I wish I could say that I wasn't shocked at all the things I have experienced after living in China for the past six months, but I usually am. I am still mortified at the constant nose picking, hawking of spit and other fluids on the sidewalk and out car windows and expending of bodily gases without abandon.
I am also still befuddled about some of the traditions and customs of this unique and interesting land, but I typically chalk them up to learning something new about the place where I'm living and try to appreciate their perspective.
However, last night, a friend told me something that really stunned and disturbed me: If you are infertile in China, no matter if it's due to a female or male issue, the husband is almost expected to divorce you. That's right - expected! It is an incredible embarrassment to the family (meaning the parents of the couple and beyond) and is considered to be a "bad fate" for the women who can't bear a child. So, it's always the woman's "fault." I realize that there are many things about this country that are still several decades behind, but this bit of info really burned me at my core.
In fact, I was told that if you can't have a baby (and there is still the one child per family rule in most of China, so it makes this all the more interesting), people will talk about you and you will likely be shunned from your family. That is, unless you are "lucky" enough to find a widowed or divorced man who already has children that you can be a mother to.
I will put a caveat on this info, my friend comes from a fairly small town in Southern China, so perhaps this isn't the case everywhere, but she knew of it happening in Shanghai, too.
I realize that infertility can be an incredibly big stress on a relationship, and have heard of stories of people breaking up over it, but I would guess that those are exceptional cases and not the rule. And, I have never heard of a woman actually being ostracized from society for her lack of producing offspring or being a mom in the Western world.
As I was listening to my Chinese friend enlighten me, I started wondering if there is a way I could help these women. I am going to seriously think about that. There has to be a way to show them that they are valuable and not useless. Can you imagine the depression rates for these poor gals? Really ticks me off!
You may consider me an old maid, China, but my husband is more than happy to have me, and I bet most Chinese men would kill to have a wife like me (except for my lack of cooking skills). OK, so maybe I'm not the catch I thought I was...