Barrenness and the Weight of Societal Pressures

Barrenness and the Weight of Societal Pressures

Saturday, April 20, 2024 7:23 pm

Pregnancy testing

Pregnancy testing

Johnson Babalola

She entered the dining room of the Lagos hotel where I was staying, a mere shadow of her former self. The vibrant woman I remembered from a decade ago, glowing with life and dreams, had been replaced by someone weary and sorrowful. Her once infectious smile now seemed weighed down by burdens I couldn’t quite comprehend.

“PM, what’s going on?” I inquired, a tinge of concern lacing my words, hoping against hope that her troubles weren’t as dire as they seemed.

“I’m okay, sir,” she replied, though her words rang hollow against the backdrop of her weary demeanor.

“No, you’re not. I’ve known you since you were a child. We grew up on the same street, remember? You were always full of life. What happened?” I pressed gently, my heart aching for the pain I could see etched in her eyes.

“Sir, I’m sorry for keeping my distance all these years. I’ve been dealing with so much,” she confessed, her voice tinged with regret.

“Kilode?” (why?) I asked, urging her to share her burdens.

“Oro po nbe sir,” (there is a lot to say) she replied softly, signaling the weight of her troubles.

And then PM began to unravel her tale. The first few years of her marriage had been blissful, but soon the pressure of barrenness began to mount. Her in-laws, particularly her mother-in-law, had started to openly discuss her inability to conceive, casting a shadow over her happiness. Even her own family and friends added to the weight with their constant inquiries and well-meaning but hurtful comments. Her pastor does not help matters when he regularly invites those expecting “the fruits of the womb” to step forward for prayers on Sundays during service.

Despite seeking medical help and finding no issues, her husband’s behavior began to change, turning abusive as he blamed her for their inability to have children. Desperate for a solution, she turned to every possible avenue for help, from religious leaders, traditional healers to medical experts, but to no avail. Her husband eventually left. The weight of her perceived failure bore down on her, leading to depression and isolation.

As she shared her pain, I listened intently, offering what comfort and guidance I could. I reminded her of the importance of seeking professional help to deal with her depression and encouraged her to consider adoption if that was her desire. Most importantly, I urged her to prioritize her own well-being and happiness, regardless of societal expectations. I pointed out the sobering reality that some individuals tragically pass away soon after finally achieving parenthood due to the immense stress they’ve endured in their pursuit.

As PM left, I couldn’t help but reflect on the harmful effects of societal pressures, particularly within the Yoruba culture (and there might be others), that stigmatize barrenness. The lyrics of certain musicians, including those in juju and fuji genres, alongside prevailing sayings and beliefs that link having children with success, can inflict deep wounds on those who are unable to conceive, fostering feelings of inferiority and unworthiness. It’s often overlooked that many who do have children face challenges (from their children) such as neglect, criminal behavior, various forms of abuse, and substance addiction, leading to regret, unhappiness and strife within families.

PM’s story serves as a reminder of the importance of empathy, support, and understanding in the face of societal expectations. It’s a call to challenge harmful stereotypes and to embrace compassion and acceptance for all paths to fulfillment and happiness.

*Johnson Babalola, a Canada based lawyer, leadership consultant and corporate emcee, is a public affairs analyst. Follow him for discussions on real life issues that affect us all:*
View at
IG: @jbdlaw

*You can obtain a copy of his newly released book, REJECTED on Amazon, FriesenPress, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Apple Books, Nook Store etc.*

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