It’s the middle of the night where I am. Today’s technical date is 8/23/2013. Today is the anniversary of my first daughter, Nadhiyrah’s, death. She too left in the middle of the night, so it is fitting that I am awake now and thinking of her, remembering her.
We buried her two days later in the evening. We had to wait to do so because the coroner needed to finish her autopsy, and all paperwork and releases needed to be completed. By the time the burial was finished, maghrib was becoming isha, and I was sore with milk that had not been able to be expelled since her last nursing days before.
We left the Islamic cemetery after making dua and went to a local chain grocery store nearby called BI-LO to buy cabbage, as this was supposed to reduce the engorgement. As we were in the checkout line, I was mindlessly staring at the titles of the latest tabloids and listening to the songs playing over the store speaker. It wasn’t late, but it might have well been 2 am. The next song to play was Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t she lovely”.
I had never really paid attention to that song if I had heard it before, nor knew the words right off hand. In the silence of my grief I listened as he crooned,
Isn’t she lovely
Isn’t she wonderful
Isn’t she precious
Less than one minute old
I never thought through love we’d be
Making one as lovely as she
But isn’t she lovely made from love
Isn’t she pretty
Truly the angel’s best
Boy, I’m so happy
We have been heaven blessed
I can’t believe what God has done
Through us he’s given life to one
But isn’t she lovely made from love
Isn’t she lovely
Life and love are the same
Life is Aisha
The meaning of her name
Lord, it could have not been done
Without You who conceived the one
That’s so very lovely made from love
I couldn’t cry then, as I was still in disbelief…though I can do so easily now. I thought about my daughter, and wished I had listened to this song when she was born. Though it was smaller than a poppy seed, somewhere in my heart I began to believe, that night, that Allah would not leave me without a daughter to raise and love in this life. I faintly grasped His promise that He takes nothing away, without replacing it with something better.
Weeks later I began a new job at the behest of Child Protective Services. I had not been working the majority of the time I had been a mother, and I certainly did not feel up to the task of working then, but they really gave me no choice. I was wearing full hijab then, so my ability to get work was limited to whomever might be open-minded enough to let me cover and work at the same time.
I ended up working in a huge warehouse for Ross, the discount retail store. My job was to tag clothing. I was given a gun with a needle on the end, and stacks of tickets (literally numbering in the hundreds) to attach to every item in a particular order. Sometimes I would search row after row for the order, finding boxes of Fubu jeans, creamy Cashmere sweaters, or black socks. The orders always varied, and they were always mammoth. And I was fast, so I was always able to get them done quickly.
But sometimes the boxes, when I opened them to see what new item was to be tagged, contained baby girl clothes. Pink sleepers with lambs on the front, todder-sized Dora the Explorer swimsuits, or frilly and extravagant Christmas dresses. I tried often to swap orders with other workers so I wouldn’t have to do these, because I cried when I had to look at those little girl things. Sometimes, though, I couldn’t find anyone to trade and I was stuck with 11 television-sized boxes of Carter brand two-pieces in pink and lavender.
Pain was inescapable at those times, but I tagged anyway…quickly, efficiently. I started to build my hopes on that promise from Allah, that my grief would one day be sufficed with the birth of another baby girl. Sometimes that was the only way to make it through the order. I never knew when this promise might come, or how long it would take, but it became the mainstay of my survival.
I became pregnant again while working there, but it wasn’t a girl. The grief was fresh again when I found out I was having a son. But there were more important things- a new life to raise, and still other details that continued to come up that needed to be taken care of.
He was born, and a year passed. I got pregnant again, but it wasn’t meant to be. I miscarried at 9 weeks. The most horrible thing about that whole experience is that I had to keep that miscarriage inside me for three weeks, waiting for my body to do it’s work. I had to walk around each day knowing that life didn’t thrive, and it remained inside. And of course, the idea that it could’ve been a girl drove me insane.
After that, I didn’t want to get pregnant. I went on birth control for a few years. There was just too much going on in life, and in my emotions, that I wasn’t ready for any promises to be fulfilled anyway.
When I finally went of the pills, I was infertile. I tried to be patient, to let my body do whatever it needed to do. My infertility lasted for about 3 years, but by then I was ready for my promise. I believed in Allah, after seeing Him take care of me in so many other ways, and I knew he would bring me a daughter someday. I resolved to be patient, to resist the temptation to “force things along” with fertility meds, and waited.
The wait was long, and painful. My body was not working. The hope seemed like a longshot. Then, as time went on, I found myself single again. I didn’t stop believing in Allah’s promise, I just figured it would come in an eventual time in an eventual new life with someone else.
Yet we all know that’s not what happened. My husband and I were brought back together, and before I could even think about daughters and promises I found out I was pregnant. I was no longer infertile. I believed Allah was saying, “it’s time”.
I believed she was a girl before I had any way of knowing for sure. I just believed it as surely as I know my own name. I believed Allah was finally keeping His promise, and it was sheer joy to find out Shukurah was indeed here. I believe she’s here to stay, in shaa Allah. And she is a balm for my heart that there are no words for, no lyrics for, no melody for. She is my promise, and I love her forever.