By Quraisha Dawood
In an increasingly fast-paced world where consumers become the producers of their own media, where a blasphemous cartoon sets off unrest across the globe in minutes and Dr Oz can float into your living room making you question the buoyancy and shape of your poo, one would think no topic is taboo. But as 2013 taught me between loud, satirical YouTube videos and forwarded, gruesome pictures of children being killed, there are some things the world chooses to keep silent about. Perhaps these things hurt too much. Perhaps they should only exist in a whisper between one’s lips and God’s ears, or maybe we should pretend as if they never existed at all.
A mother however, will never pretend her child did not exist, no matter how many- or how few- heartbeats echoed within her belly. In the wake of losing my baby the silence around my miscarriage was deafening. I knew there were complications. I knew the first trimester was risky, yet I hoped – for my baby, and for myself. Perhaps it was selfish, but I feared the word miscarriage and the thought that I would never be ‘me’ again. In retrospect I admit that a part of me does seem at times to exist somewhere just beyond my grasp and while the physical pain has vanished, I have learnt to live with my emotional scars.
My scars allow me to connect with others, but more often than not, they challenge me. Now and then, they bring me closer to Him. Words cannot describe my loss. It sits uncomfortably between grieving for a loved one and losing something you never really had. That afternoon, relief came in the form of my best friend’s family. Even though she was in Japan her family came by, just to sit with me and talk. I find that sometimes everyday chit-chat can serve as a silent form of therapy. Her father cracked jokes to make me laugh and I was allowed to just sit there silently in their company, talking about everything and nothing at the same time whilst they filled the void within me. I will always be grateful for that. A few close friends came by who I still hold very dear to me for being brave enough to enter my quiet home and look my husband and I in the eye.
Many of my family and friends kept their distance as if my loss was a contagious disease, calling only after a few weeks to casually say ‘hello’. I don’t blame them now. Oftentimes people have a loss of words in situations such as this. To be honest, I too did not understand myself at that point, jetting off two weeks later to complete my fieldwork research around the country. I didn’t think I was running away –I was reclaiming my life- if that makes any sense? Coming home though, brought me back to earth…Literally.
Seeing the bathroom made me sick. Ironic how that tiny room can signify so much in life – from becoming a woman, to seeing that light pink positive on a plastic stick, to witnessing the loss of life. Clothes. Leftover medication. A television programme. All a reminder of nothing that was once something. At gym I lashed out at the treadmill with all I had, wordlessly competing with those next to me.
Everything I have achieved in my life has been spurred on by competition and my motivation for success, but this… this seemed like such a massive failure! I felt as if with just one glance, the students on campus could see my damage. Even a simple shopping trip to a tile store turned into a painful event when one of my previous neighbours commented that I need to start living my life and having children, going on to compare me to her incredibly fertile daughters. Another, at a body corporate meeting of all things, whispered to me to go to Ajmer to make dua (pray) for a baby.
Even after learning of my loss, there were some careless comments that took me unawares and left me at a loss such as, “At least you will go to Jannah (heaven), got your ticket now”. One evening at the Al-Ansaar souk, I bumped into my mother’s friend who was happy to see me after many years, but followed up her joy by saying “next year I will see you with a baby in your arms”. Something snapped in me that night and I cried all the way home. These comments made me fear the outside world. They made me feel as if I was not good enough or worse, that my marriage was nothing without a child.
I built a wall around myself with words such as Inshallah (God-willing) to “maybe after the PhD” and there were some coarse moments where I shocked people by saying “well, I just lost my baby”. That last one seemed to shut them up and seeing them at a loss for words made me feel like they would learn not to ask personal questions. All this went on while a close family member had a baby shower and welcomed her princess into the world. The truth is, I was happy for her, but the pain of wondering how old my little one would have been broke my heart. Another teary drive home. Close friends offered me hope in saying, “you will have your moment soon”, but what they didn’t know was that I didn’t want to be pregnant again. All I wanted to hear was it really sucks that you have to go through this. It’s not fair. Slowly, I felt myself break.
I guess I knew myself well enough to get help through a compassionate campus psychologist who allowed me to finally set aside my distractions, look inwards, and grieve. I know I was not easy to live with. My mother and my husband bore the brunt of my moods. I managed to open up to a few colleagues, finding solace in my supervisor who gave me time to heal and others who shared their own losses with me. Over time I started the conversation and many acquaintances and strong women I knew confided in me about their own experiences. I realised that we need to own our stories. Just because society cannot respond to the word ‘miscarriage’ does not mean that I had to be ashamed of myself.
Yes, I was angry at Him too. It took me time to understand His plan, but reading the meaning of the Qur’an helped me to find some peace. This much I have learnt- that I needed to grieve for my baby and that it will never end. I have just learnt to deal with it in a constructive way. There will always be reminders, from simple surveys asking how many children I have to whether this is my first pregnancy, to inquisitive people who think a woman’s worth is measured by the number children she has. I have learnt that it is okay to ask for outside help; that I have to be kinder to people and just be there to listen to them. Perhaps it was not a miscarriage, but a life that was just meant to last for that amount of time to teach me about myself. I will never truly know, but now after going through a very turbulent second pregnancy, I know that these trials have shaped my story and I will own it. I am enough. My little boy is enough and he will grow up knowing of his wonderful brother or sister who awaits us with open arms in a playground filled with flowers, their laughter echoing through the fields of Jannah…