Many infertile women consider their lives hopeless, especially in developing countries. Infertility affects up to 15% of reproductive-aged couples globally. WHO demographic studies have shown that in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 30% of women aged 25–49 experience secondary infertility. This is the failure to conceive after an initial first pregnancy. Although male infertility is the cause of a couple’s failure to conceive in about 50% of cases, the social burden falls disproportionately on women. Cases where the woman is infertile, the burden of barrenness is twice felt.
The journey of barrenness.
In a small village in Thika, Kenya, a woman by the name Wamuri narrates her story. She is now 35years of age. She started her journey of barrenness at the age of 17 years- old. Eighteen years back, Wamuri went to the hospital after she developed a leg problem. During the visit, the doctor asked her the last time she has experienced menstrual flow. She revealed to the doctor she had not received any to date. The doctor found this quite abnormal and decided to look into the issue too.
The doctor prescribed scans that she eventually did. The scans revealed she had Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH). This condition causes the uterus and vagina to be underdeveloped. Despite the external presence of the body organ, its functioning is almost not there.
Wamuri has undergone different treatments that she could afford. Her only wish it so be called someone’s mother by the community. As for now, people address her by her name, and this makes her feel left out. She is also a church leader, and at times the title gives her so much pressure. Being a church leader, people look up to her. She prays for people, gives them hope. Years later, she witnesses them receiving their miracles while she is still waiting on hers. Giving up is the last thing on the mind of this woman because every time she does an intrinsic force her to get up again.
“I have cried very many times. Tears enough to fill drums. Sometimes I ask God why he chooses to leave me out?” Wamuri says.
“Are You Cursed?”
While Wamuri deals with her internal struggles, not most people offer a shoulder to cry on. The society can be judgmental at times towards barren women. These women face discrimination, ostracism, and stigma. She is viewed as a burden and, most times, invisible to the world.
“During social gatherings, women would talk about their children, pregnancy, and having children. They are very insensitive and look down upon me as a woman,” Wamuri discloses.
Some go-ahead to call her names “Tasa”, “witch”, “evildoer,” among other horrible names. While others tell her, she should open her eyes and realize she has been bewitched by the grandmother. Stigma extends to the family, including parents, in-laws, and siblings. They express their disappointment for the loss of continuity of their family and contribution to their community. This amplifies the shame and guilt felt by the infertile individual. Barren women are left out on family gatherings, and even when they are present, their contributions don’t have a say. The worst of all is they have to deal with extramarital affairs. Sometimes the man is forced into the affair by external forces.
“When a couple is unable to get children, the man may divorce his wife or take another woman if they live in a culture that permits polygamy,” a male resident said.
There is nothing much she can do about it as the least she could do is to keep her marriage. She goes through horrific scenes in her life. Betrayal from the closest family members and friends and all that barrenness comes along with. However, despite this, she remains hopeful that one day, things will be bright, and she may conceive a baby from her womb.