The lady I had met just an hour earlier, a total stranger, looked baffled when I told her it had been seven years since we got married. She instantly frowned, an expression that was somewhere between disdain and sympathy. Looking here and there to make sure my husband wasn’t present, she lowered her voice and told me about a doctor. According to the lady, that doctor had a very high “success” rate. To add more value to her argument, she went on to tell me about a woman in her family who waited for her miracle for several years, until this doctor magically cured her. So it seems it was decided there and then that she was the doctor I needed.
I have heard stories like these from countless women. Their stories of loss vary in the finer details but one thing is common: other people’s expressions of pity and then the unsolicited advice that follows. This happens over and over and over till women can take it no more. They start thinking something must be wrong with them. They are made to feel like they are misfits. Being undermined for something that is not their fault, many are unable to bear the pressure.
Those who cannot bear the pressure of remaining childless are the ones who succumb to people’s belief that there is something wrong with them. Their guilt burdens them and they eventually become a soft target for a society that must put the other person down in order to feel validation about themselves. What is the result? A society that preys off the weak. Literally.
Among so many things my own mother taught me, I will always be indebted to her for allowing me to see myself as a complete human being and inculcating a sense of gratitude for it. If she ever found any feelings of inadequacy take root in me, she was quick to pluck them. She used to ask me what is it that others have and I do not. Then she would count with me my blessings, not the material things, but the things that truly mattered, like health, happiness and family. Sometimes, she used to count with me in this way, you have two strong arms, two hands you can do all your work with, two legs that can walk, two feet, a pair eyes that can see clearly, most importantly, a receptive mind. She used to do this exercise with me each time and conclude it by saying, you are blessed in every way like others. With this repetitive exercise, she was able to drive home a very important lesson that I would later need in my life. Today, this is what I tell the women around me, carrying her lessons of gratitude forward in my own way.
Girls who have the fortune to be among empowering women at home can vouch for what a big difference a good upbringing can make.
We live in a society that thrives on the concept of “more”. You must be more than what you are, you must own more, and you must have a better job. Social media will hammer down the idea of a perfect life in your mind repeatedly. How every advertisement that shows a happy family is centered around the idea of smiling parents and their children. Why? Childlessness and infertility is very common; much more than you and I think. But we fail to talk about it, and hence, fail to see it on our media too.
In a world that preys on human loss and shortcomings by making it seem like a fault, rather than a divine decision, it makes so much difference if you still know you’re blessed in bigger, better ways.
I want to tell women to start respecting their bodies. Do not let anyone dictate you the measures through which you see yourself. Your body is perfect the way it is because it is how God intended it to be; do not be misled into thinking otherwise.
You are perfect the way you are. Your inability to have a child is not something you should be ashamed of. The world will grind you down with intrusive questions. You will hear unwanted advice, treatment suggestions, and doctor endorsements. Some people will go as far as to ask you what is “wrong” with you. Listening to this repeatedly can break anyone down. The only thing that will help you at this time is to remember all your blessings.
I see so many women who are made to feel lesser for not having children. They are told in direct as well as subtle ways that their bodies are to blame: bodies that are faulty and malfunctioning. There is nothing you can do to avoid the waiting that must precede before you finally get your miracle.
Similarly, if you have lost a child, do not, for a second, think that it was a mistake on your part. People will have all kinds of things to say, the worst one being, accusing the woman of not being “careful” enough. There is nothing you could have done to save a child that had to go. Similarly, there is nothing you could have done to lose that baby.
When a woman is raised the right way, she learns to differentiate between her true potential and the labels people put on her. You can apply this to any walk of life; girls who are raised and nurtured well will always thrive no matter what life throws at them. Even childlessness.
It is up to us to stand up for ourselves if we are such women battling infertility. If you know someone around you who is struggling, be there for them. We have to work together to bring awareness regarding this topic. If we do not feel ashamed regarding any other form of sickness then why this one? Conversely, why must you make a struggling woman feel ashamed for this sickness that was never in her hands to being with?
Taboos exist only in our minds.
Take home advice: educate yourselves, build empathy, and be there for someone. Most importantly, if you have young daughters at home, liberate them by telling them they are beyond any label and any sense of loss. They won’t need a label to be complete women.