Monthly Archives: August 2013

Squeeze Week

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This week has been very trying for me. In fact, I don’t want to think or even writ about it; but because it has resolved the way it has I want to record it to remember the outcome…and to give me faith at times when it gets crazy again.

When I assess my cases at work for the first time, I break the information down into three categories: biological, psychological, and social. All three areas were affected significantly for me this week. Biologically speaking, I came down with a wicked case of insomnia. It started last weekend, and every night I slept no more than two hours- essentially a nap. I would take another ‘nap’ during the day, and the rest of the time I was wide awake. Fortunately, these ‘naps’ doubled in length by Thursday, and last night I technically got a full night’s sleep. I hope I continue to stay on this regulated cycle.

I know the insomnia was being fueled by stress, and that’s where the psychological aspects come in. I was going through a lot of emotional upheaval and pain, and it was out of my range of control or influence. I had to sit with it. All I could do is continue to turn to Allah and stay focused on my ibadah, which I did. Realizing that this much stress is not healthy for me or the baby, I decided to go back to a counselor I used to work with. I have an appointment with her later on today. In shaa Allah she can help support me and guide me through any emotional crises that may inevitably come up in the next few months.

Then, finally (but not least significantly), there was the social aspect. I was actually traumatized by the results of a traffic ticket trial I had mid-week. Without reliving the gory details, suffice it to say my fine (after being found guilty) was more than twice the fee for the charge I had, plus I was given other penalties that have costs and fees attached. This was really difficult to take, because money is already getting tighter and tighter as I approach my due date. Needless to say, I am going to talk to an attorney to see if anything can be done to make the sentence more reasonable via the appeals process.

Before yesterday, I was feeling overwhelmed by all this and extremely helpless. I can only do what I have the means to do, and it seemed my means for any of these aspects was dwindling away. I could only beg Allah to take care of me and to help me. And He did.

Yesterday was payday. I had budgeted aside a small sum to buy a used rocking chair on Craigslist to use with the baby. I also needed to get a replacement mattress set (again, from Craigslist) for my oldest son’s bed, because the one he has now (although I bought it new in 2010) is utterly broken down and worthless. The box spring is falling apart (literally, the wood pieces are being batted out from under the bed by our cats) and the mattress itself is like a giant sinkhole. I figured I would have to give up getting these items so I could use the money instead for my court fees and fines, since the first installment is due 9/6.

When I checked my account in the morning, I saw that I had actually received a child support payment in almost the exact amount of what I had budgeted for the furniture. This was pretty much a miracle, because most child support payments I’ve received the past year have been less than $30. I was so thankful to Allah for this, because now I could use that for my legal fund and still get the furniture.

…But it gets better! I went on Craigslist to see what was available, and it turns out someone was selling a decent mattress set for less than half what I wanted to spend on it. I called, it was still available, and it is being brought over to me this afternoon. Not only that, but I found a huge, plush rocker/recliner for only $50. When I emailed to see if it was still available and explained I wanted it for my baby, the lady decided she would give it to me for free if I just came to get it. That is also happening later on today. So between the two, I ended up only paying out a fraction of what I budgeted, so that leaves more money for things like food and household needs (which we always seem to be scarce of….growing boys, I tell ya!)

Masha’Allah, Allah really does work everything out when you don’t give up. Even though it was only a small provision, it helped in huge ways. Not having to worry about money and fines helped reduce my stress, and that has helped me get some rest. So with one small mercy Allah has provided ease for everything I was tried with. Alhamdulillah.

A Promise Made is a Promise Kept

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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.

Ouroboros

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To be honest, I’m scared. In some ways, this year will likely end in the way it began. Despite the fact that I remember what that was like, even that it wasn’t so horrible….and remember that there are far more painful things I’ve endured since then, I am still frightened. In my humanness, I wish that a detailed itinerary of all the ways Allah will meet my needs and be there for me would be outlined for the next several months or years. In reality, I often only find those things out in the days or moments of the clinch. And that’s OK, because it’s still teaching me that Allah isn’t letting me down.

