The “happiness” in childlessness

By A.B. Kafui Kanyi

Ho, Nov 16, GNA – It is Yabor’s turn to keep the family tree flourishing. Her mother had two sets of twins and she, (Yabor) is expected to have many children too, including twins.

Amanor, her husband says, he married her because twins run through her family.

“Nadzi gle kple lo”, “Nadzi ve ne miawo,” to wit, “give birth to aligators and crocodiles” “give birth to twins for us to celebrate,” were two key messages and refrains that featured at her traditional marriage ceremony, challenging her to give birth to many children – different sizes, shapes and colours, including twins.

But Yabor, 40, is yet to have a child and stigmatized for her barrenness.

In her community, where people have been struggling with grinding poverty, lack of access to quality health and education, childbirth is still seen as a duty placed on girls and women by society.

Pregnancy, once confirmed in the community is celebrated in varied ways.

It calls for new dresses, hairstyles and strolling around all over the place with swagger.

Like other childless women in Yabor’s community, she is given a nickname, “Dzi deka”- to wit, at least give birth to one.

The emotional torture – the taunts and scorn are simply unimaginable. Her sister in-law describes her as a “tree only good for shade” and a “witch”. She inspects and tastes foods Yabor prepares for her husband to ensure he is not “bewitched.”

The mother in-law joins in the emotional abuse, giving her gallons of concoction from herbalists to cure her infertility.

Sometimes, she would be made to take three beer bottles of concoction a day for her to give birth to triplets, something which often resulted in her bleeding continuously for months alongside other nightmares.

Yabor has been subjected to several fertility tests, but none for her husband. She suffered from reduced self-esteem, guilt and depression.

But Yabor says she is strengthened by the “trials” and empowered to advise and encourage would-be-wives to be open minded on childbirth in marriage.

She says she takes advantage of fertility tests and treatments to screen for other ailments and sees herself healthier than many women with children, who have been taunting her.

Martha, 37, also thinks childlessness is a “gift” and only a few women have that “gift” and appreciate it.

It was her first pregnancy and Martha was filled with anxiety to meet the condition of her husband to marry her, a child.

She was rushed to the hospital with signs of labour. But midwives on duty claimed, she wasn’t due.

After she screamed the baby was in-between her thighs, the midwives rushed and started giving her lashes of the cane and instructing her to push.

Martha did push, but alas, the baby came out dead. The nurses started calling her names – a witch and murderer, as Martha broke down in tears.

Shortly, they called Martha’s husband to-be, and accused her of killing her own child.

The man took pictures of the dead baby and went to the market square where Martha sells to spread lies that she deliberately killed her own child.

That same day, the man organized a burial service for the baby and buried him with pictures of Martha, asking the spirit of the child to deal with her.

Martha never saw the face of her baby. She was only told he died. Everything went bad. No baby, no marriage, as her fiancée threw her out of their chamber and hall apartment.

She was also ejected from her father’s house because she was cautioned against that relationship, compelling her to start life all over, perching with a friend, but she says it is not “terrible.” “It used to strike me in my sleep but I have overcome it.”

Despite her childlessness, she and her new man are happy together without a child. They spend quality time together, take care of each other and relations.

“These things are for strong people, so it is a gift and I’m enjoying the person I am. I am lovely, sexy and sweet,” she says with a smile, adding, I am childless but happy and still hopeful.

According CNN’s Kelly Wallace, a report by Princeton University and Stony Brook University published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found “very little difference” in life satisfaction of parents and people without kids.

Several other studies also reveal that couples without children are happier than parents.

Ami, 40, has no child after 10 years in marriage. It was one of the biggest marriage ceremonies in her church due to her social standing.

Two years into marriage without a child resulted in hissings from members, pastors and prophets, pushing her out of the church, with thoughts of childlessness tormenting her in her sleep.

She lost very good friends, who doubted her womanhood, which she so much cherished as a teenager.
But she finds new love and happiness – mothering Nalikem and Akos, her sisters’ children.

Ami is arguably the head of her extended family because every member turns to her for comfort and solutions to their socio-economic problems.

