Locked wombs-surmounting societal pressures – Leticia Osei writes

During the christening of her babies, she was seen rolling on the floor, draped in a beautiful white dress, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks as she wiped away her makeup. The joy of giving birth to twins was evident—after 12 long years of marriage, the Lord had finally shown her mercy!

As a close friend, I couldn’t help but imagine the pain, the midnight cries, and the prayers she endured to reach this moment. Glory be to God! We all shared in her happiness.

However, beyond this celebration lies a stark reality. Countless women continue to suffer silently: the stigma imposed by their in-laws, hurtful insinuations, insults, hate speech, name-calling, and accusations. Their struggles are often overlooked, but their strength and resilience deserve recognition.

In this intricate tapestry of human experience, childlessness remains a universal theme—woven with threads of hope, pain, and societal expectations.

A glimpse into motherhood:

According to the United Nations’ World Population Prospects, Ghana’s fertility rate dipped to 3.647 births per woman in 2023—a 1.33% decrease from the previous year. This figure represents the average number of children a woman is expected to have during her lifetime.

Ghana’s fertility rate has followed a declining trend over recent years:

2024: The current fertility rate for Ghana stands at 3.604 births per woman, representing a 1.18% decline from 2023.
2023: In the previous year, the fertility rate was 3.647 births per woman, reflecting a 1.33% decrease from 2022.
2022: The fertility rate in 2022 was 3.696 births per woman, showing a 1.31% decline from 2021.
2021: In 2021, the fertility rate was 3.745 births per woman, marking a 1.32% decrease from 2020.

These figures highlight both the challenges and joys associated with motherhood.

2024: The current birth rate for Ghana stands at 27.381 births per 1000 people, representing a 1.17% decline from 2023.
2023: In the previous year, the birth rate was 27.704 births per 1000 people, reflecting a 1.33% decrease from 2022.
2022: The birth rate in 2022 was 28.078 births per 1000 people, showing a 1.31% decline from 2021.
2021: In 2021, the birth rate was 28.452 births per 1000 people, marking a 1.3% decrease from 2020.

Society often lacks mercy for poor women who struggle with infertility—a situation beyond their control. While children are considered blessings from the Lord, does society truly recognize this? Do they possess the patience and understanding to realize that one day, the Lord may open a way for a “barren” woman to conceive?

Know of the blame game by in-laws?

When a couple faces infertility, the burden of blame often falls squarely on the woman. She endures mistreatment and shame from her in-laws, all while forgetting that it takes two to create life. Little do they realize that the issue might lie with their beloved brother, who could be grappling with medical challenges rather than their wife.

Similarly, when a woman struggles to conceive, she is accused of multiple abortions during her youth or of having committed an offense that resulted in a curse from an angry man or woman somewhere. These allegations perpetuate harmful stereotypes and overlook the complexities of fertility struggles.

In a world where superstitions and baseless accusations persist, a woman’s wealth is often attributed to dark deeds. She is labeled a witch, accused of consuming her own offspring, or trading her womb for riches. But let us pause and reflect: Do we truly understand the complexities of her journey?

The blame game extends to allegations of numerous abortions and excessive contraceptive use. Yet, what if her struggles are unrelated to these assumptions? What if she longs for motherhood but faces silent battles we cannot comprehend?

The silent struggles

When she misses her period, her world transforms into a haunting nightmare. She paces anxiously, praying for a miracle in the coming month, only to be met with disappointment. Questions swirl in her mind: Why am I so unlucky? What am I doing wrong? Why does the world seem to conspire against me? Am I not God’s daughter?

Yet, the answers remain elusive, leaving her in a silent struggle—one that defies explanation and tests her faith.

Hmmm! The desire for motherhood is universal, transcending cultural boundaries. While there are exceptions—women who choose not to have children—the overwhelming majority long for the joy of motherhood.

Personal choices

While some women choose to undergo sterilization without medical reasons, others opt for adoption, bypassing the childbirth process due to fear or personal reasons. These decisions are deeply personal, and no one should fault them for their choices.

However, it’s essential to recognize that countless children lack the love and respect they deserve from their mothers. Abandonment after the arduous task of childbirth is heartbreaking. Yet, this reality doesn’t excuse any woman from experiencing the joys and challenges of motherhood.

Women who yearn to carry their own children endure immense challenges in their quest for motherhood. The world often remains unaware of the lengths these women go to, the emotional toll they bear, and the sacrifices they make.

Society often judges women who struggle with infertility. They face disdain, judgmental glances, and even outright cruelty. The pain of longing for a child while feeling ostracized is immeasurable.

Others turn to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), a complex and expensive procedure. The financial burden and emotional roller coaster of failed attempts can be overwhelming. Some women seek hope beyond their home countries. They travel abroad for specialized treatments, hoping to find success where local options have failed. These journeys are not only physically demanding but also emotionally draining.

Desperation drives some women to sleep in doctors’ waiting rooms. They endure discomfort, uncertainty, and anxiety, clinging to the hope that each visit will bring them closer to their dream of motherhood.

Despite following medical advice and avoiding various risk factors, many women still face the heartbreaking reality of infertility. The desire to have their own children drives them to endure sleepless nights, a struggle shared not only by married women but also by those who are unmarried.

Women receive guidance on lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and other precautions to enhance fertility. However, even with unwavering adherence to these recommendations, the elusive dream of motherhood remains unfulfilled. The emotional toll of infertility often leads to sleepless nights. The anxiety, longing, and uncertainty take a toll on both physical and mental well-being.

