The pressures of producing offspring

I am a nurse who works in what I like to think of as a Neonatal Casualty (it is called the Transitional Unit) and here you get to meet all kinds of people.

I remember one particular night when we were bombarded with two cases that ended up with both babies being admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The two babies were both in need of ventilation and their stories were so similar it was as though the universe dictated this.

They were both born prematurely, less than 37 weeks of gestation.

Both sets of parents were waiting the miracle of a healthy, happy baby, but instead they received babies needing intense interventions.

What struck me the most about the parents of both babies was that they had both experienced miscarriages and were so hopeful for a healthy baby this time.

However, I also got the sense that there was a huge amount of pressure on them. As married couples, clearly there was pressure from all the in-laws to fulfill the next step: to start a family.

But it wasn’t to be. Their children were gravely ill and they were devastated.

It saddened me to witness one of the fathers immediately call his family and tell them what was going on. While his wife and mother of his child was so worried about the baby, it appeared as if the father was not fully there for her in this stressful time.

I would have liked to educate the mothers, but for me, this was not the time. Educating anyone requires a lot of factors to be considered. I wanted to suggest that they take a break for some time to allow her body to heal before trying again because, importantly, the body needs to recover. But I had to focus on their children.

I wished I could find out why they were under such pressure to have children that they had a pregnancy every year since they got married.

Unfortunately as a neonatal nurse, I have to worry about the neonates and so I do not get the chance to ask questions and find out how to try to help.

I wish that people could become aware that every time woman has a miscarriage it has an effect, both physically and psychologically. Yet these losses are not dealt with because there is enormous pressure to produce offspring from as soon as they are married. Young couples fall pregnant, then miscarry. They try again, the same happens and they try again and again.

I wish society wouldn’t place so much pressure – especially on woman – because she is the one who is expected to carry the foetus to term. I always get the sense that after a miscarriage, blame is put on her.

I wish there were more conversations around these topics.

By Thandeka Jwaha

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