what exactly does happily ever after look like?
We have heard stories such as Snow White and Cinderella having found the love of their lives, lived happily ever after with their kids.
But in real life does every little girl grow up to have a fairy tale happily ever after? Of course no!
Interestingly, our happily ever after varies because our society has certain standards for every love story. A typical Nigerian forever after the story goes thus: you fall in love with a Prince Charming, he walks you down the aisle and you start having children after nine months.
And when children don’t come in immediately? Then the problems come rolling in. In a typical African setting, marriages are celebrated in elaborate ways and right before the ceremony ends, relatives on both sides are already fantasizing about the numbers, genders and the names to be given to the children.
A newly married woman is put under undue pressure and everyday people around her expect to see a bulging tummy or tend to interpret every sickness of the new wife as signs of morning sickness.
But when days roll into months and months into years, the in-laws begin to get disgruntled and impatient. Even parents, members of the new wife family and friends begin to get worried, asking embarrassing questions and even proffer solutions.
A friend of mine once shared with me that, a year after she got married a lady walked up to her in her neighbourhood and after they had exchanged pleasantries she told her that she had noticed she didn’t have a child and requested to take her somewhere so that she could have her child. My friend was appalled because they weren’t even friends and she was barely married for a year that people who are not relatives were putting her under pressure. There have been instances where in-laws pounce on their wives like hawks shortly after they are married. Women are usually the victims when it comes to infertility issues; it is like these people have infertility meters that tell them outright that a woman is the one with the problem. In fact, some women automatically assume they are the ones with the problem when they can’t bear a child. Well, I really don’t blame these women; it is because they have been conditioned to think that way. They forget that it takes a man and a woman to have a baby. I have seen instances where men tell their wives that they have no problems after all the “Nigerian almighty men” are supposed to be unquestionably fecund and virile. So it is inappropriate and humiliating to bother them with intrusive fertility tests. This is so laughable because it doesn’t work that way if your wife can’t conceive you need to be checked too.
There is a couple who was battling with fertility issue for years and it was just the wife that kept visiting a gynaecologist until the doctor insisted that if she didn’t come with her husband he wouldn’t see her again. The woman eventually dragged her husband to the hospital and the test showed he was the problem. From experience, men hate going for fertility tests, I don’t know why really maybe it is just inscribed in their DNA. But why do we have to cajole, drag or threaten men to take fertility test? I think part of the problem is because difficulty in conceiving has long been treated as a “women thing” by the society and even by medicine. In many cases, men aren’t even considered to be the patient and they are largely exempted from the social pressure of the ticking of their body biology clock even when recent research findings have proved this otherwise. Discrimination over inability to conceive runs through a typical Nigerian and they easily conclude that a woman’s inability to have children has to do with the fact that she had a dirty past. They assume that when a woman can’t get pregnant immediately she gets married she must have had countless abortions. Unfortunately, that assumption isn’t true; so many women that got married as virgins have had to deal with fertility problems too while prostitutes have as many children as they want. I am not shying away from the fact that some women made unhealthy choices in the past that could have jeopardized their chances of having children in the future. Yes, I know that some women have had ugly past that could have compromised their wombs but it is not all women who are barren that have done this.
Moreover, I strongly believe that the way we treat infertility issues in this country has to do with patriarchy because failure to conceive is entirely blamed on women. Unfortunately, this is our reality, in many cases of infertility women are not treated fairly by our society and infertility issues are also mired in these prejudices. That is why it is the women that you see moving from churches to churches. They are the ones battling with spirit husbands; they are the ones carrying sacrifices to the beach at 1:00a.m. It is women that you see going to alfas for a solutions to their problems and they are the ones who go to visit the dibia. Our society treats barren women like a piece of filthy rag. They don’t respect them and they judge them blindly. Our society defines a woman’s success by the number of children she has, so why won’t they look down on those who can’t. It is a pity though but this is who we are! Many of these people don’t care because they see the average Nigerian woman as baby making machine. That is why many women get desperate and can go to any length to have children.
Recent researches have proved that male infertility is soaring. Many men are battling with low sperm count and no sperm count yet the women are not spared.
However, in case you are not aware, there is a role reversal right now, a silent epidemic of male infertility is hovering around us and this is affecting millions of men all over the world. At least one in six couple needs medical help to have children and for half of these couples, the problem is poor sperm count. So if you are still in the waiting room and you keep blaming your wife for your problems without checking yourself up, you might be doing yourself a great harm. Men, this is a clarion call for you all, go get yourself checked. Male infertility is on the rise! Mother in-laws! Stop witch-hunting your daughter in-laws, your sons might just be the ones with the problem. Women stop wasting your time moving from one 419 church to the other, go seek medical help. Listen to your doctors!! Stop endangering your lives further by drinking herbal concoctions. Some of the things you are bathing at T-junction might just need some couple of ovulation pills to get it treated. Do what your doctor tells you! Stop listening to charlatans! No one has sacrificed your womb in the coven!! I’m sure the confederation of Nigerian witches is tired of those sob stories. Don’t let anyone scare you with spirit husbands. Spirit husbands are a lot busier now than running after other people’s wives. Listen to your gynaecologist. They know better than that illiterates and semi-illiterates you are wasting your money on. Run tests as much as possible and exhaust all medical areas. And to many others who put their nose in other people’s shitty businesses hear this: putting pressure on couples to have children is selfish! I don’t care what your intentions are but it is hurtful and sheer wickedness. No matter how subtle or direct you are, I think it is very intrusive and insensitive to ask, “when will the baby come?” Moreover, reading meanings to every sickness a woman who has no child has is inappropriate. Those horrible jokes and sneers are uncalled for. When a couple is ready to get pregnant they will, it is not your duty to ask uncomfortable questions. Stop embarrassing them with your prying prayers! Pray for yourself!! I am angry now because I understand the secret tears of women who are looking for children. I understand the agony of having to deal with seeing your menstrual flow every month when all they want is a kick in their wombs. Stay out of their business! If you are a close relation, be kind. Keep your native suggestions to yourself when they don’t ask you for it, don’t bother them. Re-evaluate your actions. There are chances that you even have no idea, what these people are going through. Your probing questions, pressures could create unnecessary stress and anxiety for the couple.
Be sensitive to the people involved. Check your choice of words and language. If they don’t want to talk about it, respect that. If they turn down your help, respect that too. Don’t go about spreading wild tales about how they turned you down. That subtle baby hint sometimes make the victims feel like they will explode from all the pressures around. Stop making other peoples’ lives miserable! Respect boundaries! Just shut the hell up!