Infertility doesn’t discriminate based on marital status. Unmarried women also grapple with the same challenges, silently enduring the pain and yearning for a child.

In the face of these challenges, these women remain resilient, fighting for their own babies with unwavering determination.

After eight years of marriage and the joy of having a son, a friend of mine faced a heartbreaking reality: countless miscarriages. These women endure not only the pain of miscarriages but also other obstacles that prevent them from conceiving.

Famous American actress Gabrielle Union courageously shared her infertility journey. In her 2017 book, “We’re Going to Need More Wine,” she revealed experiencing multiple miscarriages before being diagnosed with adenomyosis. Union’s struggle sheds light on the hidden pain faced by women desperate to conceive. The emotional toll of miscarriage is immense for any woman.

In dire circumstances, some women resort to induced abortions as a last-ditch effort to save their lives. These life-threatening situations force them to make agonizing decisions.

Many women face the heartbreaking reality of underlying health conditions that hinder their ability to give birth. These silent struggles often go unnoticed, leaving women grappling with fertility challenges. Some women battle chronic illnesses, hormonal imbalances, or reproductive disorders. These conditions impact their fertility, making conception difficult or risky. Despite the prevalence of fertility struggles, many women choose to suffer in silence. The stigma associated with infertility prevents open conversations, leaving them feeling isolated and unheard.

There’s an old lady who keeps lying to her village folk; do you want to know why? They keep asking her if her elderly daughter has children. To avoid any shame that may befall her, she tells them her daughter has two kids. In reality, her first daughter doesn’t have kids, but the younger one does.

The stories are countless! Childlessness, both in Ghana and across Africa, carries profound emotional weight! In Ghana and many African societies, childlessness is often met with stigma and exclusion. Couples yearn for children, and women bear the brunt of societal pressure. Ghanaian families will drain the blood of a woman unable to conceive.

In contrast, Western societies exhibit a different attitude. Parenthood is not universally prioritized. Some individuals choose not to have children intentionally.

In the heart of Ghanaian communities, a silent battle rages—one that transcends generations and echoes through time. Barren women in Ghanaian society don’t have the right to rebuke other people’s children. She will be sent to the gully.

Resorting to all means possible to get a baby:

Desperation: Some women lash out at their dying grandmothers and their own mothers, falsely accusing them of witchcraft and blaming them for their misfortunes.

Stealing of babies: Desperation leads some women to conspire with hospital officials to kidnap babies from other mothers. If they are fortunate, they escape legal consequences, but if caught, they face criminal charges and imprisonment.

Prayer camps: Some women visit prayer camps, while others even purchase tents to reside in, hoping to conceive through prayer. Unfortunately, some fall prey to fraudulent pastors who exploit their vulnerability and take advantage of them sexually.

Concoctions: Shocked? Yes! They consume all kinds of herbal medicines just to conceive, without considering the health implications.

Recommendations:

Society: African societies, enough is enough—have compassion! Enough of the stigma and name-calling towards women struggling with fertility issues. They, too, long to experience pregnancy and carry their own children, without the added burden of societal pressure and shame.

As a society, we must awaken to empathy and compassion. Not every woman is a bewitching force; some are innocent souls navigating life’s unpredictable twists. Let us break free from stereotypes and support one another, recognizing that our stories are multifaceted and deserving of understanding.

Let us recognize the pain of those who yearn for motherhood, their hearts echoing with unanswered questions.

Family: Stop crushing the spirits of your in-laws; instead, show them love, care, and understanding. They need it most. Let’s practice patience and trust that God will intervene and bless the women in your family who are struggling with fertility. Remember, God’s timing is perfect, and He will make a way for them.

Infertility is a deeply personal and emotional journey, and those experiencing it deserve empathy and support. Let us foster a more compassionate environment, acknowledging the pain and hope that accompany this challenging path. Let us recognize their struggles and provide compassionate support.

Instead of casting stones, let us extend compassion. Let us recognize her humanity—the ache in her chest when she sees a child’s innocent smile, the tears she sheds in solitude.

Stop blame game: Let us shift the narrative, recognizing that infertility is a shared experience—one that requires empathy, understanding, and support for both partners.

Staying strong: Sister, aunt, be strong and prioritize your well-being. Don’t succumb to pressure to engage in harmful activities. Stay happy, focused, and keep hope alive. Remember, not every woman is destined to become a biological mother, and that’s okay. Your worth and purpose extend far beyond your reproductive abilities.

Taking prescribed medications religiously: Adhering to your medication regimen is crucial. Take your prescribed medications faithfully and schedule regular check-ups with your doctor to monitor your progress and make any necessary adjustments. By doing so, you’ll be better equipped to manage your health and achieve optimal well-being.

Desisting from abortion: Reconsider abortion and prioritize your reproductive health. Research suggests that multiple abortions can impact future fertility. Instead, opt for alternative solutions and regular health check-ups to address any underlying medical conditions that may be affecting your ability to conceive. Protect your health and fertility by making informed choices.

My sister, don’t let societal pressures overwhelm you; rise above them! Yielding to their weight can lead to premature burnout and even physical harm. Empower yourself with knowledge, prioritize your well-being, and surround yourself with supportive loved ones. Remember, your life and mental health are precious, so stay strong and wise up!

 

The Author, Leticia Osei could be reached at: letterleys@gmail.com

 

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