PLEASE TAKE TIME TO READ THE AUTHOR’S NOTE AT THE END
AUNTY ZUHAIRAH (SAMIHA’S LATE MOTHER)
13 YEARS AGO:
The day was particularly difficult. The 12th of August always is. It’s been five years since my stillborn child and the pain experienced by this loss proved its unflagging strength as did the depth of the wound it left; both completely unaffected by the passage of time.
Sweat trickled down my tired face, the cold surgical room suddenly starting to feel unbearably hot.
My ears felt a tinge of pain, the urgent hushed voices of co-working doctors suddenly sounding too loud.
I struggled to keep my eyes open, the optimized lighting of the room suddenly seeming too bright.
A burning sensation made its way to my outstretched legs, the short time I spent extending them suddenly feeling too lengthy.
‘We’re losing them!’
A lot happened then: It was as though I could actually feel the Earth’s spin – at 1000 miles per hour; as though I could actually hear the thumping of my heart within my chest as its beat exceeded 100 beats per minute; as though I could actually see the heightened pressure my blood flow placed on each of its vessels as they fought back, difficultly, trying to keep from bursting.
It’s so dark in here…
“HEY!!!” My eyes shot open at the sound of a louder, much firmer voice. “STAY WITH ME!”
Why is she yelling?
I felt her gentle grip. My eyes shifted to her hand on mine.
“BREATHE WITH ME.”
“Come on,” her voice is softer now. Almost calming. “Inhale. Hold it. Exhale.”
The seriousness in her eyes compels me to do as she asked. Inhale. Hold it. Exhale.
“My…” I started, my voice coming out strained. “B-a-b–.”
“MA’AM.” The word silenced me. “You need to do as I say.”
She doesn’t want me to ask. She’s avoiding my question.
“All of it will be over soon.” She said, gently. “You need to be stronger for this last part. It’s going to hurt. But… Just one…”
I screamed out in pain, my body obeying her commands without her having to complete them.
“NO!” someone yelled then; shocked, distraught, afraid.
“DR MILLS!!!” came another shout with a tone more confident, more warning, more superior. “NOW IS NOT THE TIME!”
“WE LOST THE BABY!!!!!”
“DR MILLS!” the voice was now angry. “GET OUT OF MY O.R.”
Silence settled before being interrupted again.
There was a bit of shuffling, banging of instruments, muffled gasps.
“Baby…” I managed, eventually, unsure if anyone heard me.
‘Bloody hell! We’re losing her!’ came a response.
The lights disappeared then, the voices faded and darkness I caught slight glimpses off before, now presented itself in entirety.
“Salaam Mamma!!!” my train of painful thought came to an abrupt end as I passed the playroom. Teasingly, I ignored the call, a small smile dancing on my lips.
“MAMMA!!!” she called again, louder this time, her voice laced with the slightest bit of irritation. “Mamma, I know you bluffing.”
I put down my laundry basket, the smile now fully spread across my face, and made my way toward my daughter. Her mind was sharper than most her age and she quickly picked up new words, and sentences, whilst in the company of her two older siblings.
“What you got there, kid?” I asked, rhetorically.
She ignored me, as I had done her; her sass charming me. She looked down, concentrating hard on a sketch of Barney, all of her fingers clutching onto a purple crayon as she scribbled onto the page, with so much force it almost tore.
“That’s pretty.” I said, pointing to the zig-zag lines she’d been making across the face. “Like you.”
The compliment rid her of her anger as she blinked up at me with big, grey eyes.
Those eyes, displaying the innocence of a child, kind.
She smiled, offering me forgiveness, living up to her name, despite being so young.
That smile… generous.
This child, little as she was, somehow able to shed light into a very, very persistent darkness…
Cries, I hear cries.
My eyelids lifted, my heart ignoring its heaviness.
I looked up to see my husband close to my bedside, his arms encompassing a wrapped bundle.
A smile made its way to my face, lasting less than a millisecond before the events of the past 45 minutes flashed through my mind: remnants, at first, and then hitting me full force.
‘WE LOST THE BABY.’ They had said.
It was a series of echos in my head, each one setting off another, the sound never ending, the words sinking in.
“My baby.” I said, my words clearer now that I was fully conscious.
He looked up at the sound of my voice, the pain evident in his eyes, right before turning stone cold.
“It was a boy.” He said, finally, after a long moment of silence.
My eyes shut, the reality dawning upon me, the tears of my heart, too heavy for my chest to bear, escaping through my eyes.
