From various narratives and life experiences of those around me, from articles and predominantely qualititative research studies the issue of infertility is one that intrigues me. Various hadith exist that give pointers on how to deduce fertility of a woman being sought for marriage (plump hands I think they referred to). Evolutionary studies detail information looking for women with strong bones, large hips, healthy hair and clear skin. For the men they typically refer to body mass and height (Tarzan being a lovely example of that).

But what happens when all these pointers fail and the possibility of infertility looms above a couple? There are a plethora of sources that relate stories of girls being concerned about their fertility – and fear of being divorced, or relegated to position of 2nd wife if they fail to produce children (children of any sex – the issue of producing male heirs is another topic altogether!).

 Mother’s of these girls have a similar fear and worry when they discover the daughters montly cycle is erratic – a predictable and “on time” cycle is often took as being a sign of good fertility when sometimes that isn’t always so as was the case with a friend of mine who never had a regular cycle. Sometimes months would go by and there’d be nothing. At other times she’d bleed all the time. She was given contraceptive pills to regulate her hormones but they did more damage than good so she stopped taking them. She now has 2 lovely daughters and another child on the way.

I had a work colleague who was in her 40’s. She had no children of her own but had adopted a boy from Pakistan who was physically disabled. Often the women would ask her if she was married, and if so how many children does she have. It was given that at her age she’d bound to have children so they were often shocked and somewhat sympathetic when their probing led to this discovery. What they were sympathetic about I am not completely sure. Was it that she had no children at all? Or that she didn’t have any of her own? That she and her husband would not have anyone caring for them in old age or grandchildren to look forward to?

Another woman, a long winded family friend, had been trying for children for years. Both husband and wife went through IVF numerous times but it failed. So eventually they decided to adopt. She adopted a boy and a girl who biologically were brother and sister and were around 4-8 years of age. Numerous years have passed but people still fail to accept them as her children and remind her of it as though it was their saintly duty to do so.

Most people go into a marriage or a relationship with some desire to eventually have children as part of their Life Plan. But is a marriage incomplete without children? If there are no children – is it better to separate?Or is it more “humane” to stay married to one another and accept the cards fate has dealt?