You don’t have to give birth to be a mother. Here are some alternative pathways to motherhood

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Reproduction is central in the function of femaleness. Actually, there is an argument that African womanhood is fulfilled through motherhood which also cements a woman’s place in the family and society. Indeed, for many women, there is simply no room to discuss whether a woman is interested in having biological children or not. Most times, it goes without saying – you are a woman and one day you will get married and have children. To be sure, how many women out there can truly confirm that they have had the conversation with themselves—about whether or not they are interested in having biological children? By and large, we are programmed to believe that we obviously want to have children and the decision to have children, even within ourselves, goes without saying.

Look at this first scenario:

As a woman you are interested in having children and even grew up dreaming of cuddling twins in between different states of your fantasies. But for one reason or another, when the right time comes, you are not able to conceive? Even the doctors confirm this. So what happens? Do you kill yourself because you cannot have children and society demands so? Does it even make sense to blame these women and label them lesser human beings as it happens in some places? I am thinking about this in relation to all the alternatives we have on the path towards motherhood.

Second Scenario

A woman loves children so much but either because of an unfriendly schedule or age, they cannot have a child biologically. Does this therefore mean that this woman cannot have another chance at motherhood? Are they condemned by age and circumstance to not have more children beyond what they have biologically even when they have the means and compassion to take care of more?

All said and done, motherhood is a good thing and can be a source of immense joy and fulfillment. However, ‘true’ motherhood must not continue to be defined in an extremely narrow way because the truth is that the society needs to create room for women who wish to pursue alternative means to motherhood without making these different means of achieving motherhood look like inferior choices or ones that make one become ‘a lesser mother’.

Some of these alternative pathways include surrogacy and adoption.

  • Surrogacy

Surrogacy can be defined as carrying pregnancy for an intended set of parents. In other words, one is carrying a child who will cease to be theirs after the child has been delivered (and nursed). Surrogacy can be either gestational – where an already fertilized embryo which is created by IVF is introduced into the body of the would-be surrogate mother for gestation. There is also the traditional or straight surrogacy where the surrogate mother is impregnated either naturally or artificially and the resulting baby is genetically related to the surrogate mother. I hope this does not sound like a foreign concept because traditional surrogacy has been happening in this continent for a very long time. I do not want to go into the details of the cultural practice that is well elaborated by Ifi Amadiume in her book, Male Daughters, Female Husbands. Therefore, if this subject interests you beyond the surface, get a copy of this book for illumination especially for the African perspective.

A couple who have chosen the surrogacy method. Image from http://infertilityanswers.typepad.com/surrogacy_101/books/

Kenya is one of the many countries in Africa and South America where there is no certainty of where the law stands in matters of surrogacy. Hence I think we get a lot of space to go straight to look at why surrogacy as an option should be considered as an alternative means of becoming a mother.

Gives an otherwise ‘disabled’ couple a chance to have a biological child.

For a couple where the woman is not able to carry a pregnancy to term for one reason or another, surrogacy gives such a couple the opportunity to have their own biological child (or children) especially if they do not wish to remain without a child  because of the condition of the woman. Surrogacy opens the opportunity for the couple to think about options such as IVF and then getting a gestational surrogate to carry the pregnancy.

A couple where one is not able to have a child can still raise a child that is genetically related to one of them

In other cases, either of the couple could turn out unable to have biological children and surrogacy opens the avenue for this couple to consider having a child that is genetically related to one of the partners. This provides satisfaction for both parties if it is deliberated upon well and if this proves to be a better option than the couple remaining childless especially if both of them are interested in raising child(ren) with whom they share a genetic identity. This could also be an alternative to separation or divorce.

Marrying at an advanced age especially for the woman

In this age where career interests and advancement continue to occupy the top lines of the priority list for most middle-class women especially in urban centres, it could be long before a woman eventually settles down and has enough space and time to nurture a child. You do not have to look far to see that women are increasingly getting married at an advanced age because a majority are choosing to first concentrate on having a stable career. With the surrogacy option open, more women have the chance to prioritize their lives in the order that they want instead of being clumped down by biology.

The fear of carrying a pregnancy

Either I watch too many movies or I am a sissy or both. But merely seeing women in labour tells me that this is work and should not simply be embarked on because someone said so. Now, I would understand if a woman wants to have a biological child but cows at the process of it all and opts for a surrogate mother. But the fear that should stop a woman from carrying a pregnancy cannot be merely speculation. If a doctor advices that a woman risks if she decided to carry a pregnancy because of a medical condition, there is perhaps no need to force things.

2.) Adoption

This is the second alternative road to motherhood that this piece looks at.

Royal Greenwich defines adoption as a way of providing new families for children who cannot be brought up by their biological parents. Ideally, adoption is a legal procedure in which all parental responsibility is transferred to the adopters.

Gives a chance to everyone to be a parent.

A story is told about a couple who longed so much to have a child of their own but unfortunately, ended up with one miscarriage after another. Luckily, this family links up with a young woman who got pregnant but who is not yet ready to be a mother and makes an arrangement to adopt the young woman’s child. This is not an isolated case. There are many families out there who are not able to have children biologically and opt to adopt children to take care of their inability to have biological children. Adopted children, like biological children, can bear the family name and continue its lineage – to mention just some of the things a biological child can do which can be done by adopted children as well.

Surrogacy or adoption. These are options for women. Image from https://www.stayathomemum.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/surrogacy.jpg

Let’s face it; some women (and men) are not interested in having biological children.

A woman’s love for children is not only tied to birthing. There are women who love children absolutely; however, they do not have any desires of having biological children. Are such women therefore condemned to never express their love and motherly care? Not at all, the option of adoption gives these women a chance to express their love to children that might not have had this opportunity.

Makes the dream of those who want many children come true

Every human is strange and just like there are those who do not love children nor desire to have any biologically; there are women who can hardly have enough of children – way beyond their biological capabilities. Adoption opens up this possibility since as long as woman has the means; nothing should stop her from having as many children as they can have compassion for.

Adoption enables women who want to extend their compassion to other children to do so

You might have your children and family complete but feel motherly compassion towards another child who might not have parents or who because of unfriendly conditions, cannot enjoy parental love from their biological parents. With the option of adoption available, these women have a chance to care for both biological and adopted children.

Mother’s day is coming up this Sunday. We would like to wish all the mums out there a happy Mother’s day. Also to all those women out there who don’t have kids (the aunties) who love and take care of their sister’s or friends kids like their own we also salute you. Happy Mother’s Day.

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