I have heard lots of bible stories about barren women. A common example was Sarah and how she gave birth to Abraham after she was well passed her child bearing age. Now, I bet there were huge difference between child bearing age at that time compared to today. Lots of stories like these were very much taken face value in Nigeria therefore lots of people were in conflicts with what to believe, the religious quotes of the past or the science of today.
The term ‘barren’ is a stigma that is usually associated with women, so if a union did not produce a child, first and foremost the woman in the relationship is the one to blame for the childlessness of the couple. In Nigeria especially, only in very rare cases would the man allowed himself to be tested especially if he had normal regular erections, which in itself is not a proof of fertility as his semen might have mobility problem or dead upon ejaculation, there are whole lots of information to be derived from semen analysis to confirm the status.
A college friend of mine whose half brother had a big clinic in Ibadan used to feed me with different medical stories. Neither she nor I knew the patients so no patients-doctor confidentiality code broken. She once told me how her brother was making lots of money in his clinic helping couple with fertility problems. Most of the men they used, she said were recruited just as you would manual labourers from the town centres. The patients were well to do individuals who could afford to pay for the treatments so if Dr Ade (not real name) sees that the infertility lie with the man, he would be secretive and insists that the woman is the one with the problem and would offer to treat her. The women will then be offered options of either to sleep with someone at the clinic or do semen insemination. The huge difference in price usually pushed most women to go for the former as the latter was far more expensive. In these cases, most men were unaware they were not the biological father of the child. This was nearly 15 years ago, I am sure there are much more decent ways of getting pregnant these days if the fertility problems lie with the man and his woman did not want to hurt his ego.
When my friend told the story above, we were supposed to just laugh about it and moved on to the next gossips of the day but the story took me to my little village life. As you can imagine, in a small village, everyone knows everyone else’s business. We had a couple of men in my village when I was growing up that were said to be impotent and of course being impotent doesn’t necessarily mean being infertile but you are likely to need the help of a specialist. As cruel as humans could be, we had names for the two men, the names that serve as reminders of what they were missing in their lives. Both men at the time were in their late fifties. One of the men, let’s call him Baba, I can tell you never travelled beyond 30miles from my village, this was according to the village whisperers. Baba died about a decade ago – childless. I knew him to be a nice cheerful and hardworking man. Now, the second man, Adeolu, had a far more colourful life. Despite the fact that everyone old and young knew of his fertility problem, he died a few years back leaving seven children and many grandchildren with a beautiful widow behind. There was a common joke of who fathers whom among the children.
While fertility problems among men and women remain common knowledge in Nigeria, adults around would talk about this issue within hearing distance of children and for some reasons our adults are oblivious to fact that children pick and learn a lot from them even when the information was not directed to the children.
Ways to bring down the rise of baby factories across the country:
Education – I can not stress this highly enough. We need to accept that infertility is real and that it can affect both genders. Male infertility is less talked about in Nigeria especially when men have normal regular erection, please educate yourselves.
We are of culture that highly depended on our elders and religious leaders’ wisdom so if any of these groups have the mentality that we are all meant to have biological children, then we are doomed. Realise that time has changed, citizens delay child bearing these days than any time in history and the older you get be it men or women, the lower the chances of conceiving naturally, this is especially true for women.
The case of Pastor Gilbert Deya was never the only one and it has not been the last. If Uk government did not buy into the mindless baby miracle pretence why aren’t we doing more to uncover this inhuman behaviour in our midst?
And most important of all, let us be honest with one another, if you have gone through hell of dealing with infertility and perhaps have been blessed with children, how about telling us the whole truth of how you dealt with this, you might be able to help millions of Nigerians in the dark. This reminds me of my few years in Lagos. Sister Kike as I learnt was from a wealthy family but she and her husband have business of their own and they were doing really well making plenty of money, however, they had no child, this was the reason they started coming to my sister’s church I was told. I heard sister Kike was married for three years with no child, however when the couple joined the church, after sometime they went to the United Kingdom for a while and Sister Kike came back pregnant. She remained in Nigeria until she had her baby boy. The whole church was happy for them and they shower the pastor with lots of praises and admiration on the christening day. We all believed that the pastor performed a miracle. I was elated and had no reason to doubt the testimony.
It took me 10 whole years (what a shame) to come up with a believable story of Sister Kike. For me there was a missing piece each time I thought about Sister Kike’s story. I later learnt that the infertility issue in the UK is a lot more in the open than Nigeria, their government has helped enormously to educate the citizens and provided help where necessary. To make peace within myself, I could only conclude that Sister Kike had IVF treatments which was neither shameful nor a crime. Why aren’t the church telling the truth? We wouldn’t understand? I get that – most people would probably fainted if told the price of getting an IVF treatments and associated costs if you were non UK resident. It is helpful if people knew of their options.