Her house is home to the family and to her, childlessness is a calling. “I see this as a calling, it is a ministry.

I’m not sure I can do this much if I have children of my own and it is not everyone that can do this so I see it as a calling. This is what God wants me to do so I’m okay.”

Ami adds that she stopped crying and pitying herself because “I can’t change it. I’m happy I am alive, I have friends and a family to love.

The greatest relationship is the one with yourself and I’m happy.”

She has come to terms with the fact that she cannot change her situation.

She visited churches and traditional healers for help, for two decades, but nothing came out of that.

Ami recounts how a prophet of an unnamed church in Ho, the Volta Regional capital, sold a special anointing oil to her and asked her to smear it over her body at night, bath in a bowl and drink the bath water “to be able to pick seed”.

She was also to use some of the water to cook for her husband.

She said after three months, she did not see any sign of hope and stopped.
The ‘coca cola’ shaped dark coloured woman says her experience with a traditional healer was not any different.

Ami says she was told to cook three different types of meals and to invite children, about 15 of them, in her community, for a free meal -“salaka”.

She was instructed to ensure that all the children washed their hands in a bowl so she could use the water for bathing.

Ami said she did as she was told, but that did not change anything, just like her visits to traditional hospitals, where she was placed on clomid and M2TONE for years.

But Ami is wrong. It is not true that she can’t change her situation.

A year after Kodzokuma, a local drinking bar operator along the Ghana-Togo border at Aflao, was insulted by his younger brother that he was infertile and made a joke of him that he would have to buy baby dresses for his beer bottles and call them babies, his low sperm condition was cured and had three children in three years.

Often, anxiety makes it difficult for people (men and women) on fertility treatment to go through the full course for results.

It is worth noting that a high percentage of infertility is treated in the world today from hormone treatments, use of fertility drugs and surgery.

For some, all they need doing is to plan their sexual intercourse within five days of ovulation to improve their chances of getting pregnant.

Others may need artificial insemination, which involves insertion of sperm directly into a woman’s womb or assisted reproductive technology -medical procedures, which may explore artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF)-mixing a woman’s egg with a man’s sperm in a test tube.

There is also ovulation induction, where medicines are used to make ovaries release eggs.

It must be said that in about 80 per cent of couples, the cause of infertility is either an ovulation problem, blockage of the fallopian tubes, or a sperm problem, which could all be treated.

In five to 15 per cent of couples, however, all tests are normal and the cause of infertility unknown, according to experts.

Eighty (80) per cent problem, Dr Edem K. Ahiadzi, a Fertility Specialists, says could be traced to alcoholism, smoking, chronic sexually transmitted infections and unsafe abortions.

Professor Oladapo Aderenle Ashiru, President of the African Fertility Society, attributes nutritional toxins emanating from fish contaminated with high metals like mercury and chemical residues from fruits and vegetables as the other causes of infertility.

He warns that women who drive with bare foot to protect their pedicure or for other reasons could also suffer infertility because the foot may attract metalic substances into the body, which could make them infertile.

Whiles individuals with fertility challenges make efforts to access treatment, it is critical for society to shun attitudes that make such people suffer discrimination and stigmatization.

For instance, parents, especially mothers must stop demonstrating open preference for their children who give them, grandchildren.

Cursory observation shows that inheritance is a major issue underpinning discrimination and stigmatization of people on fertility treatment. But the fact is, children do not necessarily offer social security, satisfy emotional needs, secure conjugal ties or confer social status.

Few couples in the developed countries are childless by choice.

It is vital to accept to invest more in the happiness and future of the living and not how one’s property would be inherited when he or she is dead.

The media should also desist from perpetuating traditional gender stereotyping, with radio and television advertisements and movies, criminalizing infertility and portraying men and women, especially, with fertility issues as imperfect.

Additionally, the country must integrate infertility prevention, care and treatment into a policy action to meet targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals that border on maternal and infant mortality, reproductive health and sexuality, including infections and HIV.

Yes! There is happiness in childlessness. But that peace, love, and never-ending joy can only be achieved with support from you.


This article was first published in 2017