"You are pregnant." The doctor said these words 14 years ago and they turned my life upside down.

It had been only a year since I was pressed into marriage by my family at the age of 15, so receiving such news was a big shock for me. A child giving life to another child is insane; how could I give this innocent creature the attention she needed when I was still in extreme need of it?

I had never dreamed I would marry before completing my studies and securing a job. Growing up, I had many big dreams, including starting my own business and traveling the world. But they all came to a halt, and fast.

Still, seeing my baby’s face chased my regrets away.

Asmaa's birth

The name “Asmaa” just popped into my mind when the nurse put her in my arms after what had been nine months of pain and mental anguish.

I cannot describe my feelings at that moment. It was with a mixture of fear and happiness that I beheld her round, pale face and full red lips, her cry filling the air in an attempt to tell me how hungry she was.

I was still in pain from the fierce, three-day battle, weak from loss of blood, but I could not restrain myself from trying to breastfeed her. That moment awakened my maternal instincts, love overflowing inside me. I wanted to give her every ounce of tenderness and affection I had. I left my studies at secondary school to take care of my daughter. (It was four years before I managed to return.)

I have to concede, raising a child as a 16-year-old mother was a herculean task. I remember how my eyes welled up with tears as I watched my friends through the window, going off to school while I stayed home. But my baby's cooing laughter consoled me every time I felt depressed and frustrated.

Asmaa, the young lady

There is nothing faster than the speed of time; my daughter has grown up so fast. My little baby has become a young lady of 13, her personality evolving every day. As young as she still is, Asmaa is wise and kind; sometimes I forget her age and think she is a 20-year-old! She motivates me to be better than I am, urging me to trust in my abilities and to not ever give up.

At the same time, her sensitivity to others also makes her a challenge; I have to watch my words and tone of voice to avoid being misunderstood and hurting her feelings.

We have times when we fight, yes, but they are always followed by a loving truce. Asmaa is the best keeper of secrets; I trust her enough to share the moments of sadness as well as joys I have experience in life. In fact, Asmaa is my mirror. We resemble each other mentally and physically: We have almost the same height and features. Neither of us can hide our feelings and despise hypocrisy.

I used to live in blind obedience, compelled to do things against my will. But God has rewarded me with the apple of my eye, Asmaa, to compensate me for my suffering and help me become my best self.

Every one of us faces circumstances beyond our control or ability to handle. But good can come of it, hidden behind the trials and tribulations—just waiting the proper time to be shown.

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Mentor: Jaylyn Olivo

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