Tuesday, 30 November 2004
Infertility Is Always Women’s Fault?
Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
Within marriages between Nigerians, when pregnancy does not occur, it is presumed to be a woman’s fault; it has to be her fault! But is it? Of course, it is not always her fault! Imagine, in any case, being blamed for a biological happenstance that is based in science, and no human fault, or being blamed for deprivation that is purely scientific and inflicted by nature, a deprivation that may, just as well be as a result of all the stars not having perfect alignment, for the man or the woman, but unfortunately, some Nigerians almost always blamed it on the women! Despite education and enlightenment, this has persisted.
This equally, used to be the attitude, that prevailed in America, it was the case between American men and women, as in Nigeria now, that women also bore the brunt of the criticisms, for any procreation difficulties, but it has shifted positively, as times, are a changing and the society here develops. Women here, still bear the proverbial cross, even their burdens lightens.
Even on the rare occasion where the lack of conception, is a result of a misalignment of biological symmetry in the woman, what can at such point, be worse than pointing accusing fingers at a woman, who nature has just deprived of procreation abilities? Why would anyone blame and mock such woman? When in fact, such woman is a victim of ruthless nature and biological asymmetry, which makes such woman only deserving of every of our moral, emotional and every other supports, as she endures the trauma, for lacking such naturally occurring events, of such a matter-of-course procreation rudiments, that occurs naturally for other women like clock-work? Doesn’t such wife deserve sympathy and empathy instead?
I must state before hand, that I revel and bask in Nigerian/nay African culture. I always have. But as Nigerians and Nigeria evolve both as a people and as a nation, it is imperative to continually question some of our age-old practices and culture, as we demand the utility of such practices or culture, pairing them against the rules of justice, equality and fair-play, for all persons/citizens, we must engender a gender neutral sense of justice and fairness in all we do. I am an advocate of the value of holding-on to our cultural practices tenaciously, but certainly not a practice that blames either spouse for infertility, particularly, when there is no scientific or medical basis for so asserting. Blameworthiness is irrelevant and unnecessary in childless marriage.
Some of our “culture” or behavior or practice must be abandoned, these behaviors and practices are not worthy of being described as part of our culture or typified as what is cultural among us. And I am not writing about the Okija Shrines and other shrines said to be in various parts of Nigeria!
Instead, it is the erroneous practices or misbehaviors which are common among some Nigerians/Africans that culminate in the blaming infertility on women. Infertility can be a man’s medical fault, just as it could be a woman’s. Even here, I am not sure whether using the word fault is even appropriate in the circumstances, Fault is probably a disservice of a word or description… Instead, we should be saying, that infertility is as much a medical condition, that could exist in a man or woman, and it takes two to create pregnancy in the ordinary or primary sense. So that, when there is a biological of medical misalignment, it is patently and latently unfair to blame one side of the team that is attempting procreation.
Most women who are unable to become pregnant, are soon consumed with an obsession to become pregnant, as if to confirm that they are able to fulfill one of nature roles, motherhood, women therefore take the infertility problem personally, even where the medical condition might be attributable to the husband or man in the woman’s life, infertility is an emotional roller coaster, and for Nigerian/African women, the hell is multiplied, by the fact that infertility is summarily blamed on them! As these women are presumed to be the ones with biological misalignments or the ones with some sort of undefined medical conditions as some Nigerians in related conversations would blame the women for possibly haven broken some obscure nature’s law or cultural taboo or haven offended the gods or in modern times, some are quick to suggest that the infertile or woman that is unable to be pregnant had probably undertaken too many abortion procedures, hence her womb/uterus had become a polluted or hostile environments for fertilizations and pregnancies!
Anyone with even elementary knowledge of biology and fertilization process, ought to appreciate the complexities, but, as it turns out, some Nigerian men, their sisters and mothers with multiple academic degrees, are among those, who are quick to blame the lack of pregnancy on their brother, cousin or son’s wife! Infertility or inability to become pregnant is a quick marriage-ender in Nigeria, even among the very educated middle class and upper middle class, this ought to be re-examined, this, indeed, ought to change!
For beginners, we ought to subject both spouses and couples to equal medical scrutiny to determine who posses the biological misalignment or medical conditions and whether modern science could resolve such biological or medical conditions.
And in any case, marriages contracted presumably because of love, fondness, bond and adoration, ought not to suddenly evaporate and expire, because of an inability, biological or medical to procreate, this is surely not what is meant by, for better and for worse or by , for, in sickness and health? To end a marriage because it is childless is not and should not be the only option available to couples in Nigeria, as it is certainly not the meaning of endless love! There are medical efforts that can be made and where such efforts fail, there is adoption and there are millions of children in Nigeria or worldwide, deserving adoptions, and who better suited to do so, than, the childless couples? On the other hand, it is quite possible and it is hereby suggested, that Nigerians can and should actually think of a happy and successful married life without children, whether by choice, or because of impecunious economic conditions or due to infertilities.
This blame-game or blaming the victim of infertility does not make logical or biological and even medical science sense. I make these assertions with knowledge and personal experience of the emotionally traumatic experience, roller-caster that I have known our women are exposed, by those who would taunt and blame them for not being pregnant… even when it is the man’s medical condition, or it is likely, a fifty-fifty situation, as to whose medical condition, prevents pregnancy, the man’s or woman’s.
Couples should endeavor to do medical tests for medical compatibility and good health of offspring and besides, procreation is not the only reason for being married.
Inability to have a child should not end marriages. But even if that ultimately ends a marriage, blaming either the man or the woman, with the disabling medical condition, that prevented conception, is just unnecessarily damaging and injurious.
Inability to be pregnant could be a man’s “fault”, as it could be a woman’s, it is always medical and not juju, ogbanje or anything pre-ordained by our ancestors! It constitutes very egregious practice or culture to blame childlessness on anyone, we should discontinue this obnoxious practice as urgently as we need to discontinue the aberrant African-time, misnomer, wherein we start every important events behind schedule!