J. Samia Mair finds motherhood in an unexpected place at the end of her battle to conceive.
The kingdom of the heavens and earth belongs to Allah. He creates whatever He wills. He gives daughters to whoever He wishes, or He gives sons to whoever He wishes; or He gives them both sons and daughters; And He makes whoever He wishes barren. Truly He is All-Knowing, All-Powerful(Quran, 42: 46-47)
“I don’t see the heartbeat. I don’t see the heartbeat!”
Neither my husband nor the emergency room doctor responded to me. My husband stared straight ahead at the monitor searching the gray and white lines for any signs of life. The doctor pressed the cold wet probe down firmer, moving it haphazardly across my abdomen. My heart sank. I thought we had a chance this time.
This would not be my first miscarriage. I had suffered several already. But this was the first time that we had actually seen a heartbeat. What an amazing sight. If I had been told that my child was going to have five heads and six arms, it would not have mattered.
It was my second in vitro fertilization procedure. None of my eggs were fertilized in the first one. Prior to that, I had five artificial inseminations—again with no success. Even before the years of medical intervention, we spent over a year trying to increase our chances of pregnancy by testing for ovulation and other less scientific methods — all to no avail. I braced myself for the inevitable disappointment that would interrupt the uncomfortable silence.
“I’m sorry. The fetus did not make it.”
Although the doctor merely confirmed what I already knew in my heart, hearing it affected me more than I had expected. It’s hard to describe now but it was more than emotional trauma. I felt actual physical pain from his words. It was as if I had been hit with a forceful blow.
I looked to my husband who was already staring at me. I could tell he was holding back his emotions. I felt so defective. I had all these specialized organs that just did not work, that were virtually useless. I could not fulfil one of my main purposes for being. I had completely failed in something I was born to do.
On an intellectual level I knew that I was not defective nor a failure as a woman. I knew that my worth transcended my ability to procreate. But shame and inadequacy hit me on a level where reason does not tread.
My husband could not have been more supportive. He was always far more worried about my welfare than his own whenever the bad news struck. He made it perfectly clear to me that he did not need a biological child. Yet, I still felt guilty. He was a young man that would not have an heir because of me.
I looked at the monitor one more time. At that moment, I knew that I would never be in this position again. Although my work would pay for one more in vitro procedure, I had had enough. No more painful shots in the belly, no more ultrasounds counting egg follicles, no more anxious phone calls to the infertility doctor learning my HCG levels, and no more emergency trips to the hospital. I had learned far more about my reproductive system than I had ever hoped to know.
Allah (swt) knew just how to help me accept that I was barren: desensitization therapy! While I was trying to keep a pregnancy or waiting for the referral, there were nearly twenty babies born to female co-workers or to the wives of male co-workers on my office floor. So many women became pregnant those years that jokes started circulating around the office that if you drink the water on the fifth floor you will get pregnant. The first six or seven baby showers were very difficult. The expectant parents’ joy only reminded me of my sorrow. I would remind myself that most of the Mothers of the Believers (RA) were barren. I had no reason to complain. By the tenth baby shower, though, I was blessedly desensitized. I no longer wondered why I could not have children. I no longer felt pangs of jealousy. I no longer experienced sorrow at others’ joy. SubhanAllah, Allah (swt) knows what is best for His creation.
Although I had accepted that I could not give birth, I still could not bring myself to fix up the baby’s room. I thought a room full of baby things would be too painful to pass everyday in case something went wrong. I decided not to buy anything until the referral came. We continued to wait. Then the phone rang.
When we heard the news, my husband and I blurted out simultaneously: “I have to quit my job” and “I have to make more money!” We looked at each other and laughed and cried – there is nothing as telling as unedited visceral utterances.
I remember so vividly the moment they handed us the girls—it was the happiest moment of my life. I couldn’t believe that we had been entrusted with such an awesome responsibility, that we had been blessed with so much love.
The other day one of our three-year-olds came into the room where I was praying, sat down and made dhikr, saying “Subhan’Allah” a hundred times. After she finished she asked me: “Is Allah proud of me?” I replied: “I think very proud.” She gave me a big hug and ran off to play. Later that day, her sister ran into my room with a big smile on her face. She had put on her pink hijab by herself. Part of it was upside down and the other part hung sideways on her little head. She announced proudly: “I’m a beautiful Muslim girl!” I smiled back: “Yes, you are my darling—a beautiful Muslim girl, both inside and out.”
I try to thank Allah (swt) each day for the two beautiful blessings that He has entrusted to us. I pray that we raise them to be good Muslims and that they come to Him surrendering and with a sound heart. I never thought I would be able to say this, but I am so grateful now that I was unable to conceive. If I had been able to give birth, these precious wonders would have never entered our lives. I thank Allah (swt) for helping me to be patient and content with His Decree. And I remind myself often that hardships are ultimately not hardships at all with trust in Allah (swt).
“We will test you with a certain amount of fear and hunger and loss of wealth and life and fruits. But give good news to the steadfast. Those who, when disaster strikes them, say, “We belong to Allah and to Him we will return.” Those are the people who will have blessings and mercy from their Lord; they are the ones who are guided. (Quran, 2: 154 -156)