Every mother has her birth story. Here’s mine, one year later. It also happens to be the week the world celebrates Mother’s Day, so here are my thoughts slish-sloshing and pouring out into what I hope are coherent words. Sharing this to document a milestone, a memory, as I try to make sense of the whirlwind of events that had happened for the past year. The journey of motherhood is a miracle in itself, and to have gone through it, scathed yet healing, terrified yet thriving, strengthens my conviction that I couldn’t have possibly gone through all that alone. He is there. He is al-Jabbar, the Restorer. He is al-Latif, the Sublimely subtle. The tests of tawakkul that I’d gone through earlier in life were surely a prelude to the biggest test of tawakkul I’d ever experienced — being a mother.
A mother’s love has no start and no end. It just is. It’s present and everyday like the air you breathe. You don’t realise its importance until the day comes when you’re forced to learn to breathe underwater, lungs longing for the taste of air, and just how easy it is you used to breathe.
The day we discovered the existence of our gift from God was the day my life completely changed. I remember I was on the way to do my morning run when I had felt a strange wave of headiness and nausea. When an unmistakable line was clearly seen, we hugged and we cried and we said our alhamdulillahs and we laughed and we cried again. My first trimester was not easy; I dreaded the huge pills and the nausea-inducing aversion I’d felt towards most foods. My body was changing and I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that I would be a mother soon.
Before I knew it, it was the third week of Syawal. During one of my final few checks at 37 weeks, we’d discovered that I had pre-eclampsia; my blood pressure was unusually high. My gynae was worried for my health and the baby’s, and inducing was the solution to prevent further complications. All I could think of was, I’m not ready. The house isn’t ready. I have so much work left undone. I haven’t finished reading the books I bought about birthing and mothering. I’m not ready. Physically, mentally, emotionally. But the next thing I knew, we were in the car, quietly heading down the hospital just past midnight. My husband and I were excited and anxious, all at once. I held my hand in his, and he squeezed it tight.
This is it.
I remember the nurse telling me to change into a pink gown and lie in the cold room. I remember text messages from my family. I remember holding my husband’s hand as I try to sleep. I remember Surah Maryam and Surah Luqman, lightly suffusing the room, on repeat. I remember the warm fluid flowing when my amniotic sac was ruptured. I remember comforting words. I remember breathing. I remember standing, sitting, going down on all fours and putting into practice all the labour breathing techniques I’ve learnt. The laughing gas an ineffectual tool. I remember numbers. I remember tubes. Magnesium dripping slowly into my veins. I remember the dread of incoming contractions that comes in waves. Squeezing my husband’s hand till it hurts. I remember du’as on my tongue and the fajr call to prayer resounding from my phone.
I remember breathing. The pain so impossibly unbearable. I remember my mother. I remember she was induced for all her three pregnancies yet she didn’t take any medication to alleviate the pain. I remember tears. I remember tears. I remember years with her I wish I had more of so I could ask her about her story. Because her story and her love is the start of mine. I remember asking for the needle. The ebb and flow was less tempestuous but I still felt a dull echo of the ache. I remember feeling dizzy. My gynae’s calm voice telling me it’s an emergency and we have no choice. I remember the nurses telling me that my blood pressure had skyrocketed. I remember telling myself to let go as I was wheeled into the operation ward. I remember hands tugging into my numbed womb. My body no longer mine. I remember lights. I remember someone shouting “congratulations” before my world turned black.
I remember waking up to my husband sitting beside me, feeling like i’d just fought a war, and throwing up a few times later. I remember asking where is he, where is he. Our son was in the ICU. I remember that first dreadful, endless feeling of mom guilt. I remember telling myself again to let go. It’s okay if I can’t put him to my chest straight away. I remember us going home with empty hands. It’d felt like an organ being pulled out of my body, and I’m missing a part of me. I remember feeling as though I’d never heal. I remember how every bend and every cough hurts me.
I remember our first night with you by our side. I remember painkillers after painkillers. Tears after tears. I remember pumping every three hours, monitoring blood pressure every four, soothing his cries every one or two. Nobody told me the postpartum land was going to be equally war-torn. I remember feeding my body with all kinds of food just so I could give sufficiently. I remember failing. I remember tears. I remember sitting for hours in the same position because you’d cry when you’re pulled away from me. The still night a witness to my tired bones. I remember exhausting all ways to meet your demands. I remember trying to do all the other household chores myself whilst the husband’s at work. The first few months where we had to make do with our village of two. I remember telling myself to choose my battles and ask for help. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it alone. I remember telling myself again to let go.
The smiling scar on my womb today is a visual reminder of the war I’d fought and how i’m still smiling and laughing despite the pain my body has been through. This process of healing is truly a miracle I’ve been honoured to experience.
Thank you for making me your mother, Afnan Hamza. I’m reminding myself that as I celebrate your birth, I too am celebrating my rebirth and the newfound strength Allah swt has given me through this motherhood journey.
Alhamdulillah for the surreal honour of becoming a mother. May He continue to grant us boundless ease, mercy and guidance to be the best we can be as we mother it out in the trenches and continue to give, give, give our limitless love.
وَهْنًا عَلَىٰ وَهْنٍۢ
My Lord says in the Qur’an how the journey of being a mother is filled with hardship upon hardship. And I didn’t truly feel it until I became one. From the first trimester where morning sickness haunted me beyond just mornings, where I had an aversion towards most foods, to the wild labour contractions, the post-partum recovery, the never-ending mom guilt, mom worry, mom anxiety… I know I will continue to face these difficult, heavy things as I journey alongside my child’s growing phases.
But my Merciful Lord also says,
فَإِنَّ مَعَ ٱلْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
Surely with every hardship, there is ease. So while I carry these difficult, heavy things, the pain, the ache, the tears, the grieving, the loss, the missing, the yearning……. oh but the joy, the love… I too carry in my upturned palms the joy and fullness of his laughter, his growth, his becoming of a small person with his own quirks and personality. This surely must be what they call the coolness of our eyes. This surely must be what He’d promised it to be: the ease.
Motherhood to me is not a magical status or feeling that I immediately thrived in and loved. I struggled in the journey, forcing myself to unlearn things I thought I knew, facing my own inner child who thought asking for help was a weakness, learning to be firm and ignore unsolicited advice, managing my own expectations whilst yearning for just one day to listen to and learn about my own mother’s motherhood journey. And while the tears never seem to stop, I acknowledge that this has been the best thing that’s ever happened to my growth and I’m ever grateful for the support from my loved ones who are keeping me afloat.
Here’s to all the mother figures in my life who had shaped me to the person I am today. To all mothers reading this, I’m in awe of you and I continue to be inspired by your insurmountable strength, gentleness and grace. Your love is a bed of earth, rivers, air. Without you, nothing can grow, nothing can live, and the world cannot exist. A mother’s love is where our stories begin.
Because a mother’s love has no start and no end. It just is. It’s present and everyday like the air you breathe. You don’t realise its importance until the day comes when you’re forced to learn to breathe underwater, lungs longing for the taste of air, and just how easy it is you used to breathe.
But I’m now learning to breathe easier as I stride with steps more purposeful, my soul more driven, my heart more resolute. I hold my son’s hand in mine this time, and start writing a new chapter.