This piece is a bit personal. I hope it will be useful despite its particularity, or rather through it, inshallah. It was a Thursday two weeks ago, April 5th, when I taught my morning class, entitled “The Quran and Its Interpreters.” The topic was the story of Adam in the Quran, and we had two insightful interpreters who appreciated this apparently simple story as teaching about what it means to be human, and how to make sense of the existence of apparent evil in our world, including the creation of Satan. During that class period, one of my students asked me whether I was pregnant, and I said yes, with a smile, and also with a sense of stress at the back of my mind. I was almost five months pregnant, and I felt I had a lot to do before the baby would arrive.
In the evening of that day I was in pain. The next morning when I went for my doctor appointment, it turned out that the cramps I felt during the night were actually contractions. I was in labor. By noon, our baby girl was born. She lived an hour or so, and she passed away.
As I was being taken to maternity ward for the delivery, I asked the doctors if they could stop the labor and keep the baby in longer. They gave a clear no as the answer. And I asked if they could help the baby live once she is born, and they said they could not. She was coming surely, and coming just too early for them to do anything. Here is Adam’s nakedness: we are so vulnerable! It dawned onto me once again, how fragile life is, how fragile I am, and how unable I am to control, nay even to know, what is going on within me. The question was whether I will resort to leaves or to seeking refuge in One to cover my nakedness…
Inwardly, what was also, even more, painful was the sense of regret. I was sorry about the stress I had built up about our second baby. She of course was a wanted baby. Ironically, all I could think of for the most of the time was how I should finish my book and my articles, and get settled in our new home, arrange childcare, before she came in. She was due at the end of August, and it was April. I had a lot to do before I was to get “busy” with her. When in the hospital the nurse put her in my arms after the quick labor, I saw very clearly that all that stress was nonsense. Here is a being with lovely face, tiny fingers, and arms, tiny foot, with a beating heart, fully created out of mercy. Wrapped in a tiny white swaddle, she gave me a great message.
She was a messenger of mercy. It was really a tangible moment of mercy. I finally saw it at that moment. For, here she was, whose heart we could not help beat more than one hour and fifteen minutes that it did, whose organs and brain we could not develop further than it did in the womb. How she came this far was not really because of the vitamin pills I was taking, nor of any other hassle I prided, and stressed myself on- such as scheduling prenatal visits, or making sure to drink more water. What dawned on me when I held this tiny baby girl was that if she were to live to full term, and live after that, just like my first child has done, it would not be because of all the small things I would stress about, and senselessly pride about. It was like a lightening that shot through all the darkness I had accumulated inside. I just felt so sorry for my silliness, my ingratitude, my inability to appreciate the abundance of life in my womb all along.
Facing my nonsense was painful and losing her was painful. Here I was, just like Adam and Eve at the garden, as they faced their silliness of not trusting God’s mercy and vulnerability when they eat from the apple and found themselves naked.
What is so relieving is that how such sorrow and feeling of shame can become a door to feeling mercy and forgiveness. As a dear friend put it, I could let my sorrow and remorse become a door to seeing mercy, and to become a butterfly from being a worm. A worm would not believe that it could become a butterfly, and yet it does. This sorrow, it first seems like impossible to fly with, and yet, it can and does become a wind to help you fly.
Thank you my God, a belated one, for sustaining my life, my first baby’s life, and all other gifts you have given. Thank you for the honor of carrying my baby girl for five months, and the sure promise to meet her again. Thank you for waking me up from my denial of vulnerability and cleansing me of all the stressful leaves I clogged my life with. Thank you for the forgiveness that You shower us with. And thank you my little baby for bringing such a heavenly message so kindly.