Inside out with Respect Chofamba
It’s beyond anything I have ever had to deal with and I have never felt more depleted and defeated. Which is a new feeling to me as I view myself as a strong, determined woman who makes things happen, but not this. Reminders of my inability to conceive are everywhere. Just the other day I received news that my 17-year-old niece is expecting, I ought to be furious with her, but my fury is empty and in its place just envy and this new feeling I’m just discovering now, jealousy. She is going to be a mother and I’m envious of her.
One of the things I wish people would understand about the struggle with fertility is that it is a real physical, mental and emotional battle. So, I might be happy and feeling good, one moment, but the soft cry of a baby can provoke numerous feelings within me, that at times I might fail to control and contain. In my personal battle, I once broke down at a baby shower, at which point I decided to take a social hiatus for a while, as I gathered myself together.
Feeling small and unworthy is a familiar feeling when you are struggling with fertility, and often at times solitude offers the best companionship away from the prying eyes and random yet frequently asked questions. I find myself running away from this most basic question that is often used as a basis for small talk: “When are you having kids?” or “Any kids yet?” This will be phrased differently depending on who is asking. My close friend and family are just blunt about it and will shoot straight up: “When are you planning to have children?” And on a random day I meet an ex-school mate I last saw a decade ago and, of course, it is easy for them to make conversation about their kids. Sensing my inability to engage in the conversation, they will just throw in that monster question: “Do you have kids of your own?” How I wish the answer to that question was a simple yes or no, or maybe a supposed timeframe that me and my partner are working with.
As though my pain is not apparent in my hesitation someone feels rather liberal to throw in the cliché comments of “So, your parents got all those cows for nothing?” or, “Get busy my sister so that your bride price can be accounted for something.” While it’s easy to laugh and just brush it off as small talk, that’s never the case when you have been struggling to fall pregnant for years. Some will even take it a notch further reminding you of your age or throwing in tasteless jokes like, “if your eggs were that of a hen we would have scrambled eggs every day”, to which if in a group most people will just chuckle about and move on to the next topic of discussion.
Back home it is no walk in the park, my close relatives, my in-laws and my distant relatives feel they have the right to know when exactly I plan to have a baby. One particular time that really hit the chord was when a relative asked me, “Why are you even working so hard if you are not going to bear a child to leave all this wealth to?” In her ignorance of my private battle, she opened up a wound I had tried hiding for four years. I broke down and ended up falling ill as my blood pressure spiked.
Tradition came to play and did little to ease my pain. My very traditional relatives had a genius solution that my husband get another wife just so he can get an heir to carry his name. At first this did little to affect our marital relationship, but as more time lapsed, so did the external pressure to have a baby and with it my marriage. My husband grew cold towards me as more and more people uttered the words I had become all too familiar to “you not a real woman” or “there is something missing in your womanhood”.
For me, my infertility shook my faith. I was crumbling and always yearned for the smallest human compassion with no judgement and hints that this could all be my fault. Statements like, “God will give you a baby at the right time” would do little to comfort me. I know you mean well, but for me the time is right now. In fact, the time was right the moment I started trying for a baby.
At times, I would just wish for an honest person who could sincerely say they cannot relate to my struggle but can just allow me to pour out my heart. Often at times people tend to offer unsolicited advice on diet, health, religion and even lifestyle that would leave me exhausted with a feeling of inadequacy. This would only add more pressure to my already battered mental state that is struggling to keep up with my heavily emotional self.
Of course, not every woman struggling to become a mother will be the same, but one thing that is sure to make the journey a little less rough is gentleness.
Carry a little gentleness around, and do not be quick to judge and assume that simply because one is married and is of a certain age, they should be a mother.
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