Is Your Womb Yours? Whose Womb is it Anyway?

#TalesFromDeepMotherhood

Guest Blogger

This is a genuine question I’m posing, really. My womb story began when I was 8. I flew out to Somalia in term time with my 7 siblings in Autumn of 1982 for two reasons: my 17 year old sister was going into a forced marriage, and I was having FGM. My older sister managed to avoid forced marriage and complete her A levels. I wasn’t as lucky. FGM changed me forever. At the age of 8 I was being told that my vulva belongs to my husband. I only really understood what had happened once I started puberty. By the time I was 28, I decided that my mother/culture was not going to choose my husband for me, so I resisted and eloped. That was the start of my emancipation.

Later as a mother of 3 young children, at the age of 38 I got pregnant again and I was fuming. I sat down with my husband and informed him that I was having tubal blockage asap after this pregnancy. I explained my reasons and that my decision is contrary to the consensus in conventional Islamic scholarship, but it’s that same scholarship that can’t decide whether FGM is completely prohibited or not. They can’t see past their legal arguments at the blindingly obvious ethical reasons why FGM is antithetical to Islam, and how sterilisation is a good method for those women who want to stop childbearing. The same scholarship don’t see a problem with taking the pill, IUD, patch, or any other pharmaceutical method of contraception. They don’t see that these are unhealthy, invasive, and damaging to the womb and a woman’s menstrual health, and even long-term fertility. No, they don’t see that at all.

I booked my referral at the GP for sterilisation at 6 weeks after birth. I chose tubal blockage because it is less invasive, since the filaments are inserted through the vagina and cervix into the womb, then the fallopian tubes, which then over the coming weeks stick together and become blocked. This meant no general anaesthetic to have laprascopic surgery to cut my tubes (tubal ligation). It took 10 minutes and was less painful than a smear. The recommendation is to use condoms following this till a check-up which showed my tubes were blocked; I had this and all was well (although I couldn’t quite believe it!). I haven’t looked back since. I have monthly menstruation, no hormonal implements in my body, so my cycle is natural and my womb can have a rest from creating babies, and get busy creating other things, eg yoga projects, raising children with more energy and compassion, career and further study, projects with other women/communities, all without the old fear I had of getting pregnant.

Judging from my list of activities, do I sound sterile?I don’t like the word ‘sterilisation’, I’m sure it’s coined by men and since these women are no longer capable of giving birth, they are no longer valuable in their eyes. In Islamic scholarship, too much emphasis is on women having children in my view. There is a deafening silence on the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him and them) who never gave birth (7/9 of them) and yet had fulfilling lives teaching and serving their communities and advising the Prophet (pbuh) himself.

Pharmaceuticals don’t like us either, so they call us sterile since they can’t make any money out of us anymore because we don’t need their products. Down with them! I prefer the term ‘permanent contraception’ because that’s exactly what it is and it’s not judging me one bit.

Now, what if more Muslim women had permanent contraception after establishing their families? What would they do with all that time on their hands? Perhaps they may demand their rights and educate themselves, even work together to question conventional wisdom in Islamic scholarship. Now wouldn’t that be a fine thing!

Now, what if more Muslim women had permanent contraception after establishing their families? What would they do with all that time on their hands? Perhaps they may demand their rights and educate themselves, even work together to question conventional wisdom in Islamic scholarship. Now wouldn’t that be a fine thing!

Can I just say that I shared this post and all my posts about motherhood and life in general to:

1. Feel connected to friends and share thoughts together so we feel less alone and disconnected, and acknowledge that we have ALL faced extraordinary pain and still live in hope in spite of it, or perhaps even because of it.

2. Feel that our thoughts resonate with others and that we’re not “weird” or “hysterical.”

3. Feel relieved that we’re not alone in facing difficulties in life and share ways of coping by sharing our stories if we feel able.

4. Feel the need to debate conventional wisdom and come up with another way to live ethically and sincerely as a woman of faith.

Please feel free to say something below, or if you’d rather be silent, that’s ok. This is not an exhibition of myself. I did this to show how we all live through pain and come out the other side.

Thanks.

 

(c) An-Nisa Society  (On behalf of blogger)

Image from SETU

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