Monday, February 11, 2013

Love Month Series #8: Fertility

Love usually means having children. 
Women in many countries, however,  opt not to have a child. In the US, for example, the percentage of women in their 40s with three or more children fell from 59 percent in 1976 to 29 percent in 2010. In Italy, a nation with a tradition of large families, the percentage of women in their 40s with four or more children dropped from around 17 percent in the early 1980s to less than 5 today, according to Yale Global. 
Women's choice to be childless is apparently connected to parental, financial and career concerns as well as anxieties about the high rate of separation and divorce among couples.
But women who are childless by choice still remain the exception rather than the rule.  Women still want to experience motherhood and men still want assurance of a lineage.  For women, the instinct to nurture predominates. Men, on the other hand,  tend to see their progeny as a form of immortality and assurance of continuity through generations of blood passed on.
The desire for offsprings is as old as earth itself and ensured  as well as encouraged through many ways in different cultures. In-vitro fertilization is an acceptable modern method to encourage conception.  
Other methods are not as scientific.  Potions, certain foods  chants, amulets and rituals are used to ensure fertility. 
In the Philippines where I  was born, women desiring to have children, dance in the streets of a town called Obando to the tune of musical instruments made of bamboo.
Photo by
Cantonese women in China rub their bellies against a coffin in the belief that the deceased is somehow able to share their procreative abilities. 
At the Hounen Matsuri Festival held every March 15 in Japan, volunteers carry a long wooden phallus in the hope that its regenerative powers will help childless couples.
Photo from

 It was once believed in India that a fertile marriage would result if virgins were first deflowered by means of the lingam, a stone phallus symbolizing the god Shiva. 
Infertile women in Ethiopia are lowered naked  by priests to a  sacred pool located in the highland town of  Lalibela. A picture of one such rite is shown bow.
Photo by Gali Tibbon

Childless couples in the US, who cannot afford medically induced conception are advised to eat plenty of cucumbers, apples, basil, myrtle and hazel and to wear tie pins or necklace pendants depicting a unicorn or a fish. Men are told to carry a piece of mandrake root at all times and women, three pieces of hazel nuts.
As for me, I'll take oysters anytime.
- Ariel Murphy


  1. Loved the history here, you did a great job on this one...I have to admit where men are concerned, I'm in a possibly rare category of not wanting children because of a desire to pass on my lineage. I do Love my Step-son, but only knew him from the age of 15 :-)

    1. I love children and wish I could have more than two but it's too late now. Thanks Pete!

  2. I love children too - I have a dear friend (middle 50's)in Florida who adopted her niece's 3 children when the niece died suddenly in her 20's. The Youngest ones 4 & 9 would call me Uncle Pete and run to me when I arrived giving a hug to each of my legs. Since I have sent them calendars & cards from HI, they are begging Janet to bring them here :-)

    1. Adults are attracted to young children and interact with them to recapture whatever form of innocence, purity, trust and simplicity they may have lost on the wayside of life. Children's lack of artifice, guile and malice are also refreshing.