Kudzai Chikiwa, Showbiz Reporter
Without a baby, an African couple is viewed as incomplete. A few months after marriage, relatives and friends start asking if there is “any luck yet”.
Recently, 48 couples from all over the country rushed with their applications to qualify as beneficiaries of a USD$17 000 grant that was availed by America-based Kiri na Kiri Fertility Assistance Foundation. The foundation partnered the Bulawayo Assisted Reproductive Technology (BART) centre run by prominent gynaecologist, Dr Jephat Moyo, to offer financial assistance to couples faced with infertility. Only four couples were successful and the grant will pay for their Invitro fertilisation (IVF), which is the most common and effective type of assisted reproductive technology to help women become pregnant. The rush by the couples to apply for the grant shows that married people are desperate to have children.
How then do couples without children survive? Or rather, how do they deal with the delay when there are no signs and symptoms of pregnancy? Who is to blame for the infertility?
Infertility stereotype is as old as the Bible itself. The Holy book has many examples of barren women including Hannah, Sarah and Elizabeth hence this belief that a woman is to blame for a couple’s infertility.
On Father’s Day last Sunday, musician Prayersoul Mtamangira who became a father to a baby boy, Justin Thapelo, after two years of “trying” took to Facebook to share his experiences.
He spoke of the pressure that comes with people continuously asking a couple when the baby is coming.
“The pressure was on from friends and relatives, anybody really. When is the baby coming? Guys, you need to be a little more sensitive when asking such kind of questions. Sometimes people may have been trying for a while and it’s not happening,” he posted.
Prayersoul represents a rare breed of men who have accepted the reality that both spouses are responsible for conceiving.
“We had been trying for over two years. We had checkups but without any sign. That’s what usually happens when things don’t work out. But guess what? It’s rarely you. There was nothing wrong with both of us. The doctors said you guys are good. Just keep trying,” he said.
Prayersoul said there is no need to blame each other when conceiving takes time.
“The lesson I learnt was you can’t do anything to move God. He’s not human. He has blessed you already. Our son was already destined to come. So in expecting for a baby, learn to walk in the peace that God loves us and has already given us all the blessings.”
Mrs Nosizi Sibanda (28) who has been trying for three years now said the statement “woman’s glory is crowned in childbirth” puts so much pressure on women.
“It’s been three years without a child and my husband has accepted it but to me, it’s not enough. I need a baby to feel that I’m a complete woman,” she said.
Sibanda said though spouses may accept it, family and friends remain a thorn in the flesh.
“Marriage is an alliance that includes the whole family and even friends. In-laws always ask about us not having a child and it frustrates me. I always wet my pillow when I think of it,” she said.
For Mary Chipata (30), it’s a different story as her husband started acting strangely since the doctor confirmed that she is infertile.
“My husband has gone to an extent of chatting openly on WhatsApp with his girlfriends. I have no say because he tells me that he is looking for a child.
“Life has been hell since I got that confirmation and I don’t know when he’ll accept that this is our condition,” she said.
How does the old generation whose beliefs were solely rooted in our ancestral beliefs view infertility?
Mr Mgcini Nxumalo (80) of Makokoba suburb who later married his wife’s young sister after a year of failing to conceive, said traditionally, women are held responsible for infertility.
“During our time when Africans used to be a pure breed, there was no lenience for accepting an infertile woman. A man was given permission to take a second wife and the wife’s family would even agree to bring her own younger sister,” Nxumalo said.
He said living for years without a child was deemed as wastage of bride price and parents of the bride were supposed to compensate for that by providing another woman.
Studio 263 actress and radio presenter Tinotenda “Tin Tin” Katsande said couples trying to have a child should not lose hope because miracles happen.
She said for years, she could not conceive as the doctors said she had endometriosis (a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of uterus — the endometrium — grows outside the uterus) but she, four years ago, gave birth to a son.
“Six years ago, I’d accepted the fact that indeed I’d never get pregnant. Doctors had even said it was almost zero chance because of the stage of the condition. Two years later, I gave birth to my son. After two other endo-surgeries for cysts in the past three years, I was just about to sign to have a hysterectomy and get rid of the pain and perpetual expectations once and for all,” Tin Tin said.
She is now pregnant again.
“As much as I wanted another child, I was convinced I couldn’t possibly be double blessed. I was wrong. I’m now in my second trimester. I’m in pain from the fibroids as they grow as baby grows but I have all the faith we will pull through again in this journey,” she wrote. — @tamary98.