But at night, at around 11 PM or so, it gets quiet and lonely. I think about everyone whom I love or loves me, and who is on my “team”. I know who has my back. It’s just sometimes, I wish one of them were here to sit with me at my dining table, share a cup of cocoa, and let me cry on their shoulder. I wish they were here to give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Sometimes you can know things in your head, or even get late night texts of encouragement that come without warning, but there’s nothing like a good old fashioned embrace or real hand to hold when the landscape of your world is redrawn yet again.

I write every day to counter the buildup of hindering emotions. I write all the secrets that I can’t share here: all the predictions that play out choreographically, all the events that unfold sequentially, and all the hopes that lay themselves to rest one by one, stacked in shallow graves. I write them in hidden diaries, filed under obscure names, on a hard drive across town.

I make dua, constantly. Every twinge that crosses my heart I circle with my words and give to Allah. I tell Him everything, even when I feel I have made too many of my own mistakes, because when it all boils down He is my only Wakil. I hang on to the belief that no matter what emotional state I’m in, what circumstances I face, whether I am being treated rightly or wrongly, He is there with me, knowing what it’s like to face such things. I thank Him for every blessing, even if it’s something simple as a kindness that is my right anyway. I cry. As often as I need to, I cry to Him when it gets to be overwhelming….like I am right now.

I think what’s most frightening about my present place is knowing that it is one that won’t leave a loophole, an exit to return through. This change will be a final change, a permanent shift. It’s as though I’m watching the door close slowly…a little more with each new development. I stand fixed, though it’s painful, reminding myself in so many ways why this is inevitable, and why it’s really not a bad thing.

I would love a glimpse into my life a year from now. To see Shukurah at about 9 months old, and the boys all ready to start another school year. Jedidiah will be a freshman in high school then, and Eden will be in 7th grade. Jabiyr will be in 4th. What will I be writing about? What will I be missing from this old life, what will I be savoring of the new? Will I do something crazy, and leave all the dunya here behind and go home? Will I be sitting in a small apartment in some small California town, getting a hug from my newest sister-friend? That wouldn’t be so bad….but it’s not sure. Perhaps I will still be living in this house, making cocoa by myself, and sitting at the kitchen table with my cat Honey and silently crying because it’s hard to give up hope that’s been held so long. I’m sure I would write a poem about it then, and at least feel sated enough to go to bed.

There’s this thing I do, that in sufi tradition is called “maraqaba”. It’s not something that anyone taught me to do, or that I even knew was a “practice” among any groups until years after I did it the first time. To be honest, it’s something I started to do as a Christian, because I had a very lonely and isolated childhood and it was the only thing I could find comfort in. I used to imagine I could talk to Jesus then. I would tell him my worries, and imagine what he might say to comfort me. I guess when I became Muslim, I thought I could still do it, just in a different way. I never thought I was doing anything significant or intentionally mystical…just a small thing to help me through a long night.

The first time I imagined being able to talk to Prophet Muhammad SAWS was in 2005, when I was going through custody for the first time with my ex husband. Things were in a very bad place, but I can’t share all the details of why here. I needed someone, and I was alone…so I imagined I could travel back in time and talk to Prophet Muhammad SAWS to find some ease. Sure enough, I found ease, and in my imaginary scenario Prophet Muhammad SAWS chained up my ex husband so he could do me no harm. Interestingly, I won the first court battle, and the second when he tried to re-file on grounds that it was a misjudgment. Since that ‘maraqaba’, my ex has not had any leverage over me at all.

The second time I did this was around the time I began this blog, regarding all the circumstances that were going on then. I was essentially told all those issues would work out…and they did.

A couple months ago I did it again. This time I was told that no matter what happens, I have support because my intentions are good. I’m going to try to hang on to that. I know it could just be my imagination, but if one believes they have divine support in the face of immense challenges and heartbreak, then there is strength inside the fear, isn’t there? There’s courage, and courage is what I need right now.