Weekends were blissful little bubbles of calmness and serenity, amidst the whirling tornado of our lives. That wonderful feeling of waking up late, seeing the bright sunlight filtering through the curtains and still being able to laze around in bed was totally unmatched. Ahmed and I didn’t work on Saturdays as well so we had two whole days to ourselves, and though we couldn’t go to the beach house anymore…Ahmed’s mum was as unyielding as a rock, refusing to even so much as glance our way…we spent our time in other, equally fulfilling ways. Like going shopping…not that we were fans of that but when necessity called we had to respond, right…
“Ready, princess?” Ahmed yelled from the kitchen.
“Coming!” It was eleven and I was still getting ready. Shukr for a patient husband, I thought, remembering daddy’s impatient yells at us to get moving before the sun also gave up on us and set again. But there was an advantage to leaving late, that lunch time would come bang in the middle of our shopping or at least by the end of it so we could just have lunch one time then come back because I hadn’t cooked anyways.
“Do we really have to go in there?” Ahmed complained about an hour later, for what was like the fifth time.
“Yes, there might be something in this aisle that I’ve forgotten to buy,” I replied as patiently as I could.
“But you have a list. So get what’s on it and let’s go,” Ahmed pointed out.
“Ahmed, that list was written last minute in a rush. I might have forgotten to write some things on it. Now since we only come shopping like once a month can you please indulge me and let me shop to my hearts content?”
Ahmed shrugged, looking resigned. “Lead the way, princess.”
I gave him a look, noting the emphasis on princess. Ahmed stared back at me in wide-eyed innocence. Shaking my head I led the way into the next aisle. And the next and the next…till we came to one which was obviously a baby aisle. Just when I decided to skip one aisle at least Ahmed grabbed my hand and pulled me in there.
“Why are you bringing me here? I don’t think we need nappies or bottles or bibs,” I said pointedly.
“Oh, no harm in having a look, right? Look at this babygrow! So tiny! Imagine how tiny babies are, to fit into this!” Ahmed exclaimed.
“Yeah, they come out of a tiny space so obviously they’ll be tiny,” I pointed out the obvious.
“And look at this! So frilly and pink and shiny! I think you’ll love to dress a baby up in this! It’s so you!” Ahmed grinned.
I folded my arms and stared at Ahmed pointedly till he stopped looking around in a love-struck daze and looked at me again.
“What?” He asked when he saw me looking at him.
“Could you be any more obvious than this??” I asked him sarcastically.
“Hey, I’m just showing you around. No harm in looking, right?” Ahmed gave me an innocent look.
“Yeah, just like there’s no harm in showing me baby pictures every time you come across them,” I replied, rolling my eyes.
“So? Babies are cute,” Ahmed replied, shrugging.
“I know they are, Ahmed, but it’s not like we’re using anything to stop us from having one. So chill. We’ll get one when the time is right, inshaAllah.”
“Except all your duas. I know you make dua at tahajjud every day that you don’t want a baby yet. I thought this might make you change your mind,” Ahmed replied.
“Yeah, because I’m not ready to have one yet. Haven’t you seen my life at the moment? It’s crazy! I don’t wanna become a half-half mother…leaving my kid by someone else while I’m at work. When I do have a child I want to dedicate all my time to it. Which can happen from next year, inshaAllah. So chill,” I repeated, “it’s only this year’s break I’m asking for. And I’m glad you have so much faith in my duas,” I grinned.
“No underestimating a passionate woman at tahajjud,” Ahmed quipped as he led me away from the baby aisle again.
I laughed. It was true. I was passionate in all my duas and that included this particular dua. What I had told Ahmed was correct. I had no time in my life for a baby at the moment…hadn’t had since I’d gotten married. I had brought up the matter of contraception to Ahmed after our nikah, even though I’d felt a pang of guilt for suggesting something that clearly wasn’t allowed in shariah. But I knew I wasn’t ready and I hadn’t known any other way to stop it from happening. Ahmed, however, was completely against it.
“It’s not allowed in Islam and we know it. I will not break the hukm of Allah,” he said firmly. Knowing there was no way of arguing out of it…not that I’d even wanted to…I had turned to the only weapon I possessed; dua. Each day I made one dua at tahajjud; Oh Allah, You know my situation right now. I feel I’m not ready to have a baby but You know best so grant me a healthy baby whenever it’s khair (best) for me and Ahmed. Then I placed my trust in Allah and, eight months later, I was still not pregnant. Allah truly was the best of planners; we just had to trust Him fully and leave matters in His hands. I knew that when the time was right Allah would grant me a baby inshaAllah. The time was just not now. I had seen how demanding babies were first hand, through Zee. Her son, Zaid, now two months old, was a little terror; there was no other way to describe it. Zee had had a horrible pregnancy Laaibah’s time but Laaibah herself had been an angelic baby. Not so Zaid. With him it had been the opposite; smooth pregnancy but an extremely demanding child. He had been born screaming his lungs off and in the two months since, I had seen him do little else. As tiny as he was he had a powerful set of lungs on him which he utilised fully at every given opportunity. I had seen my best friend go from a glowing pregnant woman to a drained mombie (mum in zombie mode) with bags under her eyes, the glow replaced by tired lines on her face. She had no time to even use the loo in peace and she was a full time mum. What on earth would happen to me, with a full time job plus a tiny limpet to look after? I would probably lose whatever little bit of sanity my job left me with. I shuddered at the thought. No thanks. Next year was soon enough! There was no personal calender that we’d been born with anyways, that dictated life’s rules to us; married by twenty, tick. Mother by twenty-one, tick. Retired with troop of kids by thirty, tick. That was old wives tales. I believed everyone should live life by their own manual and do whatever pleased them. Which was not to say that everyone agreed with me! Nowadays it seemed that no family get together was complete without the mandatory question, “so Fazila, when you bringing kids? You not getting any younger, you know!” I simply smiled, nodded and murmured, “inshaAllah,” on my good days. On my bad days I looked through them and acted like they were suddenly invisible.
