Sunday, 28 February 2010

Culture shock

Actually, not so much a shock as... I don't know. Amazement that people can understand each other so little and yet be such good friends.

I have a lovely friend who I've known now for almost 15 years. During that time, first I got to know her husband and her first son, and then she had two more sons. Her youngest son is my godson, and since he was born she has always sent me something for Mothers' Day from him and referred to him when talking to me as "your son".

Over the years, she has got to know most of my family and has pretty much adopted my parents as her own. She often comments that my family is so big and we're all so close that we're "just like an African family" - high praise indeed from a Nigerian!

I always knew she had struggled to have her children - she had several miscarriages due to an incompetent cervix, and only managed to hold onto her second and third children because she had a stitch put in. She was firmly told after #3 that she shouldn't try to have any more, and was sad because she had always wanted a daughter. I told DH even before we got married that if we had a daughter, I would like this friend to be the godmother.

We talked last night for the first time in a few weeks, and I told her about our struggles and the two IVFs. They held a huge party at a time when we were expecting to be in the throes of IVF #1, but that was the month I had a cyst, so we were still in the waiting phase - and that was the last time we saw them.

She told me last night that not only had she struggled to keep her babies, but she had also struggled to conceive them in the first place - her #2 and #3 were both Clomid babies.

And then she said that she hadn't realised that I wanted children - and even suggested that she wasn't sure she would have gone through the struggles she went through to have her children if she had been English, because English couples have much more choice about whether or not to have children and don't have the pressure on them to reproduce that Nigerian women do.

She said that if we had been Nigerian, she would have been asking since the wedding when we would be producing children, but that she had learnt in her almost 20 years of living here that it's not a question you ask an English woman (if only other English women had the same sensitivity!). When we didn't instantly produce children, she just assumed that we didn't want them and so never asked.

Having seen me around her sons, around my nieces and nephews, and around so many other children that I know, I'm amazed that she could ever have thought I didn't want children - and she must be the only person in the world who thinks that.

And then she said she'd pray for us, and that if we want it badly enough and don't give up, she's sure it'll happen for us (sadly, not necessarily the case, but I didn't want to argue). And she gave her own gentle take on "just relax and it'll happen". She said, "I know it's hard, and I know how stressful it is to keep waiting and hoping and trying. But somehow you have to fool your body into not realising how your mind is feeling."

I was left with the realisation which I've had so many times before that our hearts understand each other, but that understanding is overlaid with cultural differences which can only be uncovered and unpicked with some really open communication.

1 comment:

  1. It's so interesting to hear someone from a totally different culture's perspective. I'm glad you both were so open with each other about your struggles, too.