The overwhelming feedback to last week’s column—from both women and men—is greatly appreciated. The feedback came from e-mails, Social Media and phone calls.
One woman who sent an e-mail, and didn’t want her name to be mentioned, spoke of how she could relate to the stigma that women who do not give birth through natural birth get from society, especially from fellow women. She, however, spoke of another stigma that women experience; the stigma that comes due to failure to have children.
I have heard stories of how women who have no biological children of their own are ridiculed. Even if they decide to adopt, they are still ridiculed to the extent that some nosey people go behind the parents’ back to tell the adopted child that he or she was adopted, and that the people they call mum and dad are not their ‘real’ parents.
I have also heard stories of how some newly-wedded couples are constantly harassed by friends and in-laws to get pregnant. I have heard a story of a woman who was confronted by her in-laws, who told her: “Achimwne sanakwatireni kuti muzizangodzadzitsa chimbuzi, Tikufuna mwana” (Our brother didn’t marry you so that you fill up the toilet. We want a child).
Such stories break my heart. I fail to comprehend why any sane person would talk like that to a fellow human being. Where is the love?
One thing, I understand, is that children are a gift from God, and at His own time, God delivers the gift to the one He chooses to give. But that doesn’t make those who have not yet received this gift less human or less loved by God, neither does it make them less mothers or fathers. It also doesn’t give anyone the right to start judging and ridiculing other women.
Motherhood comes in various forms. Whether it involves giving birth, adopting a child, or mothering a friend or family member, all of them matter. All of them are valid.
It is lack of knowledge that makes people that a woman is always the reason a couple doesn’t have a biological child. For starters, it takes two to tango. However, whether the problem is with the woman or the man, it is clearly none of anybody’s business. Stay away from their life. The two of them are the only people who can decide how they want to live their life.
Some of the things we Malawians oftentimes spend our energies on do not add any value to one’s life, except make other people’s lives hard. Women have been made to shoulder the blame for failing to have a child, which in many cases has led some women to resort to drastic measures.
A couple of weeks ago there were media reports of a woman who had exhumed the body of a baby and then claimed that she had a miscarriage. When some medical personnel examined her, it was found that she did not miscarry and that she was never pregnant. When I read the reports, my immediate reaction was that the woman was pushed to do this because of the ridicule and stigma from her community. This woman must have been the laughing stock of her community and the only way out, she thought, was to feign pregnancy and a miscarriage.
She wanted her community to start ‘respecting’ her that she is able to conceive. She must have been at her wit’s end. This is not alright.
I honour the different forms of motherhood. It doesn’t matter what society calls you, keep on raising your children. If you decide you cannot adopt, so be it. Live your life. You don’t owe anybody any explanation about your life. n