fertility.
In many countries, fertility is looked at as something to be respected. If you are labelled infertile, it is like a stamp of shame.
The label and shame almost always falls on the woman as if she is almost less of a woman for not being able to carry a child. You would think that by the 21st century, infertility would be widely discussed and the stigma attached to it would not weigh as much. The truth is, infertility has only recently become a topic that pops up on blogs and newsfeeds.
The stigma that accompanies infertility is far reaching. The questions and comments come like clockwork. When are you going to have a baby, don’t wait too long, your biological clock is ticking.
In our society, it is expected that a couple will procreate. It is perceived as unnatural if it does not happen after a certain period. Each of these questions probably will feel like a punch to the gut and often weighs like a tonne of bricks to a couple having difficulty in conceiving. Those that have walked that path say the stigma of being childless is tough to bear.
The reality of infertility is, it is not your fault whether you are a man or woman. In many cases, pinpointing why a couple is infertile is hard.
Even if a root cause can be identified, many times there is no way to know what caused it. Additionally, all children are miracles, whether their parents went through rigorous fertility treatments or not.
We are lucky we live in an era where there are so many options to couples trying to conceive and the technology in itself can be looked at as a miracle.
The stigma of being labelled infertile is not something anyone wants. Sometimes couples will disclose and discuss their difficulties to reproduce with friends and family.
However, some couples want to avoid the stigma associated with infertility and will keep their difficulties to themselves.
Either way, the only way to reduce the stigma attached to infertility is to encourage the conversation and to educate and empower couples when they are facing difficulties to conceive.
While having no children is a choice for some women, some struggle for years to conceive and end up giving up.
Some women conceive but fail to carry pregnancies full term.
Some men fail to reproduce due to infertility problems such as low sperm count; however this is less talked about compared to all that is said about women.
Sometimes women are the worst when it comes to treading on other women and making them feel less feminine.
When a childless woman tries to correct or discipline another woman’s child, she is quickly told to bear her own children so that she can exercise her own parenting styles.
But sisters, why are we like this?
Infertility is not a curse but a health condition which may sometimes be sorted out.
It is high time society stopped looking down upon women without children. It’s high time society also stopped pressuring men who have not reproduced.
Childless couples are still a family even without that blessing of little ones in the home.
After all, in actual fact, it is nobody’s business except for the couple, whether they have a child, why they do not have a child, how many children they will have, or if they want any children at all. Everyone else must just mind their own business.
In these modern times, women and men that are having problems to conceive need not suffer anymore as fertility clinics offer support and medical facilities that could bring them joy.
Various options are available for different conditions that manifest in failure to conceive.
Some of the medical interventions are medical procedures that are now available.
While they may prove to be a bit costly for some members of the community, it brings hope to men and women that at least such facilities are available in the country.
While we celebrate the availability of such facilities in the country, it must be said clearly that a woman’s worth is not in her womb abilities or disabilities.
Men must equally be spared and not treated as boys just because they are not called by the names of sons and daughters.
It takes a community to change such demeaning practices that are disguised as norms, values, culture and religion. — @andile_tshuma