I had all started as a joke between the two sisters. The older one started referring to the children of her younger sister, (two boys) as hers. The two sisters were the only children, their parents had, before they died in an accident.
When the sisters got married, one went on to have two boys in quick succession, but subsequently couldn’t have any more children, no matter how hard she tried. As for the older sister, who had gotten married earlier, she couldn’t seem to conceive. I have no idea what treatments she underwent, but considering the period we are talking about, some 35 years ago, I imagine, she would have traversed several hospitals and herbal medicine homes, all in the bid to have a child.
Meanwhile, the younger sister had started to have issues in her marital home, and had moved into her sister’s home, a move that was very welcome by the older sister. There would be no more need to tell people that her children were coming; now they were right there with her. Her sister’s children had become her kids.
Even today, childless couples face a lot of issues and questions, the questions sometimes coming from strangers, and sometimes from people who know the couple, and whom, maybe, have not seen them for a while, and are merely trying to catch up on the latest news in their lives.
The questions range from, “Where are your children?”, “Is that your son?” “Your children have gone to school, right?”
The older sister bore all these questions, and she soon started to create her own answers to them. She turned these questions, whatever their motive were, into prayer points. She answered and told them, “They are at home” “I sent them on an errand” “Yes, they are in school,” “Yes, that’s my son.” So you see why having her sister stay with her was beneficial to her? She finally had children to claim ownership of, without having to bear all the probing questions and insults any longer.
That woman died without having a child of her own, but she mothered her sister’s children as if she had borne them herself, and even went as far as willing her property to the boys, (now, family men).
One of those children, who brought succor to a childless mom, told that story in a bid to comfort a mother, who had lost her only child. His premise was that, at least, she had had a child, and was known to have been pregnant, but his Aunt was never pregnant, never suckled a child, and only got a chance at motherhood through her sister’s children. She was as much of a Mom to himself and his brother, as their biological mom had been. To him, they had been blessed to have two moms, who loved and cared for them equally.
For another couple, who were in their 50s and had never had children, they were on a vacation when someone tactlessly asked about their children. While the wife was still dealing with all the emotions that question evoked, the husband answered, “We are still trying.”
You know what? It immediately shut the door on any more questions from that person, and made him so uncomfortable that the conversation ended, and the stranger left. For that stranger, it was an innocent enough question. In his world, couples that old would most likely have had at least a child between them, and maybe even grandchildren! He had not expected to be told the truth, to be told that they were still trying to get pregnant and have a baby in their 50s.
He had expected to be told, “The children are fine! In fact, they are missing us, and wish we had brought them along.” He was in no such luck that day, and instead, he had put his foot right into it, and it was awkward for him as he made his quick exit thereafter.
After that time, the couple decided they were going to tell the truth. Although, it went against the grain for them, as their family choices were considered a very personal matter, but since people were always going to ask, they decided to start telling the truth…and besides, seeing how effectively it had worked on the fellow holiday maker made them wonder how wonderful it would work back home!
When they got back to Nigeria, it didn’t take too long before one person, and then another person, heard their new response to their infertility challenge. Their family members were asked to call them to order, as that was just not done! But the questions came their way more often here than they did abroad. Their relatives wondered what American bug had bitten them to make them so open about their infertility. They wondered what would have happened, if they had stayed longer than 3 months. Offer an open invite to their bedroom, maybe!!
Ironically, the same people who had told them that no one else’s child could be like their own, that no matter how they much they loved such a child, or trained them, or bankrolled their education, those children were never going to bear their name and would always remember their biological parents before them, started to peddle adoption as an option for the couple.
How he had come about that quip while on holiday, he simply had no idea! It was just at the tip of his tongue, probably having grown weary of answering such questions and innuendos back home in Nigeria. Something must have snapped in him, and he just said the first thing that came to his mind – the truth.
As we travel the fertility journey, there will always be lots of questions, insinuations and outright snide remarks to address (if you still have any energy left to deal with them after the treatments), but when your silence will no longer cut it, or your ‘God is able’ attitude is no longer doing the trick, you know the next best thing to try…the truth.
It shuts people down faster than anything else, because they are not expecting it.
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