Thinking of Zee…I made a detour to the baby aisle again on my way to the till and grabbed an adorable onesie suit with a matching hat and bib for little Zaid, much to my hubbys surprise.
“Don’t worry, I haven’t started gathering baby clothes. This is for Zee,” I laughed. Ahmed faked a sad face and turned to pay for our purchases…
I paid a visit to Zee the next day, since I didn’t get any time to see her on weekdays. I was greeted at the front door by a harried Zee, her hair sticking up in all directions, a screaming Zaid clutched in her arms. I could hear Laaibah making her own noise in the background, with Bashir’s deeper tones trying to calm her down. I looked at Zee in trepidation.
“Should I come back later?”
Zee rolled her eyes and waved me in. “Give me five minutes!” She yelled and disappeared. I shut the lounge door to be on the safe side and removed my niqab with a sigh of relief. I made myself comfortable on the corner sofa and was flipping through a book left randomly on the table when Zee appeared again.
“Phew!” She exclaimed, patting down her hair, “he’s finally asleep!”
“How long will it last this time?” I asked her with raised eyebrows.
“Don’t even ask! Make dua it’s longer than an hour at least. That will be a bonus for me!”
I shook my head. “I read this somewhere, “parents of one child get so fueled by self confidence that they reproduce again…and then the second one comes along, who is a no-nonsense soldier who never sleeps! And the parents are like, oh no! What have I done?? Something like that!” I laughed.
Zee laughed and cringed. “That’s exactly how it was! Zaid burst my bubble really fast!”
“Awww there there. Don’t worry ma, enjoy this time. They grow up so fast, you know. Before you know it they’ll be married and gone into houses of their own,” I said in perfect imitation of a wise old aunty.
“Ya, ya, dadi. I’ll keep that in mind,” Zee replied dryly.
True to form Zaid was awake in forty minutes. Luckily he wasn’t crying when Zee brought him by me so I could carry him and play with him for a while before he started up again. Laaibah bounded in while I was holding him and stood there pouting.
“Put him down! I want you to carry me!” She demanded bossily.
I laughed. “Come sit by me. Let’s play with him together.”
“No! I don’t want you to hold him!”
“So who should hold him then, sweety?” I asked.
“Mummy! She’s always carrying him anyways!”
I shot a look at Zee who shrugged, looking resigned.
I smiled at Laaibah cajolingly. “Look, your baby brother is finally smiling. Usually he’s always crying, neh? Come let’s see how long we can play with him without him crying.”
I turned it into a mini game and soon Laaibah came out of her huff and came over to play with Zaid as well. We played with him for a while and made him laugh before he started crying again. As soon as he did I handed him back to Zee then swung Laaibah up in my arms and proceeded to give her my full attention. We were playing hide and seek in the lounge when Zee came back. She sat and watched us with an indulgent smile like a mother hen while we ran around the lounge, screaming like lunatics. When we finally ended the game we were both out of breath and sat panting and laughing on the floor.
“Time for refreshments! Let me bring you some lemonade and biscuits,” Laaibah said, suddenly turning host. I smiled at her.
“I’d love that, sweety.”
“You’re so good with kids,” Zee said when Laaibah had disappeared, “I don’t know when I last heard her have fun like this. She loves you to bits.”
“It’s the attention as well, Zee,” I said seriously, pulling myself up onto the sofa, “see how jealous she became when I was holding Zaid and how happy she was now when she had my full attention? She sees how demanding Zaid is and she doesn’t like that all that attention taken away from her and given to Zaid…especially after having all that attention only focused on her for four years. Look what she said just now. Mummy’s always carrying him anyways. That was definitely jealousy. You need to make time for her as well though I don’t know how you will with that demanding child,” I said, cringing.
“That’s the thing! He drains me, man. I don’t have the energy to run around with her like you do,” Zee said with a sigh.
“Doesn’t have to be energetic games though. Sit and read books with her. Play small games with her which you can do while sitting with her. Or just sit and talk to her. The main thing is focusing attention on her. And get Bashir to give her that attention as well.”
“Ya you’re right. You’d make such a good mother, you know,” Zee said with a pointed look.
I laughed. “Being good with other people’s kids doesn’t make someone a good mother. Here I can play with your kids then hand them back to you and go back to my peaceful house. No strings attached mothering.” I laughed again.
Zee shook her head. “You’ll be a good mother, I can tell. But yeah, enjoy this time before you have kids and before you forget what it’s like to sleep even three full hours without interruption.”
“Finally someone who’s talking sense!” I exclaimed dramatically. Zee laughed in response.
Laaibah came in then with her small serving trolley in which she had placed small cups of lemonade and a plate of biscuits.
“Wow, Zee, your daughter’s gonna be a wonderful hostess,” I exclaimed. I oohed and aahed over everything and ate and relaxed with Laaibah till it was time to go home. I left a pouty Laaibah with promises to come back soon, hugged Zee and left for my own house, grateful for the peace and tranquillity that awaited me there.