We had hardly said ‘I do’ when people started asking us when the baby is coming. My husband and I dated for about 4 months before we decided that we should start planning our wedding. There was no elaborate proposal (insert rolling-eyes emoji), he just said, “We need to decide on a date for our parents to meet,” and, as they say, the rest is history.
On our wedding day, many people’s wishes for us included free advice: ‘Remember the only third party in our marriage should be God’ and ‘Keep your business between the two of you’. All of them forgot to add . . . except when it comes to having a baby – then it’s everyone’s business.
This invasion of privacy didn’t stop them, even after we lost two babies. One at 8 weeks, and the other at 7 months after going into induced labour. I can’t say either experience was worse than the other. In both instances we had the hope of birthing a baby in 9 months and both times, it didn’t happen.
Now, instead of advice, everyone gave their two cents worth of a medical opinion. ‘You need to go see someone’ or ‘There’s this lady I know that does 1,2,3 . . . that will help you carry your baby to full term’. Once everyone else was over what was our loss (a loss we were still dealing with), they moved onto: ‘You need to start trying again, don’t be scared, just do it, you’ll see, third time lucky.’
The whole time I’m thinking, what happened to our business being our business?
Infertility is a disease, respect it.
The World Health Organisation describes infertility as a disease of the reproductive system, defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months (or more) of regular unprotected intercourse.
Why then are people so comfortable with openly asking personal questions that could quite easily be linked to having this particular disease. I don’t hear anyone going around asking newlyweds questions about other possible diseases, “Hey, so did you guys get tested for HIV/AIDS?” But infertility, this disease, that society has decided is theirs to carry with you, this is the one they want to talk about.
Honestly, leave it alone. Back off. Let married couples be. They will talk to you about it if, and when, they’re ready. And no, just because you are the mom or mom-in-law, or sister or cousin, IT’S STILL NOT YOUR PLACE to put pressure on them.
The Infertility Awareness Association of South Africa lists 9 facts and statistics on their website, one of the statistics being that; for 20% of couples there is no proven medical cause. ‘Unexplained infertility’ is just that – it means that we’re not yet able to find the cause. This clearly tells us that these couples themselves do not know why they haven’t been able to conceive yet. STOP ASKING!
No, seriously. Who said I’m waiting?
The other day, I found myself in the same room as a mom of 1 and a pregnant lady – who after years of battling infertility – is expecting her second baby less than a year after her first miracle baby was born. We were knee-deep in friendly pregnancy and mommyhood chatter, when the mommy of 1 turned her attention to me and asked me what my husband and I are waiting for. She was insistent that we should be on baby number 2 already. My response, “Who said we’re waiting?”
It baffles me how people believe they know exactly what it means if you have no child or one child or any number that, according to them, is not enough children. How is the assumption still, that if you are not pregnant, it is because you have made a conscious effort not to be?
Couples do not choose infertility.
About 1 in 6 couples of reproductive age have a fertility problem. This is a number that should help you zip your lips and mind your own when it comes to couples and pregnancy. A black male friend of mine and his gorgeous wife have finally conceived following a tough time of trying. I can’t remember being happier for a couple (even as I write this, my eyes are welling up with tears). Once I was done being happy, I realised I was experiencing another emotion and that was relief. I am so relieved for him because even though he never mentioned it, I can only imagine how tough he had it with people and their questions. The opinions and the microaggressions from those around them must have become unbearable at times.
In African cultures, the quality of a wife is measured by her ability to bear a child (the more, the better). Equally so, a man’s masculinity is measured by his ability to impregnate his wife. How devastatingly sad that in modern South Africa we are still measured by these standards. Why are these standards of being a wife or a husband wrapped in a process we do not have complete control of? It’s honestly beyond me.
It’s their decision to make.
There are a variety of options on how to have a child. The treatments vary: surgery on the fallopian tubes (to fix blockages); hormone treatments for men and women; insemination of the woman with donor sperm or sometimes her partner’s sperm; IVF and related treatments such as GIFT. Some people try natural treatments, such as herbs, acupuncture and meditation. Some couples will opt for adoption, while others continue to rely on their faith (believing that all in God’s perfect timing), and some remain without children.
The trick to being a good support system to a friend or family member, is to not look down on their method of choice. This is important because even once they have decided on their method of choice, there is still no guarantee that they will: 1. Fall pregnant. 2. Carry to full term and 3. Give birth to a healthy baby.
Learn that experiences are different for everyone and in terms of marriage and conception, that is truer than true.
The next time you want to have an opinion on something that really has nothing to do with you, please bite your tongue. You don’t know everything. It’s not your place to say how, when and how many children couples should have. No two journeys are the same.
Please visit the IFAASA website for more information on infertility.
*These are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Vannie Kaap News.