Until ten years ago, I withered like a lonely flower in a desert. Life was not as I had imagined or hoped. My world was like perfume, but I was without the ability to smell. Childhood should have been a fully joyful time in my life. In many ways, it truly was mesmerizing; I do not ignore that. My mother and father were the shining diamonds in my life, who gave me the power to live, to give, to love, and to persevere. They were spoiling me all the time, giving me what I wanted, as if I had the whole world in my hands. And yet there was a depressing cloud over my head.
I always felt that something in my life was missing. I wondered why I did not have a sibling to share my stories with. I was in a deplorable state of mind much of the time. In the morning, I would ask myself, “What if I had sister to share with me this cup of milk?” I would see other children going to school while holding their siblings’ hands and saying farewell together to their parents. In my free time, I played with my dolls alone. I had many sorts of games, but they were not enough to entertain me. I wished that I had a sister to play with, to share my secrets with, to be with me through my ups and downs.
Anticipating a baby
After ten gloomy years, joy finally knocked on our door. One day, while I was in my room studying for my exam, my mom came to sit with me. “Do you want a sister to play with, Eman?” my mother asked. I looked at her, my eyes bursting into tears, and said with a husky voice, “I am alone, and I will always be alone!” Then she said, “We do not know the wisdom behind not getting what we want, but better days are coming.” I was astonished by that and asked her what she meant. She told me, “Maybe after nine months, you will find the sibling that you have longed for.” I did not believe her at first, but then I hugged her. I was ecstatic.
All of my family were pleased. We were so eager to see the baby. We went shopping often in the first three months of my mother’s pregnancy. Every day I looked at the new clothes for the coming baby and waited eagerly to see it wearing those tiny clothes. I was thinking around the clock about the baby’s name and fighting with my mother to choose the name.
On a serene morning, however, all of those joyful moments quickly vanished, without warning, as my parents and I were sitting at the table having our breakfast. While my father was listening to the news, he heard that there would be an Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip. My father told my mother that we had to go to our grandma’s house because it is much safer than ours. We could not know the heartbreak waiting for us there.
Two days later, I felt safe and secure, sitting with my grandma and the whole family in her living room. All of us, adults and children, sat watching out the windows, witnessing the appalling massacres committed against civilians here in Gaza. At the same time, my mom was preparing herself for my father to take her to the clinic. They hoped for assurance from the doctor about the baby’s health.
Suddenly, a massive bombardment began at a military site near our home. The horrifying sound of the bombs forced us involuntarily onto the floor. The trauma was unbearable for my pregnant mom. She fell heavily to the bare floor, without carpets or cushions to protect her. She began bleeding profusely. The bleeding would not stop. At that moment, my mother fainted, and I started crying, as I thought about her and the baby inside her womb.
As the shelling continued, my father was driving my mother through the same area where bombs were exploding and shrapnel was flying all around. Of course, they feared being hit by an artillery shell or rocket, but they survived. When they returned, they gave us the heartbreaking news of the death of my unborn sibling. The baby had died even before it entered this life, an angel taken from us unmercifully by the cruel Israeli occupation.
We are never surprised by such experiences in our life, as they happen often. Not only do we hold funerals for our unborn babies, but also funerals for all of us, as we die daily under the injustice of so-called “Israel.” That inhumane and cruel state, holding us tightly around our necks, robs joy from all our children. Is anything more awful than turning our cheerful moments into unanticipated funerals? This is the bitter fact that we all live with. This is how our dreams are torn apart even before we are born. It seems that daily, another Gazan family says farewell to an unborn dream, to martyr after martyr, in home after home.
The death of my unborn sibling shocked me, but I refused to show emotion, as everyone in the Gaza Strip was living the same excruciating experience. After two unbelievable months of attacks, the sorrowful moments ended, but they remain in our minds and hearts.
Joy rising from the ashes
We returned home to rebuild our dreams together as a small family. I entered my bedroom, where I had filled a corner with toys for my new sibling. My mom, with tearful eyes, hugged me tightly and said, “Don’t cry, sweetie. Your father and I will stand by your side always!” Shattered, I could not find words to speak. Nonetheless, we had to resurrect our life together. For a long time, we lived as if nothing had happened to us.
This is Gaza; this is how we rise again from the ashes. My parents always tell me that a painful experience can be a blessing in disguise. I feel that idea touching my heart deeply now. We grew closer together. We rebuilt and discovered new joys together. Indeed, new joys came to us. Delighted and content, I live with my parents and four young siblings. “You are their second mom,” my mother says with a laugh. Still, we remember.