June 19 marked both World Sickle Cell and Father’s day. In our quest to generate a bit more awareness of this uniquely challenging condition and celebrate fathers at the same time, it is perhaps appropriate to also look at fathers and the role they play in this story of Sickle Cell Disease and the ever increasing rate at which children are being born with Sickle Cell Disease. That good old saying that “it takes two to tango” comes to mind here. No child is born unless there is a father involved. Let’s face it, even if the sperm was donated, it still came from a man, a father. Whether society wants to debate that, that’s a story for another day. I have been in the sickle environment for nearly two years now and l have seen great fathers who clearly love their children no matter what. They stick by their partners (the mothers) and together they provide a solid happy home for their sickle child or children. They recognise that they contributed to the child being born so they do their fatherly duties. Irrespective of who knew what about their genotype, these good fathers don’t disappear. They stick around and help care for their child. A child is a wonderful gift, sickle or not.
Sadly, that cannot be said about all households with a sickle child. Love, I hope would have been the reason mum and dad went along and had the child. If they knew the risks but still went ahead to birth the child, for the sake of love; I cannot comprehend why some fathers walk out at the first sign of trouble. Where does love disappear to when the child turns out to be sickle and divine intervention hasn’t healed them, as some parents think would be the case?Too many fathers are walking away from their sickle children and that is heartbreaking. Mothers are left alone to raise their childdren. They have to become super women in order to juggle work, routine hospital appointments and the endless visits to A&E. Rent has to be paid, daily living expenses has to be found. In a cold country like UK, the cost of keeping that home warm enough for a sickle child is enough to put a single mother on low income or welfare support into debt. Raising a child is expensive as it is. Providing for a sickle child is super expensive. You can’t just feed them whatever you find from the “reduced to clear” section of your local supermarket. Being sickle means their immune system is fairly weak so parents naturally want to feed them something that would help keep them healthy and out of hospital. Sickle children need to be clothed in multiple layers to keep them warm enough in order to reduce the risk of cold induced crisis. The financial pressures are huge and in a single parent household, this could be seriously bad. Yes, single parent households in UK is nothing odd. We have hundreds of them.
The single parents I’ve come into contact with however, seem to be in that situation because fathers of their kids couldn’t deal with the endless sickle cell crisis of the kids. Love, the reason the coupling took place, resulting in a child being born, quickly becomes history. The sickle child is not perfect enough to be loved by daddy so he walks off to start yet another family. I am probably putting my foot in it. Yes, perhaps I don’t understand because I don’t have a sickle child. But do I need to have one in order to understand that walking out on a vulnerable child is not exactly the best love a father could give?
Before you ask what in the name of God I’m going on about? I’ll tell you what I’m going on about. There are too many single parents out there who found themselves alone simply because they did not produce what their men considered to be a perfect child. I have seen too many and I have heard this story told many times, ok!! If you are reading this and you think I’m making assumptions, you are entitled to your opinion. This is really happening and it doesn’t help in reducing the stigma surrounding sickle cell disease.
Walking out on a sick child is ugly, it is wicked and it is very sad. A child is a child. A gift to be treasured, loved and nurtured.When a child grows up not knowing what it is like to be loved and raised by a father; when they are told daddy left them because they were not perfect; that surely cannot be a good headspace for any child to be in.