By Mira Khatib
At three in the morning with a small suitcase in her hand, nine months pregnant Noha climbed over snow-drifts on the arm of her husband as he frantically tried to flag down a taxi whose driver took one look at them and said, “I’m not going to the airport, “I’m not either!” Noha yelled back.
That awaited time has finally come, as she walked into the maternity ward she realized how the women appeared like the walking wounded – hunched over, grasping their bellies and breast, anguishing looks in their eyes and accusing stares towards their husbands. Which way to the front? She wanted to ask where is the war? But after living through 22 hours of labor Noha understood.
Finally when her doctor told her he needed to do a cesarean, Noha didn’t seem to care being cut open as long as the grueling pain would stop. Still her tears flooded not from pain or anguish but from joy as soon as she heard her daughter’s first cries. The truth was Noha has wanted a baby for so long that she couldn’t quit believe it finally happened. Before her pregnancy she showed all the signs that she was more than ready; stopping mothers on the street with newborns and made absurd cooing sounds. She even stared at pregnant women as if she was already one of them, not to mention that she had the baby’s room all decorated and ready.
As Noha held her daughter in the recovery room it occurred to her that her life was irrevocably changed. She gazed into her baby’s gaping mouth, already moving and said “what do you want?” she realized how clueless and alone she was, the responsibility of another soul was now in her hands. The thought was over whelming. How much she wished to have a manual handed over with her baby to make life simple.
In a flash she could see her concerns changing. Before having her daughter she cared about her job, her figure, her social life, her this her that…she did what she felt like when she felt like it and no one dared disturb her solitude not even her loving husband. Now everything has changed altogether. She never thought that her mornings would start with Barney the dinosaur, then rush to work with guilt, rush back to nurse her daughter, bathe her, play with her, take care of her and maybe just maybe have a chance to breathe and see how her husbands day was.
Yes, motherhood is indeed the most all-encompassing, devouring thing she imagined anyone doing. It takes up everything from time to energy and freedom. How selfish Noha felt at times resenting the fact of not having her life all to herself like before. Yet she realized this way she doesn’t have the time to get depressed or feel sorry for herself. Never again did she have the time to feel bored and pretend like she is going to self-destruct. Yes, there is a child, another person whose existence is utterly linked to hers.
Two years have passed and Noha only now understood why Lamaze class was so important. Lamaze class was there to take her mind off the next twenty years ahead of her, because no birth coach, no rhythmic breathing can prepare mothers for the reality that they will live through…it is not just through hours of labor but for the rest of their lives.
The phone rang, Noha felt relieved to hear her mothers voice on the other end of the line, “Please get on an airplane right now, I need you.” Noha pleaded. Why didn’t you tell me mother? She wanted to ask about ear infections and ten sleepless nights in a row? Life was filled with irony, Noha actually believed she could have a baby drop her off with a baby-sitter and go about her business. It didn’t occur to her that this would become her business more than anything else in life…and forever.
It is hard to give up ones freedom, long gone the days when Noha could come and go as she pleased, having her books arranged alphabetically; her shoes on racks, her purse only filled with perfume and cosmetics not diapers and baby food. Life had a controlled existence. Although the life she once lived was just fine yet she had nothing much to lose. Now Noha has got everything to lose. If she goes on a business trip she checks out the pilots before flying, making sure they are the old gray-haired reliable type. If a baby-sitter walks to the park with her daughter she practically makes her take a blood test. Noha has become a different person…no longer does she take life on a whim but more on calculated measures…she has turned into a typical mother.
Her daughter is her gift and one she would not trade for anything. How could she trade her daughter’s first words or first step, or the time they got caught riding in a rainstorm and sang together at the top of their lungs “It’s raining its pouring” all the way home. There is something special when a child curls up in her mothers lap and snuggles in her scent. Life now is much warmer and inward for Noha, no longer does she care to be a bird that could just lift her wings and fly with the seasons. But now she is more like the snail whose home is connected to its very being.
Noha knows the time might come when her daughter will rebel against her at some point, but she also knows that no matter what, her daughter will be the one who will pray for her when her days are up and Noha says her goodbyes from this world.
But death is far from Noha’s thoughts at this point; her thoughts are consumed with life; because she has never been more alive or connected to anyone in her entire being. It’s as if the cord flowed both ways. It’s as if in giving birth to her daughter that day, two people were born instead.
Photo credit: salimfadhley / Foter / CC BY-SA