“My baby.” I said, again, reaching out weakly. “Hamza… No… no…”
My husband placed the unmoving baby into my arms.
I lifted the lifeless bundle, bringing him closer to me, hoping he’d feel the soft kisses I placed on his forehead, willing them to be some kind of reviver; but he did not and it was not.
“No, this can’t… this isn’t… he can’t…” I trailed off, unable to complete my sentences. I looked up at my husband, seeking some kind of comfort, but he refused to even meet my gaze.
“Zaakir?” I said, questioningly.
“You missed appointments.” He muttered, his voice mirroring the chill in his eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“YOU DELAYED CHECK UPS!!!” He shouted this time.
My heart sank and I voiced a question, already knowing his answer.
“Are you implying that it’s my fault?”
“No.” He chuckled, sarcastically. “I’m straight out saying it is.”
“It was only two.” My lack of energy forbade me from yelling.
“ONLY TWO!!! ONLY?!” He reached for Hamza’s corpse and I pulled away. “That’s still a fucking irregularity.”
I remained silent, processing his words.
Did I kill my child?
“You complained of cramps, high fever and dizziness.”
He was right… this was all my fault.
“YOU DAMN CHOSE NOT TO GO TO THE CLINIC!”
I didn’t choose to…
“YOU KILLED THE BABY!!!!”
My sense of denial kicked in then, giving me the strength I lacked.
“I DIDN’T CHOOSE TO!!!” I screamed at him. “I WOULD NEVER, NOT INTENTIONALLY!!!”
A nurse entered and just as she did, I yelled, “LEAVE US!”
“Take the dead weight too.” My husband said, glancing hatefully at me.
“He was our baby!” I exclaimed, completely taken aback, pulling Hamza closer to me.
“He died before he even got a chance to be.” His voice was devoid of emotion as he snatched Hamza from me.
“No, Zaakir, don’t, are you even hearing yourself?!”
He ignored my helpless pleas, handing our child to the silent nurse, as if Hamza was trash, as if his death meant nothing.
“He was our baby!” I repeated. “HOW DARE YOU?!”
“FUCK YOU!” He yelled, lifting both fingers in the air.
“ASSHOLE!!!!!” I yelled right back, my strength wearing off as I laid back down, dissolving into a never-ending stream of tears… again.
It was an argument paving the way to multiple disagreements; one fight setting off another, just like the echos in my head…
I watched my little girl, my mind searching for answers but finding none for the questions remained, lurking around, as they did for 5 and a half years. It baffled me how quickly things changed – the years prior to her birth being a painful flash of events. Those were the years of tragedy, of difficulty, and of conflict; reminding me what it was like to feel pain, punishing me for allowing myself to forget and in the remembrance of this type of pain, I forgot love. Love, upon not having received it, I neglected giving it and as a result of this neglect lay two young, living kids with no understanding of why they’ll never see their younger brother; as a result of this neglect lay two young, living kids wondering why their parents were suddenly always yelling at each other; as a result of this neglect lay two young, living kids, afraid and restless, with uncaring, oblivious parents, depending solely on themselves and each other.
“Mamma.” Mahmoood called tiredly. “Please, mamma. Why can’t I sleep by you and Abah?”
Because Abah and I don’t sleep in the same bed anymore.
Abah and I don’t sleep in the same room anymore.
Abah and I barely sleep in the same house anymore…
“You’re a big boy now, Mahmood.” I said, instead, smiling lightly.
“But my nightmares won’t stop, Mamma. Please.” He pleaded.
Neither would mine.
I wanted to say yes, craving companionship.
I wanted to say yes, knowing full well that my son’s presence would soothe me as it would him.
I wanted to say yes, for watching Mahmood fall asleep would suppress the wander of my mind.
I wanted to say yes, willing to accept anything that offered to keep the loss of my first child from consuming my thoughts.
I wanted to say yes, wanting someone, needing someone to just be there.
I wanted to say yes, but I couldn’t for these children need not know the severity of the brokenness between their parents, the outrageous arguments that never ended were burdenous enough.
I wanted to say yes, every fiber of my being urging me to, but I fought every urge with a strength I never knew I had and, instead, I cradled my son in my arms, lifted him off his bed and carried him to the large window in his new room.
I stood with him, his head on my chest, and together we gazed out into the beauty of the silent night for what felt like ages. I told tales that calmed his racing heart, chased away the nightmares and allowed his eyes to shut gently, pulling him into a deep, peaceful slumber. My gaze ran over my sleeping son, whose weight had started to cause an ache in the muscles of my arms, and as I did, I wished, again, for everything to go back to how it once was.
