Haneen Abo Soad | 19-12-2017
The day life changed
At 9 in the morning on the 13th of March, 2013, I was awakened by my sister to the sound of children giggling. My sister said it was “my day.” It felt good; everything felt new. I opened the window to a blue sky, breathing in the fresh air. The lush trees were calm and still. Suddenly a twinge of regret tugged at my stomach. I knew I wouldn’t be living in my beloved home for much longer.
I had an amazing bond with my six sisters and my mother. That day my mother and married sister joked about their own weddings. We used to go to the roof when the power was out. We’d lay down and peer at the sky, trying to make out whether the lights were stars or Israeli attack planes. They can look incredibly alike, and we were often fooled to the point that we’d make wishes to those lookalike stars. We sang. We talked about our dreams for a free life, in which we could live simply together with no fears. We promised ourselves we wouldn’t let men separate us, even when we got married. No man would ever fill the space held by the bond between us. Those moments we shared in that house were priceless.
Back in the present, my mother embraced me, reminding me that now I was leaving for good. My home was now with my husband. At the time, I felt happy about it. I loved him, right?
I went to the hairstylist, feeling increasingly glamorous as the hours passed. It was my day and I was getting ready for my wedding. I was ready by 3 in the afternoon and everybody looked at me in awe. I looked in the mirror and found myself in an amazing white dress—sleeveless and fitting my body so perfectly except for the wide swirl at the bottom. My hair was coiled high with a lock deliberately falling in front of one of my eyes. Adorning my hair was a short, sheer, lacy white scarf embroidered with metallic beads and a small crown of roses. My red lipstick that made me feel strong and beautiful.
I remembered a time when I stumbled and fell at a gathering of people during our holy month of Ramadan, dropping my food and making my lips bleed. I cried out of embarrassment and went to wash my face. When I looked in the mirror, I felt stronger. It’s always been that way; the mirror is my friend during the highs and lows of my life. I put on lipstick and went back to the party.
My husband-to-be came in. He looked so amazed at my appearance. He held my hand and said, “Well, let’s start our lives together.” I smiled and told him I was ready. The place we were married in was called The Hall of the Palm Trees. When we entered, the piano was playing and the hall was full of friends and family members sharing our happiness. We danced. It was an unforgettable day.
One week later
I woke up with the sun shining on my face. I opened my eyes slowly and smiled. I felt safe, loved and at peace. I turned left to see the face of my new husband; he looked like an angel, with his eyes closed and spots of sunlight caressing his smooth, dark brown skin. I touched his face gently before I got out of bed. The kitchen in my new home, located on the floor above where my husband’s parents live, has large windows with a view I love: green trees with a lot of birds. I opened the windows to let in the sun and sang my favorite song as I made breakfast. The title of the song is “Be a Woman” and I couldn’t help dancing to the tune.
Suddenly, my husband entered the kitchen, commanding me fiercely to shut the windows. I froze next to the stove. My mood slumped. “Baby, why?” I asked. He replied harshly, “Because you have to listen to me and do what I say without asking why!” At that moment time stood still. Some food on the stove spilled onto my hand, burning my skin. But I didn’t feel it. He grabbed my hand and put it under the running tap. “God has punished you,” he said. He believed my singing so that others could hear was a sin against God. I could not speak. Like bombshells, his words reverberated in my mind. I got through my day, but his words never left me.
A moment of rebirth
I got pregnant two months after getting married. It was not an easy pregnancy. I had morning sickness had a calcium deficiency, causing my feet to hurt, so I couldn’t stand for very long. My husband is a bricklayer’s assistant and only earns 200 shekels ($57) every two or three weeks, so we couldn’t afford for me to take supplements.
I also was dizzy a lot. I remember one day, while I was doing the dishes, I suddenly felt as if everything was spinning. I opened the window to get some fresh air. The sky in its blue splendor blinded me and I felt even dizzier. I fell to the floor. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t. I remained on my back until I felt better. I got up.
I went to my doctor with my mother-in-law, but she told me my symptoms were common during pregnancy and I shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. I felt awkward, so I replied that I just wanted to make sure my baby was ok. I smiled as I entered the doctor’s office. It was the first time he’d seen me pregnant. He asked me questions about my pregnancy and asked if I wanted to see my baby. I replied that I did. I saw her for the first time. She was so small, and kicking her left leg slowly. It was as if she was saying, “Hello, mummy. I can feel you too.” I heard her heartbeat. My heart was beating too and we connected in our own special way.
I couldn’t forget the sound of her heartbeat. I badly wanted her to arrive. I finally reached my ninth month. I had a big belly and was feeling heavy. I couldn’t sleep. It was a Thursday at 3 in the morning when I felt my first contractions. As I arrived at the hospital, I panicked, crying in fear. The contractions were very painful.
I held my breath so I wouldn’t scream. I was exhausted from trying to push, literally thinking I was dying. In Gaza, husbands are not allowed in hospital labor rooms, and I felt all alone. I fainted, with the heavy rain that had suddenly stated outside the last thing I heard. Then, I woke up to a feeble cry. I opened my eyes slowly to see that my baby had finally made it into this world. I felt a huge surge of relief. I kissed her with my eyes in tears. No matter what, I was fine. She is here with me, so I am fine.
Posted: December 18, 2017
Mentor: Mohammed Massoud Morsi