Updated post from October 2020
A Couple of years ago when I wrote about leaving an abusive relationship, I touched on a few cultural expectations in marriage and how women are blamed when a marriage goes wrong. Another dimension to this is when the marriage produces no children; it is automatically assumed that this is the fault of the woman – this has led to many women loosing their lives in their quest to be become mothers. I recently asked a man of the cloth why the bible never cited any man as having fertility issues but it was always women who were described as being barren – to be honest, he did not have an answer for me. The question is when it comes to challenges in fertility why is it that women are always tagged as ‘barren’ without anyone knowing fully the story of the couple in question?
A well known Ghanaian celebrity posted a photo on her instagram page some time back and another woman who did not know this celebrity personally, commented on her photo derogatory comments about her looks and then proceeded to call her barren! This celebrity then responded to the commenter about how insensitive her comments were. From her comments to this online bully, one could easily read between the lines her anguish at not being a mother and how another woman, who should have empathised with her, had chosen to shame her on social media because she did not have a child.
There was public outrage and several social commentators took to their social platforms to condemn what the young lady wrote on the post of this celebrity. I was happy we were finally having this conversation, however, we are all guilty when we make women who have no children feel less than – and this goes on in many facets of society. When a woman is born, she is sent to school, then after school she is expected to marry. After marriage she must have some children to carry on her husbands name – however, if there are no children, then the woman is barren and must have had several abortions growing up that is why she cannot have children; but do men not have fertility issues also?
There are several cases where a couple having fertility issues will have the wife checked medically but most men refuse to get checked and some of these women wanting to save their marriages, have gotten pregnant with other men and had the baby for their husbands. As dishonest as this is, I won’t blame these women fully but also the expectations society has placed on them and this notion that one must have their own child to qualify as parents. There are several children waiting to be adopted but the emphasis on having one’s own child is so great that many women have lost their lives to be mothers and in some cases some have gone as far as stealing babies and ending up in prison. We are not empathetic when it comes to people facing fertility issues – why do we make it seem like it is their fault they are not having children? Must every mother be a biological one?
Mothers day is a celebration I had taken part in all my life and then I lost my mother and not being a mother myself, it was not as appealing as it had always been. Also being a Christian, I had seen how mothers day is celebrated in all pomp and pageantry – however not once have I heard or seen any provision or consideration made towards women who are having fertility issues. Most of the leaders of these groups are parents and therefore they want to celebrate and everyone must be on board – that in itself is very insensitive. And to make matters worse, getting to the end of these celebrations, a short prayer is made for women who do not have children to be able to have one so they can truly celebrate the following mothers day. Why do we not use this opportunity to show love to motherless children and women facing challenges in having children?
There have been countless situations where a woman may not be called barren verbally, but the actions of many had done so. Like colleagues who think because they have children, they must always get the school holidays off work, the family member who wants to remind you, every chance they get, that women have biological clocks, the friends who think you cannot be a good role model to their children because you do not have a child or the social group that always expect you to contribute to mothers day but never want to celebrate womanhood because it is too feminist. So one finds themselves contributing to celebrate others but never able to fully celebrate themselves because they are not mothers.
As the public raged about the comment of this insensitive online bully- there was another celebrity who after many years of struggling to have children, finally had a daughter and she decided to talk about the challenges she had had and the fertility treatments she had to undergo to become a mother. As many applauded her for finally talking about her experiences, I found that she was part of the problem. All she talked about now is how wonderful it is to have her own child but she seems to have forgotten her own challenges even with all the resources that was available to her. I expected that she would champion the movement to ending discrimination towards childless women – but when given the platform all she wanted to do is promote how complete she now feels after being able to have her own child biologically.
Every woman needs a mother at some point in their life but my question is does every woman need a child? To the women facing fertility challenges be it with themselves or their spouses – I truly hope you find the best solution to the challenges you are facing and to not let society dictate to you how to make a family. And for the women who have been made to feel less than because you are not a biological mother – I am sorry you were made to feel this way. People’s opinions are not truth or facts – continue being you and I truly hope motherhood finds you, in whatever form it may present itself.
Every woman needs a mother at some point in their life but my question is does every woman need a child?
Please get in touch if you or anyone you know have been affected by this issue and you would like to share your story – talking about these issues is how we will effect chnage. Thank you for getting in touch and sharing your experiences – please continue to share your experiences so we can effect the change we need.