IS IT A WOMAN’S CHOICE TO MAKE? It is. This is inarguable and unequivocal.
Now, let’s paint a number of scenarios.
My friend Bimbo is a professional career woman – driven, energetic, a little crazy and restless. She has all these plans, and try as she might, she cannot see a child in them. She meets Olu, a contented civil servant, aspiring father. He states this desire for children clearly. Against the odds, they fall in love. While this scenario could have played out many different ways, their differences are their strength, and they come to an agreement that works. She, despite her reluctance, makes the sacrifice, takes some time off and has their child. He agrees to hold the home front down.
Simi has a child because she does not know that it is a decision she can make. She does what is expected of her – gets married, has the baby, and then continues to carry on as though she didn’t, leaving the baby to the care and influence of maids and nannies.
Safiyat does not want children. She says this in passing to her fiancée, Ahmed who treats it as a joke. He laughs and waves it off. They get married. Two years later, the heat is on. Ahmed says he thought she was joking; Safiyat is adamant about the fact that he knew beforehand. The marriage is threatened and something/someone has to give in, or things will come apart.
Every woman must realise that her body is hers to do with as she pleases – within the bounds of commonsense. This is sacrosanct. However, can a woman make this decision alone? It depends and brings us to the next point.
When should a woman disclose her decision concerning children? At the very beginning, especially if she is very firm in her stance. As a single woman, she can do as she pleases, and if she wants to do something irreversible like a Tubal Ligation or (God forbid) a Hysterectomy (not advisable purely for birth control purposes), now is the time. However, whether or not a couple want children is a topic that must be discussed exhaustively – right down to the timing – before they venture into marriage. You cannot surprise your partner with news that you have had a change of mind. This is tantamount to fraud.
Between Intractability and Conscientiousness
While it is true that every person has a choice whether or not they want to have children, a final word should be on flexibility.
Biologically, a man is incapable of carrying children to life, the onus is on the woman to bear children for the family. The man – and society – must appreciate the fact that it is a sacrifice in furtherance of ideals, rather than something she has no say over. The woman on her part should be ready to be accommodating, or at least, must make full disclosure before any kind of permanent commitment is made. That is the conscientious thing to do.