Editor’s note: Our writer in Bamiyan province interviewed three women for this story.

My name is Maryam. I am 26 and I live in “S” village in the center of Bamiyan province. As a newly married woman, I am experiencing my first pregnancy and I want to have my baby born in a hospital rather than at home.

I visit a doctor monthly and I believe good nutrition and enough relaxation are the most important pieces of advice the doctor gives me. My husband and relatives help me to do this as much as possible.

My family members want two children—one boy and one girl. Since this is my first baby, no one asks, “Are you having a boy or a girl?”

I love that I don’t have to listen to people telling me how boys are better than girls, or that I should give birth to a boy. But I am sure it will start soon enough and then people will tell me, “You do not have a son! You should get pregnant again to give birth to a son!”

I used to hear people say such things to my mother. Those words hurt your heart and should not be said to the mother who loves both the boys and girls in her life.

Competition Among the Wives

PariGul is the name that my family chose for me when I was born 30 years ago. I grew up in a normal family and I have been pregnant three times, giving birth easily without any serious problem. So now I have three children: one girl and two boys.

I am using injections for pregnancy prevention right now. But we do want to have another baby girl in the future. Having four children is normal and is favored in many families.

I should add that the men who have more than one wife create a competition among the wives to have more children. I don’t believe Afghan men think about the high costs they will have to pay when they get married and have many children.

Men Think God Will Provide

My name is Somaya. I am 35 years old and I work outside the home. I married 18 years ago and I have two daughters and two sons.

These four are enough for us. We don’t want to have more children, but in a family where a man has more than one wife, it is common to have more than four children.

It is part of Afghan culture to have many children because Afghans believe that God will provide for the expense. This why men don’t think about whether they can afford the high expenses of big families.

As told to Zakia H.