The male child syndrome

Casual Musing with Chioma

Email: Twitter: @cutechyoma

Chioma“My God, where are you? Give me my own Samuel as you gave Hannah. Settle me O’ Lord. My enemies are laughing at me…”

These words I heard subconsciously and I woke up to find her sitting beside the bed in the wee hours of the morning in a totally different realm while engaging herself in a soliloquy. Tears were pouring down her face and my heart skipped a beat. Quickly I jumped out of the bed and rushed to her side.

“Aunty, what is the matter? Are you okay?” The more I prodded, the more her tears flowed. I placed an arm round her shoulder and helplessly watched her sob. What could have happened? I wondered. I feared the worst. When she finally calmed down and caught her breath, she spoke, “I desperately need a male child or I would lose my mind. I have this deep seated conviction that my husband would get another woman to bear him a son due to my failure to give him a male child after six girls. He keeps assuring me that he is very happy, content and proud of his girls but somehow, I do not believe him”.

I tried to reassure her: “Aunty, so why are you causing yourself unnecessary grief over this and who told you the fault is from you?” I asked.

“It is my fault,” she replied. “Can you not see that I am not a complete woman? Is it not obvious?”

I could not believe my ears. How can an exposed and educated woman think and feel this way in this 21st century? Something snapped inside me and that was when I proceeded to give her the length of my tongue and let it sink in that she has no role to play in determining the sex of a child.

For the benefit of those who may not be aware of this, it is the man who determines the sex of a baby. The woman simply delivers what he deposits into her. Thanks to Edmund Beecher and Nettie Stevens, two American geneticists, who have been credited with discovering the chromosomes produced by each sex.

Females have two of the same kind of sex chromosomes and are referred to as the homogametic sex while males have two distinct sex chromosomes and are called the heterogametic sex.

Simply put, females have the ‘XX’ chromosomes, while the men have the ‘XY’. As a man, if you give her an ‘X’ from yours and it meets one of her ‘X’ chromosomes, the result would be a female child, on the other hand if you give her a ‘Y’ from yours and it meets her ‘X’ the result would be a male child. Period!

One of the most lasting cultural values in Africa as a whole is the preference for the male child. It is believed that the male child ensures the continuity of a lineage. A good number of Africans, irrespective of their pedigree feel inadequate without a male child and would go to any length to produce one. For some funny reason, a family without a girl would be considered ‘okay’ in comparison with an all-female family. This wrong mentality has destroyed and destabilised many homes, made lots of women to develop complicated health issues due to many trips to the labour ward and is one reason many women, like my dear Aunt, are very insecure and unhappy. The belief is that a male child would enable a woman to ‘plant her feet firmly’ in her husband’s home. Pure baloney! How can such mind sets exist in this era where traditional roles are being reversed and campaigns on equality exist to ensure that no child, regardless of gender, is given any preference over another? Wake up and smell the coffee people!

Rather than grumble about the sex of any particular child, be grateful and count your blessings and appreciate the gifts that have come your way in the form of children.

Back to my Aunty, she cheered up and assured me that she would take her mind off such senseless thoughts but did she? A year later, in one last desperate attempt at having a male child, she defied all warnings including her husband’s, did a seventh trip to the labour ward and ended up with a set of adorable twin girls.

How wonderful.