By Farah Yahya
“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Ameena with a baby carriage.” Sound familiar? I’m sure more and more of you can relate than ever before. Every woman who becomes pregnant is at a 15-20% risk of having a miscarriage in the first 7 weeks.
In the Pakistani community, it is almost tradition for random relatives to approach the bride the day of the Walima and begin planning her baby shower. Giggles and cheers can be heard from the “aunties table.” I remember most of the clothes I received always had room to grow. This set the bar pretty high and I knew exactly what was expected of me.
My husband and I had different plans. We wanted to enjoy our time as newlyweds and were in no rush to start a family. A year and a half into our marriage, I became pregnant. It was the most magical time ever. I had morning sickness, which progressed to afternoon and evening sickness pretty quickly. We impatiently waited for our first ultrasound. As I laid on the table waiting to hear a heartbeat, my heart sank. The doctor had this blank look on her face and my heart sank even further. She informed us that I had miscarried at 7.5 weeks and told us of our options. At that very moment I felt regret. I began to blame myself in every way I knew. If only I didn’t travel. I should have rested more. I should have done this, and I shouldn’t have done that. And the excuses began to roll around in my head.
Before I knew it, we had been married for 5 years and I had 6 miscarriages under my belt. You would think that with every heartbreak, experiencing the same pain over and over again, it would become easier… but it didn’t. Each D&C (the surgical procedure carried out after a first-trimester miscarriage) left its scars of weakness and pain. I was left feeling empty and a failure. What sort of a woman can’t have children? It must be my fault. I’ve failed at life. That was when the depression kicked in.
I began turning to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). I considered myself a ‘moderate’ Muslim. I tried my best to perform the five daily prayers, I wore hijab (the head scarf), and tried to have good character. I was determined to better my relationship with Allah (swt). After all, it was only He who could grant me anything in this life. He could just say, ”Be” and it would. I begged Allah with everything I had to say, “Be.”
My husband and I started throwing around the idea of adoption. We discussed it with family and were told to remain patient and that Allah (swt) would bless us with a pious offspring and that this was just a part of our test. You know how everyone has something… right? The difference was, I knew in my heart that Allah (swt) was pushing me towards something greater. I was convinced that I was going to be a mother and that my child would go on to do amazing things.
A few months later, my mother-in-law was on a trip to Pakistan. While visiting her sister, she heard of a woman who worked at the house of someone they knew. She was expecting her next child. They discussed how hard it must be for her struggling with 6 kids and working during her third trimester. A few days later, the woman gave birth to a girl. The relative of this woman had taken the child and given it to a brothel. (Are you just as shocked as I was?) The mother pleaded to her employer, stating she did not want to keep the baby, but wanted her to go to a good family, who in turn discussed it with my in-laws. Soon everyone became involved. Long story short, the baby was rescued and taken home.
We received a phone call from my mother-in-law very early in the morning saying she had seen a baby and fallen in love. She asked us if we wanted to be the parents. Now when I think about it, I must have asked her to repeat herself over and over. As I held the phone dazed and confused, I heard the smallest, sweetest, cutest, most adorable cries. They were literally music to my ears. Without a thought or care in the world, we agreed! We were officially parents. AlhamduliLlah (praise be to God).
We started filling out paperwork and having our home study for the adoption done. After all, we wanted to bring our princess home. I quickly began researching ways to nurse the baby. I knew I had to; I felt she deserved that much. I also wanted to make sure we weren’t faced with mahram issues. When a woman becomes the child’s rida`a mother (milk- or breastfeeding-mother), everything concerning blood mahrams applies here: rida`a father/mother, rida`a sister/brother, rida`a aunt/uncle, and so on. In English, these can be translated to “milk-brother,” “milk-mother,” and so on. I was on hormones and pumping around the clock.
About two months after the amazing news, my husband and I traveled to Pakistan to finally meet our princess. I will never forget the drive home from the airport. Every single breath had led me to her. Every tear had paved a road to meet her. Every time I felt like less of a woman, Allah’s plan was in motion. Finally, He had said, “Be!” and there we were. I walked into the room where my mother-in-law sat holding her granddaughter. She had been caring for her for the past two months. (May Allah (swt) grant her the highest level of Jannah [paradise] for her unconditional love and support. Ameen.) I sat next to her, and she handed her to me and softly uttered the words, “Meet your mommy.” It sent chills down my spine. I sat staring at her and tears began to roll. My entire life had suddenly fallen into place. I passed her to my husband and he began to cry. His tiny princess had finally arrived. We named her Sara.
