I have just returned from a whirlwind two-week holiday visiting family and friends. Every house was a family home with at least one child in it. As I hugged, cuddled, rocked and high-fived children ranging from a few weeks old to ten years, I kept expecting to feel that twinge – the tug which all women, who have yet to have a child, are supposed to feel. The Broody Feeling
It never came. And it never comes for me.
I’m in my early thirties now and yet to clutch my tummy and raise my hand beseechingly to the heavens when I see a cute baby with only three teeth grinning at me. Well, I imagine that’s how the feeling stops you in your tracks, I wouldn’t know.
I look at a baby like the creature that burst out of John Hurt’s chest in Alien. Slowly growing, waiting, eating you from the inside before finally popping out and pooping all over everything. I also hear childbirth is precisely like this.
I don’t want to be a mother. This is how I feel at this time and how I have felt for years. Maybe my mind will change as I go on in life; probably when I stop giving the meh reply of “Kids are cool” to the “Do you want children?” question. Or maybe I will cross the menopause finishing line with arms open in triumph because it means no more fears about getting pregnant by accident.
I also believe that not everyone is supposed to be a mum. Yes, you have a womb, healthy ovaries and tubes and you can push one out. It doesn’t mean you must. Some women are not built to nurture, despite what this guy here says and what your religion harangues you into doing.
There are too many stories of bad mothers – abandoning their children in pit latrines, verbally & physically abusing them or drowning them in bathtubs for us to cling to the conviction that every woman must be a mother.
Not that I’m saying that I drown kids. I’m good with kids, I think. However, I’m always glad to return them to their parents after the cuteness begins to segue into tears.
Whilst growing up, in the same way I knew I would be going to university, I assumed that I would be having little ones.
Grow up. Get married. Have children. That’s the path Nigerian society has laid out for little girls. For the boys, it’s just one step longer: be a man, get a job, get married, have children.
No matter what gender, we would all end up bouncing babies on our knees. I had the “when I have twins” daydream, naming them Alexander and Alexandra, more preoccupied with the names than the actual people who would bear them. I never thought much about what they would look like, how I would carry them. I also decided that there would be an Mnena Jr because surely not only men have the right to name kids after themselves. But then I got older and realised kids are their own people.
They’re not there for me to dress up, craft or bend into my own image or as a retirement policy I pay into over a lifetime. They can and will talk back to you. They will wriggle out of carefully considered clothes bought for them and shout back at you when you try to push them in directions they do not want to go. Some parents will break their kids. I am afraid of breaking mine. Going into a mood like I usually do and crushing a little heart with a turn of my back. It is a lot of responsibility, one that some of us do not thoroughly consider before following the path laid down for us.
I’m okay with not being broody. I do not feel I am defective in some way or I am less of a woman because I don’t have a child or long to have one. We do not speak enough about what Nigerian societal expectations do to childless couples. We do not look at them as being whole. Something is missing. We put pressure on them until the women seek help through dubious means- drinking concoctions, smearing chicken blood, massaging tummies, sleeping with pastors. When they do get one after many years of struggle, we stretch out a hand and ask for more.
There are alternative happy endings and mine may not necessarily come with the gurgle of a baby. And that’s fine.