I was now propped up against a wall, with Samiha on my lap, playing with a button on my shirt. I ran my hand through her open, messy hair and she looked up at me, yawning before offering me another smile. She was but a toddler – my toddler – who’d been living proof that the wish I made those 4 years ago had been fulfilled.
Unconsciously, I rubbed a hand along her back and she slowly drifted off to sleep as I drifted into thought, her head buried in my chest and mine resting lightly on hers.
It might have been the weight of my tears or maybe even the exhaustion of my heart that sparked a sudden change but one night my husband didn’t come home late, the next day he bought me the reddest of roses and cooked us dinner, a week later we were all suddenly okay and the past two years were never spoken off. It was as though it never happened, except that it did and merely brushing it under the rug made me queasy. Everything changed for the better and although it did, with an additional member to our family, the uneasiness proved to be difficult to shake off, my fear of pain daring me to ignore it.
“YOU DID WHAT?” My husband’s loud voice travelled through the hallway, making its way to my ears, my thoughts interrupted again.
I know that tone.
“I CAN NOT BELIEVE THIS!”
He used that tone on me once before.
My feet rushed towards the urgency of his voice and I found myself entering our room, his back to me, a phone held tightly to his ear, him unaware of my presence.
Ayesha? Ayesha who?
“THEY WERE MY KIDS JUST AS THEY WERE YOURS!”
“SO WHAT IF I’M MARRIED?!”
Married? Yes, to me.
“DID YOU EVEN THINK TO CONSULT ME?”
What? What is he saying?
“A BURDEN? THEY WOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN A BURDEN.”
“ALL THAT WAS BURDENOUS WAS MY AFFAIR WITH YOU.”
My lungs did the math before I, for they stopped providing oxygen and, upon exiting the room I struggled to breathe.
Ayesha. Kids. Affair.
“Oh…” I said to myself walking along the empty hallway. “Oh…”
“No…” I clutched my chest, it tightening, my pace increasing. “No…”
“Cheater…” My hands reached for the handle of a door. “Cheater…”
I felt it again – the Earth’s spin, my heart beat fasten, my pressure rise.
This time, preoccupied, I didn’t fight back, I couldn’t, my gaze wandering, filling my sight with a deep blue .
How did I get in here?
My heart heavying, I took towards the crib, walking slowly, taking in every detail of the room we never entered.
The room we set up so perfectly for Hamza with the teddy bears, the rattles and the tiny cars.
I collapsed to the ground near the, still, packaged gifts I received at my baby shower 5 and a half years ago.
I lifted one, it felt soft.
I shook it, it made no sound.
I ripped through the wrapper, a bright blue exterior enclosing 0-3 month old baby clothes: a romper, a short-sleeved t-shirt and track pants. I brought it up to my face, sniffing in its newness, my tears staining the white material.
I let it slip from my fingertips, crying out, feeling hollow in the place my gut ought to have been at.
Feeling weak, I laid down, my back on the ground, staring up at the ceiling fan.
The wires around it indicated a job unfinished, a job we didn’t need to be finished.
I sat up again, feeling my suffering rise to a level that became more than unbearable.
I stood up, afterward, finally having found an everlasting solution.
I walked to where the mobile steps were, placed them directly underneath the bolted-on ceiling fan I’d been staring at, grabbing hold of the rope that was conveniently left at the corner of the room.
I climbed it, one by one, my heart starting to race. Not for long.
My hands reached for the wires as I combined them with rope, expertly knotting it to the fan and then wrapping it around my neck.
Thinking abut the baby I left asleep on the floor of the playroom, I hesitated, only once, before kicking away the only thing separating me from the ground. From death.
Many things went through my mind. Most of which had been hazy.
I thought mainly of my children.
Saadia’s teenage phase.
Samiha’s entire life.
The wire and rope started to burn my skin, pressure being placed on the vessels in my neck.
‘You’re a coward, Zuhairah.’
My very last thought, before the oxygen and blood supply to my brain came to an eternal end…
…As did my life.
Finally managed to type out a post, yoh, what a mouthful! Call me crazy but my stomach felt funny typing out this post because I was envisioning it. I do apologize for it being too cringy and for the vulgarity, but it seemed apt for the story-line.
I hope this post was worth the wait, I made it extra long!
Also, I hope the shifts between the past and the present weren’t too confusing.
One last thing, I’ve recently gotten myself an instagram account, do follow @zaakirassimpleyetcomplexlife