Had I the capability, I would deny some women the ability to bear children. I know. That is a cruel thing to say. I am still figuring what makes me tick but I know this one thing for sure. For as long as I live, there will never be a stronger urge that engulfs me like the need to protect a child.I have always felt that their sheer innocence and helplessness should move any human being to keep them safe and loved. They could be my nephews, niece, my husband’s love child, a neighbour’s… it does not matter. Peculiarly enough, I have been in conflict with women over the wellbeing of their children. Surely, they would now what is good for the kids, right?
As a journalist, not all stories that I take interest in are published. The story may not have met the editorial threshold: not be enough facts to back up the accusations being thrown thereabout; sources changing their minds and decline to talk to me; an editor may not be convinced that story is worth telling at all. One thing remains though: I cannot rub some images off my mind. I still remember the cry of a little boy in Kisumu’s Russia referral hospital who had lost his penis in the hands of an angry step parent; while riding my bike through Rangwe early one morning to follow up TB stories, I remember seeing a girl who I thought was barely four carrying such a huge bucket of water and shivering. But the incidents that punch in the gut the hardest are where a child suffers such great and sometimes irreparable harm in the hands of those with a sacred duty to protect them: their biological mothers. Normally, people around this child would have raised the alarm to the authorities already, but Kenya’s weak systems have very little regard for children. They would leave that child in custody of the mother as they look for a “sustainable and multipronged approach to make the system ok”. For as long as the system is damaged, I wager, the babies will remain there. The society does not do anything because Kenyans think all women love children.
The truth is, some do not. I do not have statistics to quantify my statement but when postpartum depression or any other mental illness is ruled out, there are mothers who would not be moved to joyful tears by their offspring at all. They are incapable of giving the nurturing and devoted patience that a child needs. They cannot handle the adjustments that come with being a mother like less sleeping hours or the anxiety that comes with the baby being sick. Does that make them evil? Not at all. What makes it evil is a woman knowing that she does not love children and go on to give birth to one to meet some selfish reason. It could be status. Others have children as a ticket out of their economic misery. Go to the children’s court where you will be shocked at how loathsome greed is.
A childless woman in Kenya is an incomplete human being. Just look around. Even women consider women with children that are not biological as “not mom enough”. I remember posting on Facebook asking mothers to take their babies for vaccination to protect the little ones from diseases that science has managed to conquer. A mother of two, and I should add a Christian, commented rather cruelly “na wewe utazaa lini?” (Swahili for “and when will you give birth?”). It was like because I did not have my own, I was not supposed to comment about their wellbeing. A woman who has managed to separate sexual intercourse and procreation because children are not in her to-do-list, is pilloried with named like “too educated” or be seen as being punished for a sin she committed like aborting or being promiscuous. She will be considered unworthy of any respect or love for passing up one of woman’s evolutionary duty. The media is awash of stories of the dangers of delaying motherhood. I am not a gynaecologist so I will not enter into that argument.
There is even a study by Satoshi Kanazawa, a psychologist from London school of Economics, which said that said maternal urges drop by 25 per cent with every extra 15 IQ points a woman garners. In his book The Intelligence Paradox, there is a chapter titled “Why intelligent people are the ultimate losers in life”. The opening statement of the aforementioned chapter groups women who decide not to have children with ignoramuses. He writes: If any value is deeply evolutionarily familiar, it is reproductive success. If any value is truly unnatural, if there is one thing that humans (and all other species in nature) are decisively not designed for, it is voluntary childlessness. All living organisms in nature, including humans, are evolutionarily designed to reproduce. Reproductive success is the ultimate end of all biological existence”
Maternal instinct is not innate in all women. Some women damage children verbally and physically without batting an eyelid, and should not be allowed near them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with acknowledging that. In psychology circles we would argue about the use of the term “instinct” or “drive” interchangeably. Either way, something instinctive or one that drives a human being insinuates that it is automatic, irresistible, no training is needed to acquire it and it is unmodifiable. So when maternal instinct is missing in a woman, no amount of social approval, money can drill it in her. I was listening to writer Elizabeth Gilbert on Oprah and she was explaining her decision not to have children that there are three women when it comes to motherhood: the natural mothers, the auntie team and those we do not want near babies. every woman should search within themselves and find out where they belong. For now, I am in the auntie team. Where do you belong?