Have you ever heard of the womb watchers association?
It’s a term in the Nigerian community to describe people that are overly concerned about if and when you’ve gotten pregnant.
Lol, they will monitor you from the moment you get married and remind you of how many months its been.
“It’s been 3 months already, should we be buying diapers?“
As silly as the name sounds, this is very much a real problem in our culture!
We, as a people, are obsessed with fertility.
I have some funny (and not-so-funny) real-life examples.
At my sisters wedding that just passed, someone gave her a breast pump as a wedding gift.
Yes- they jumped all the way from wedding to breastfeeding.
I’ve had someone tell me that my husband and I would never argue if we would just have children already.
Someone close to me told me that my “husband is so patient” for sticking around and not being upset with me over our recurrent pregnancy losses.
(Yes, I was shocked).
What about Example #4:
The community leader who commented that another man “must have really loved his wife” for him to have chosen to adopt a son after “only” having 2 daughters.
I was literally stunned into silence when I heard that one because I mean, what else should the man have done?
Left his wife?
Surprisingly, I hold no bitterness towards any of the people in the examples above because well, in the context of our culture, none of them had bad intentions.
However, my extended fertility journey has helped me to realize that when it comes to pregnancy loss and infertility in African culture, our community makes things extra challenging in a few ways.
5 challenges with
infertility in african culture
Disclaimer: My opinions come from my experience as a Nigerian-American. Some of my experiences may be applicable to other African countries/groups/societies but others may not.
1| Traditionally, your identity as a woman
(and worth as a wife)
is connected to your ability to have children
Women were endowed the gift of childbearing, yes.
But, the idea that a woman is worthless if she does not have children is demoralizing and bogus.
Unfortunately, this train of thought is pervasive.
In the past (and not just in African culture), it wasn’t uncommon for a woman to be replaced or sent away from her marital home because of infertility or pregnancy loss.
A woman is a woman, despite her ability or desire to bear children.
She is a person first.
2| The bias that infertility is automatically the woman’s fault
Nothing gets under my skin like someone saying “give your husband a child”.
First of all, I’m not God.
Second of all, mind your business.
Despite the very real possibility of male infertility, women are often blamed for any difficulties in conceiving.
Let’s not even get into how women were blamed for not conceiving a son, even though we all know that the man determines the babys sex.
Thankfully, it appears that that train of thought is changing with the times.
3| The assumption that infertility is a spiritual affliction
Us africans tend to be very spiritual people.
This is something I love about my heritage- we generally believe that what happens in the physical world is influenced by the spiritual.
Unfortunately, as a result, infertility and pregnancy loss are often seen as spiritual afflictions.
When you are struggling with conceiving, it’s not uncommon to hear that it’s because you don’t pray enough or that this is a punishment and you need to repent or that you are being tested or maybe even that someone out there has placed a curse on you.
While I believe that there’s always room for prayer and such, it’s just cruel to suggest that a woman has brought infertility or pregnancy loss onto herself!
On top of that, this kind of thinking keeps us from acknowledging physiological problems like endometriosis, PCOS, etc. that may actually be contributing to difficulties conceiving.
4| Social Taboo
The topic of infertility and pregnancy loss is pretty ‘hush hush‘ everywhere, even here in the United States.
But, I do believe that we take it to the next level in our African culture.
A lot of it stems from the above 3 reasons- women don’t want to put themselves in the position to be judged harshly by people that will use this difficulty as an opportunity to question their worth or what they’ve “done to deserve this”.
5| Community Opinions & Involvement
To put it kindly, our African communities tend to be more “involved” and “intertwined” than Western societies.
To put it bluntly, we can be nosy and opinionated. Lol.
On one hand, I love that as Africans, we are community-oriented.
I love that in our communities, people more freely help you when you need, they share advice, pray for you and treat you like family even when you’re not.
But sometimes, it crosses the line.
It is not uncommon for someone (that isn’t even related to you) to pull you aside and ask why you haven’t conceived yet.
In fact, that happened to me just a month ago when I went home for my sisters wedding.
It’s annoying, embarrassing and sometimes when all you’re trying to do is to forget your problems for one minute, it can be very hurtful.
With all of this being said, experiencing infertility as an African woman has been a lonely experience.
It has been difficult to find other people that understand this unique struggle and are willing to talk about it.
This is why it made me so happy to be able to find these few videos that explore some of the issues that I’ve talked about above. They’ve given me something to relate to and now I’m sharing then with you all in case you happen to be in the same shoes or just seek more understanding.
4 Youtube Videos about-
INFERTILITY IN AFRICAN CULTURE
Fractured: A Short Film
THEMES: Infertility & Marriage, Blame, Family Opinions/Involvement
This is a short film about a young african couple and their experience with infertility. I believe it captures the emotional agony and stress that happens with infertility very well.
Skinny Girl in Transit:
Season 6, Episode 4
THEMES: Pregnancy Loss, Grief, Insecurities, Blame, Infertility & Marriage
If you’re not familiar with Skinny Girl in Transit (lovingly known as SGIT), please please, I beg you to wake up! You’ve been asleep too long!
SGIT is an awesome Youtube show following the life of a young lady named Tiwa. The sixth season, in particular, explores Tiwa’s first year of marriage, getting pregnant and subsequently, losing her pregnancy.
I won’t spoil the show for you but will add that this season is highly praised for exploring a lot of the “taboo” topics that are often glossed over or ignored in our culture. They’ve really shown a lot of the intense emotions that are experienced during this type of life event.
African & Pregnant:
Episodes 1 & 2
THEMES: Social Taboo, IVF
Stephanie Coker is a Nigerian media personality and presenter.
She’s recently had a baby through IVF and has created a short Youtube series to talk about her experience with IVF and the social perceptions that she encountered not only going through IVF, but while sharing her experience publically.
Ruby Suze (in)Fertility Journey
THEMES: IVF, Social Taboo, Infertility & Faith
Ruby Suze is a UK based Youtuber and she has a series of videos where she discusses her experience with infertility and subsequently, IVF.
She also delves into difficult topics like struggling with her Christian faith during her TTC journey.
In this particular video, she gives an overview of her infertility journey and the difficulties she had to face.
I really hope that this blog post hasn’t come off as me bashing my African heritage. That is certainly not my goal.
I hope to discuss the unique struggles that I, and many other African women, face when dealing with infertility in african culture.
Lastly, I hope that the videos bring understanding and a sense of support to those going through this hard time.
I’d love to hear of your opinions and additions below in the comments.
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