I picked up on motherhood very quickly. I was doing fine with little or no sleep and I had a good, steady milk supply. I also soon learned that she wasn’t very fond of sleep. I spent many nights walking with her up and down the hall soothing her tiny tummy. Two weeks after, my husband had to get back to work and left. My mother-in-law left, too. I was in Pakistan with Sara and a huge extended family consisting of in-laws and relatives with whom I had been out of touch for 20+ years. I was scrutinized for not being content with Allah’s will. I felt as though I had to prove to them that I was worthy of motherhood. There are many struggles a new mother comes across and it’s okay to ask for help, but that was not the case for me. For me, asking for help felt like defeat. I felt like it was Sara and me against them.
Along this path there have also been many relatives who have encouraged and supported my decision. They offered a shoulder to cry on and advice. May Allah (swt) reward them with His infinite Mercy. I was always pretending to be okay, even though I was beginning to break without my husband there. The heat and power outages didn’t help either. The political situation in Pakistan over the last few years had really taken a toll on everyone residing there. I wasn’t allowed to drive. I also wasn’t allowed to leave without someone to accompany me. I craved the independence I grew up with. I dreamt of just driving away with Sara in the backseat. Months passed as I waited to hear news of soon being able to take Sara home.
The long periods of time apart began to break down the relationship between me and my husband. He was living alone, craving family, and I was living with too many people, craving silence and peace. Soon, the phone calls became shorter and shorter. It became less and less about missing one another and more about our case. Eventually, the calls turned into brief messages.
Finally, after 8 months of living in Pakistan without my husband or immediate family, we got an appointment with the U.S. Embassy. My husband came and we were convinced he would take us home with him. This was the first time we were together since he had left. I felt distanced. We didn’t just pick up where we had left off. The physical miles between us had become emotional. It wasn’t about love, because that was unconditional. We knew things would go back to normal soon after being able to take Sara home.
At our interview we were told they would review our case and keep us updated. My husband left and once again, I was alone. The depression that had consumed me just a little while back crept in and began to fill my heart again. Why did I have to choose between my husband and Sara?
I spent the next 6 months trying to keep it together. One day my husband called with the news that our case had been denied. Sara would not be able to get a visa to come to the U.S. This was heart-breaking. My husband and I had spent our entire lives in America. Everyone and everything familiar was there. We felt as though we had been kicked out of our own country for attempting to give a child a better life. We were confused and upset. Our relatives didn’t waste much time before they started pointing fingers again. To them, it was my fault for pushing this decision upon my husband. I began having anxiety and the blame game started. Some suggested we leave Sara and adopt another who would qualify for a visa. I was outraged! Why was this an option? I had battle wounds just like any other mother. Why does biology take importance over motherhood?
A few months passed before my husband could wrap up what was left of our lives in America and move to Pakistan. Right after Sara’s second birthday we were reunited as a family. Everything felt new. My husband and I spent a lot of time learning to be together, learning to give and take, learning our likes and dislikes. We both had experienced the hardest time in our lives and there was nothing either of us could do to help the other. It has been a work in progress. AlhamduliLah. We got our own place and began to build our family unit. I finally unpacked our things after having lived out of a suitcase for the last 2 years. I finally had drawers and a place to hang my clothes. It’s amazing how much ‘stuff’ we think we need. It definitely puts this dunya (world) in perspective.
Allah (swt) had brought us together, but we had no income. My husband had a few business ventures that were unsuccessful. Again, the anxiety surfaced. We felt like we had been torn from our ‘first’-world country and thrown into this ‘third’-world country, where nothing seemed to make sense or work. I prayed for everything to calm down. I prayed for Allah (swt) to bestow His Mercy upon our lives. I prayed for the best of the world and the hereafter. I prayed for Allah (swt) to open the doors of rizq (providence). Subhan’Allah (glory to God), He is the Best of Planners.
As of two months ago, we are officially a family and UAE residents. We now have a place we can call home. Sara is 3.5 years old and masha’Allah (what God wills), she is the light of our lives. She has this way about her, this twinkle in her eyes, this way that she lights up a room, this magic that only she knows. Subhan’Allah, only He creates such miracles. The depression still manages to surface now and then when I least expect it. I guess at this point I have learned to deal with my abandonment issues in a healthier way. There are countless lessons I’ve learned from the last few years. It’s amazing how sometimes the people we least expect sneak into our hearts and become family. Blood does not define kinship. Nothing lasts forever, neither the good, nor the bad. Every heartbreak, every bump in the road, every single tear is not wasted. Allah is As-Sami`—the All-Hearing. He is Al-Basir—the All-Seeing.