I see a few patients struggling with trying to conceive, and I do have the clinical knowledge of infertility, including the statistics, the research, the causes, the options, and so forth and so forth. I know where to refer my patients when all else fails, because we now have a doctor who has specialised in fertility, and is running an IVF clinic here in Zimbabwe. It’s groundbreaking, and will give childless couples some hope of having their own child.
I want to talk about infertile men today. They’re a largely ignored demographic when we speak of infertility, mainly through their own volition. Women bear the brunt of infertility because the man won’t get himself checked, and bases his fertility on the probable fertility of his partner. Because of this, when decisions are made for the couple, the man is left out, all because he does not want to be checked.
The statistics show us that infertility is equal among women and men, sometimes both of them are infertile. So why is it that the woman bears the brunt of the ridicule? The woman is the first one to show up to get checked. When she is all right, then that’s it. The man doesn’t come, only comes after this happens:
My uncle called his ex a man and a stone because she couldn’t conceive. She left him and got pregnant a few months later. https://t.co/AtqRPPejB2
— smol government (@Neo_url) September 12, 2017
So now he has to deal with the fact that maybe he has had the problem all along.
I’ve been told stories of how mothers-in-law would take the matter into their own hands if a couple couldn’t conceive. She’d give her son women in secret, and if nothing happened, then one of her other sons would take one for the team. Whatever babies came from that were the husband’s, no questions asked. I do wonder if that’s where the saying “Gomba harina mwana” (a ditch has no child) came from. It crudely means, you donated the sperm, but you’re not the father. It may be the man’s brothers, or another random man. It was a silent understanding: impregnate a married woman, and the kid is not yours. I guess we had our own version of an anonymous sperm donor. It was all done to protect the man from the shame of infertility.
This tweet made the rounds last month, with people questioning the husband’s fertility as the child looked like the pastor. It was funny and heartbreaking at the same time:
When 13 years of barrenness are broken by the Man of God’s strong anointing. pic.twitter.com/A0fTPkD37y
— Prophet Cynic (@CynicHarare) August 16, 2017
This brings me back to an issue I brought up in a former post about identity in Zimbabwe. Is it such an issue for a man to be infertile because he won’t pass on the family name? Is this not a form of stigmatisation as well, that a man is not a man because he cannot have kids? Is that why it is easier to blame the woman, because then she’ll be told to let the man have another wife? If it’s the man, who will tell him to tell the woman to have another husband?
When it comes to infertility, partriarchy has harmed the man as well. He’s supposed to be the bull, the lion, the fertile being, who can produce an entire clan on his own. He makes kids or nothing. Nothing! No other options.
“Don’t adopt, you don’t know the child’s totem. Why raise another man’s child?”
“No sperm donor. You’ll be raising another man’s child.”
“No IUI. Maybe they mixed up samples. You could raise another man’s child.”
“No IVF. How do you know they used your sperm? You might raise another man’s child.”
“Stay like that… but shame… no one to pass on the family name.”
Surely there is more to fatherhood than making babies that carry your genes. There are very good fathers, who have been denied the gift of fatherhood because they are infertile and society does not give them any other option for fatherhood, when the options exist.
Men, when you and your partner have trouble conceiving, get checked, the both of you. If there is a problem with you, there are options to have a child, we have the facilities. Don’t let the expectations of society rob you of the children you desire. The struggle is yours and your partner’s alone, and the decision should be yours alone. May we get to the point where fatherhood is not determined by gene donation but how you care for the children God gives you, whether it’s through adoption or fertility methods.
What are your thoughts on infertility? Is society unfair on men as well as women? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time… your Quarter Wife