By Dr Thomas Muyombo
Published by Merck Foundation (2018)
THE issue of infertility is one that parents and caregivers should discuss with children in order to instill better perceptions as they mature physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially.
Due to socialisation, many in Africa grow up with the belief that infertility can only affect women and this has contributed to stigma and discrimination of women who do not have children.
Under review this week is a book written specifically for children but can also make a great impact in the lives of adults.
Written with the idea of correcting the misconception that infertility only affects women, the book is simply titled Tudu’s Story.
The writer of the book is Dr Thomas Muyombo, a Zimbabwean.
Tudu’s Story carries with it an interesting story designed to enlighten young children on the issue of infertility.
It is centred on the protagonist Tudu and his wife Chipo.
As a couple, the two are not only successful and hard-working, but they love each other.
However, it is society that reminds them that their love is not enough as a result of a child who is missing in their lives.
In presenting the story, the writer does well in using literature as a mirror of the society.
His story clearly reflects beliefs, thoughts and feelings of a given society in relation to the issue of infertility.
Muyombo uses Tudu’s Story to show that usually it is society that torments and reminds couples of their obligation to have children soon after marriage.
In other words, recently married couples are ‘forced’ to make decisions that not only affect their lives but also ensure there is less gossip about them.
What Muyombo is pointing out to young readers is that misplaced expectations of the society result in putting pressure on married couples.
In the book, Sekai represents society when she questions Tudu and his wife about bearing children.
“I wonder how they can be happy like that when they can’t have children. The woman is infertile,” writes Muyombo, reflecting on Sekai’s thoughts.
Sekai’s thoughts and feelings are presented in a way that clearly shows how members of the community uphold the misconception that children are the source of happiness in a marriage.
On the other hand, the writer uses Sekai to show that sometimes women torment fellow women by pointing out their shortcomings.
Sekai asks Chipo: “How can someone barren like you Chipo pretend to be happy?
You should be mourning and hiding your face.”
In the book, the society, Tudu and even Chipo herself are of the belief that only a woman should be blamed for infertility.
“You see Tudu, Takudzwa and I have been thinking about you. We know you are sad because your wife is infertile, let’s help you and find you a fertile young wife,” Muyombo writes reflecting the thoughts of Tudu’s friends.
Reading this book provides children with the platform for understanding that infertility does not only affect women but men also.
In other words, the author is encouraging parents and caregivers to change the narrative about infertility and tell children on how it is a shared responsibility.
Despite society’s continued blaming of Tudu’s wife for the barrenness in their home, Muyombo provides a scientific explanation.
The following dialogue between Tudu and the doctor is a first step of changing the misconception around infertility:
“Doctor, I have brought my wife for treatment. We think she is infertile.
“That’s okay but you cannot tell before we do tests, it might be you who has infertility.
“What? Me? No way. A man is never infertile.”
Tudu’s Story brings to the fore some of the causes of infertility in men.
Some of the major causes include poor nutrition, untreated sexually transmitted infections and substance as well as drug abuse.
It is at the doctor’s that Tudu is faced with the reality that he is the infertile one.
Tudu’s discovery contributed not only to him and his wife finding a solution to their problem but also changing the views of society as noted in his remarks: “My friends and I have learnt that infertility is not a curse. It’s a condition that affects both men and women and can be treated once someone seeks treatment early. No one should be stigmatised because they are infertile.”
Tudu’s Story is a book that can be used to correct the narrative of infertility in most African societies.