I read your letter with both shock and confusion. In the first place, you hardly write, so I was surprised to see your letter. But the content shocked me even more.
You asked me to be as candid as possible and tell you what I would do if in our marriage, you were not able to become a mother. You went ahead to state that you knew my family would put pressure on me and that I should give you reasons I would yield or not succumb to such pressures.
Serwaa, I have been thinking about the issue ever since you told me how your church member had her husband prised away from her because of her inability to deliver. You added that the mother-in-law who spearheaded that divorce was an active elder of the same church. That’s serious, isn’t it?
I had my firm stance on the matter long before I heard that story. Such stories abound in our society and I grew up with such familiar incidents of families tormenting innocent women and calling them names. They are either described as witches or that their mother’s had turned their wombs into playing fields. And it is women who often lead such diabolic crusades. Are women really not their own enemies?
Children, especially in cultures such as ours, are seen as the basis for successful marriages. In some cases, children are seen as wealth. My people, the Gurune (Frafra), have a saying that “the wealth of a man is not determined by the size of his barn but the number of mouths he feeds.”
In some cases, not only do intruders jump in when there is no child in the marriage, but they also find justifications to dissolve marriages when the appropriate sex, usually a male, is not forthcoming.
There is a story of an old woman who kept poultry for five years and would not allow anybody to touch any single one of the birds. When she needed chicken, she had to go and buy in the market. No one understood her until one morning she summoned the entire extended family, including her daughter-in-law.
She took them to the hencoop and ordered her in-law to count the number of fowls as she let out one fowl after the other. Without the faintest clue, the poor woman started counting and when the last fowl left the coop, her count ended at 157.
“I bought only one hen four years ago when I reaslised that your belly is only capable of storing food,” she began. “After marrying my son for five years, I do not have any idea who will continue the family’s lineage when I am gone. I want you to tell me why you should still be wasting food in this house.”
Serwaa, there are worse forms of this humiliation and our local movies depict the reality that people have to contend with in their marriages. Usually, religion or ethnicity does not matter here. So I understand your fears.
It did not start today. In the days of Abraham, inability to bring forth children was a hell of a problem and some religious scholars attribute why we have Muslims and Christians today to that incident. And it doesn’t look like the situation will end before our marriage.
But let me assure you: you have nothing to fear or worry about. We pray that such a thing does not happen to us. But if that happens, I will not see it as a threat to our marriage. In the first place, no human being has the ability to make children and I will not yield to any pressure. Trust me, Serwaa.
Our elders say the look of a stranger determines whether his host will prepare him a welcome dish with a one-eyed fowl. I don’t foresee anybody being stubborn enough to confront me with such nonsense. The worst they can do is to spread malicious rumours.
Children are good, but they are not the only determinants of happy marriages. In some cases, children have been the cause of destabilised marriages. Some children have ruined not only their parents but also their entire families. So I will not be swayed into going wayward because of equally wayward pressures.
I also know that in some cases, the problem is not from the woman. But I’m yet to see or hear about any family that puts pressure on their daughter to quit a marriage because her man cannot make children.
If I will succumb to pressure because my wife cannot give birth, then what I’m saying is that if it turns out that the infertility is from me, then you should as well quit.
In order to overcome loneliness, I would suggest we adopt if we find ourselves in that situation. When I was a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, I visited the Bawjease Orphanage, in the Central Region to do a class assignment. And for the first time, I was wondering why children should be dying to have parents while others are also dying to have children.
There was a little girl who sat on my laps and would not leave when it was time to go. She was less than two years old, very pretty and cheerful and obviously needed the love and care of a family. I have not forgotten about her though I have not visited the orphanage ever since. It is a blessing to give hope to such children even when we are capable of making our own.
I was even planning to let you know that instead of giving birth to the three children we need as our ideal number, we can plan our family in such a way that we have two on our own and adopt the third one.
Serwaa, I know it is easier said than done. But in all things, it takes resilience psychological preparedness to overcome such hurdles. I’m happy you have brought up this issue now. Let us prepare psychologically for everything that has the probability of happening in our marriage. No hurdle is too high to scale with the help of God.
Besides, do not nurse those fears. God will never deny us our hearts’ desires in this relationship, of which He is the foundation. But if it happens otherwise, it will be for our own good. Let us however look at the brighter side of life. In marriage, it is always best to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
I have promised to love you till the end and nothing can stand in our way. Only God, can, but I know He won’t. On this love shall we build our marriage and the gates of bareness shall not prevail against it.
The Writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is Senior Broadcast Journalist with Joy FM. Writer’s email: [email protected]