Most of us grow up expecting that one day we’ll be parents. Children are good, children are gifts and my bible, in James 1: 17 says every good and perfect gift is from above. Although no woman can give herself a child, married women are expected to be mothers and if they are unable to bar children, they are mistreated in traditional societies where people believe that only women have to be responsible to bear the children.
Recently a friend opened up to me about her own journey through infertility. She and her husband have been trying to conceive for six solid years. With tears in her eyes, she shared her roller-coaster ride of hope and loss. How they’d conceived, then miscarried, conceived then miscarried again. Now they were waiting another lengthy period before they could try again.
On Sunday 2nd July the Daily Nation on Sunday published a story by Angela Oketch on the Pain and stigma that come with inability to bear children. The story highlighted the plight of four women Ms Akello, Ms Mary Goretty, Ms Margaret Oketch, and Violet. Below is a summary of their plight, pain and stigma as published by the Daily Nation on Sunday:
Mildred Akello, 42, does not know exactly who infected her with HIV, but she readily admits having slept with dozens of men in her desperate attempt to get a child.
Her quest to be a mother has included visiting witch doctors and trying all manner of unconventional things but, so far, nothing has worked.
She is now in her third marriage and her husband, Mr Patrick Oduori, 48, is also HIV positive. The couple remains hopeful that one day they will be parents.
Mr Oduori said that he has since accepted that “children come from God” and that he will not force the impossible. He believes there’s God in heaven who can do the impossible.
Ms Margaret Oketch
She is 56 years old.
She has been trying to conceive for 30 years but after realising that she could not get support from her husband, who was indifferent, terming it a “woman’s disease”, her dream of becoming a mother was blown away.
She says childlessness has dealt a blow to her self-esteem, making her feel worthless.
She says apart from the pain and stigma that comes with infertility, it makes you ashamed for not being able to get pregnant.
Ms Oketch has been married to four men but still she has not been able to conceive. She recalls a day when she requested her husband for money to visit a doctor, only to receive a thorough beating.
Her doctor requested her to visit the clinic with her husband. He did not accompany her to the hospital, instead opting to marry another woman.
The other woman started insulting her that she was a witch and a bad omen to the family and that she should pack her things and leave.
Her husband stopped visiting her house and even blocked her from fetching water from the family borehole. She survives on doing menial jobs in the village like gardening and washing clothes for others.
Fed up with her in-laws, she returned to her parents’ home after suffering depression.
Two years later, she decided to give marriage a second chance. But soon, infertility stalked her, tearing apart the second, third and fourth marriages.
Despite frustrations from society for her inability to bear children, she has vowed never to leave her matrimonial home because she has nowhere else to go.
“I lost my mother when I was very young, grew up under the watch of my grandmother who has since passed on,” she says.
Ms Mary Goretty
She was married in 1978 and, after four years, her husband married another woman and disappeared for 12 years, only to resurface sick and paralysed.
“I have to do odd jobs like digging and cleaning to survive since I have no child to help me,” she says.
And for Ms Goretty, drinking has become her source of solace from abusive in-laws. She leaves her home in Busia County early in the morning and returns at night, dead drunk.
“I find comfort in drinking. The abuses from my in-laws and the neighbours are too much. I go out to drink, come back and sleep like a baby. Even if they insult me, I do not listen to them,” she says.
She is optimistic that at the age of 46, she will still get pregnant and give birth to a boy.
“In Kisii community, if you do not have a son, you are considered an outcast and the bigger problem comes if you do not have a child. Whatever I have gone through for these years is hell,” says Ms Nyaboke.
She is banking on God to give her a child. She says she has done everything to get a child including going to all the witch doctors she knows of and taken all concoctions.
She says it pains her that her husband called her a witch and told her that she might have aborted when she was young and that’s why God was punishing her.
As I read the story, I couldn’t hold tears. I paused and said a prayer for my friend and all the other women trusting God for the gift of children. May God, who is the giver of all perfect gifts, remember them during this season of perfection.
Do you know any couple struggling with infertility? Please hold their hands, built them up with words and prayers of encouragement.