“Faz! Come here!”
I stopped with my hand on the door handle and turned to look back at mum.
Mum came out of the kitchen, phone in hand.
“That was Aisha,” she said, gesturing at the phone, “she said can you pick up her tupperware from Zeenat’s house? She wants to pack some biscuits inside to send for one of her relatives and she doesn’t have any other spare tins.”
“Okay, but did you tell her that I’ll only be back after four?”
“Ya, she knows. She said it’s okay, we can send it then.”
“Okay, then. Salaams, mummy.” On impulse I leaned over and pecked her on the cheek, having the satisfaction of seeing her cheeks pinken with pleasure as the door closed behind me. I smiled and got into the car then pulled out my phone. I still had a bit of time before madrassah started so if Zee was awake I could pick the tin up now and save myself the trip later. And I could also see Baby Laaibah if she was awake. Zee had gone back to her house two weeks ago, having completed her six-week confinement at her parents’ house, and I missed seeing Laaibah almost everyday.
Zee replied to my message in good time, though in a brief way that indicated that she was probably still in bed.
“K, u can pass by. I’m sleeping but Bashir’s awake. He’ll give u the tpwr.”
“U msg ppl in ur sleep? Wonderful. Must teach me hw to do it as well.” I grinned and pressed send. She did not bother to reply.
Fifteen minutes later I hooted outside Zee’s gate. It opened and I parked on one side before getting out and ringing the door bell. After a few minutes the door also opened, to reveal a dishevelled Bashir, wearing a stained shirt and a long-suffering expression, balancing Laaibah against one shoulder who was squirming and crying loudly. Bashir crooked one finger at me, motioning me to enter then turned away, rocking Laaibah and patting her on her back.
“Shhh, shhh…..shhh, shhh…it’s okay, baby, it’s okay…” he crooned softly, mindlessly to her. I shut the door behind me and edged into the kitchen behind him, wondering how to mention my reason for coming over the noise. I glanced around the kitchen swiftly but couldn’t see any tupperwares lying around. Seeing Bashir still occupied with the baby I opened a few cupboards and poked my head in but I had no clue if any of the tins I saw were Zee’s or her mother’s. I was about to give up and leave, intending to come back after madrassah when I realised that the noise level was decreasing. Bashir had disappeared somewhere but reappeared a few minutes later minus the baby, whom I imagined was sleeping now.
“Phew!” Bashir ran his hands through his hair, making it stand up even more, and stretched with a sigh, “finally asleep. Wonder how long it will last this time,” he glanced ruefully in the direction of his room.
“Does she wake up a lot?” I asked.
“Every hour!” Bashir replied, shaking his head, “throughout the night. Zee and I are both exhausted,” he stifled a yawn.
“Every hour? Shame, that must mean sleepless nights for Zee,” I said sympathetically.
Bashir smiled. “You think she’d go through it alone? No, it means sleepless nights for both of us. Zee feeds Laaibah every two hours so when it’s time for her feed Zee wakes up. The other times I wake up and rock her back to sleep. So we alternate that way.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Not that she wakes up so much,” I added hastily, “but that Zee at least has help from you.”
Bashir nodded. “It’s only fair that I help out, though it means that I’m dozing at my desk by lunch time.” He rubbed his eyes blearily then smiled at me again, looking like a golliwog. I said as much laughingly and he shot me a look through bloodshot eyes.
“Wait till you become a mother. You’ll understand then.”
“That’s still a loooong way to go,” I waved my hand airily, “I’ll enjoy my full nights sleep for now,” I grinned. Then I checked my watch and my eyes widened. “Oops! I’m getting late! Do you know where your mother inlaw’s tupperware is? I came to pick that up.”
“Must be somewhere here,” Bashir rummaged through the cupboards and promptly produced a blue, square tin, “here it is. I need to be going as well. I’m late for work…as usual,” he grimaced.
“Baby making you late?”
“Yeah. Zee gets knackered so she likes to sleep for a little while after fajr because then she can’t sleep the whole day with her chores and the baby. So I offered to look after Laaibah while she sleeps but it means I’m getting late to work everyday. Daddy would be naar if he heard,” he grimaced again at the thought of his father inlaw.
“Well, it’s his grandchild delaying you so I’m sure he’d understand,” I pointed out.
Bashir shrugged. “I hope so. I’ll catch you later, okay, Faz? I need to go bath now,” and with a wave he was gone, leaving me to see myself out. I shook my head as I left. I had no idea small babies were so much work.
When I had a chance to talk to Zee later on I mentioned the conversation Bashir and I had had.
“How do you cope?” I asked, “I’d be flat in two days!”
“So am I!” Zee groaned, “I don’t have a choice so I do it but if I didn’t have Bashir to help me out I’d have gone mad by now. I’m never having another baby again!”
I laughed in spite of myself. “Don’t say that, Zee. Make dua Allah makes Laaibah a good sleeper and that your next baby is a good sleeper from the beginning. Asiyah was telling me that her baby only wakes up twice during the night, and he’s only a month old.”
“Yeah, but at the moment I don’t even wanna think about having another baby.”
“If you need any help, let me know, okay? I can pop in and babysit her if I’m free,” I offered.
“Yeah, I will, inshaAllah. Jazakillah, Faz.”
Zee did not immediately take me up on my offer but I myself popped in whenever I had the chance to. It was difficult with madrassah but three weeks later we got a two-week break, then I had more free time on my hands. I decided to start jogging again after fajr while I had the chance, before I couldn’t manage again with madrassah. It was on the second day of my run that I had a sudden inspiration. I abruptly stopped at Zee’s gate on my way back and knocked, panting heavily. When no one opened…and I didn’t blame them because who would open the gate randomly at seven in the morning?…I decided to risk Zee’s wrath by calling her. Thankfully she answered, sounding awake enough to be cordial to me. She opened the gate then the door, looking at me quizzically.
“What’s up? What’s the emergency?”
“No emergency,” I said with a grin, still sounding breathless, “I’ve come to take Laaibah if she’s awake.”
“Laaibah?” Zee frowned at me, “what for?”
“To kidnap her of course,” I rolled my eyes.
“Ha ha, you’re so funny. Now tell me what’s going on in that head of yours.”
“Okay, so I had a brainwave,” I pushed past Zee, having stood on the doorstep for long enough. Indicating at her to close the door I walked into the lounge and sat down on the sofa, “I’ve started jogging after fajr since I have mads hols. So I thought I can take Laaibah along in her pram and take a walk with her…then Bashir can go to work early and you’d still have the chance to sleep in.”
Zee looked at me thoughtfully, the wheels turning in her head. “That’s quite a good idea,” she said finally, “but you won’t be able to run with a pram, you know.”
“I know that,” I said, “I’d take her on my way back. I stopped here on my way back and it’s still only seven-fifteen.”
“Hmmm…well, you can try it out and see. I definitely won’t say no,” she grinned.
Zee might not have said no but Bashir had more doubts than her. After arguing for quite some time about the dangers of pushing a baby around in a public street he finally gave in to my insistent assurances that I’d seen countless mums pushing their babies around and there was nothing unsafe about it and I would pray all my duas for additional safety, and told me to go ahead but I was responsible if anything happened to his baby…wearing that same long-suffering expression that he reserved for people who had pushed him past his limits. I felt a momentary qualm at the thought of being responsible if anything happened but I pushed it aside and nodded with all the confidence I could muster.
“We’ll be okay. Don’t worry,” I said reassuringly and hoped with all my heart that I was correct.…