It was a little over a year after I had my twin girls. I was driving back from my cousin’s wedding and I said to myself: I finally feel myself again.
Little did I know that I was a mess…
Three days later, I was urgently hospitalized after I suffered from excruciating pain that labor through three girls combined was not nearly as bad!
But it was not the first time..
I had gone to the hospital a month before with a similar pain and was told that I “probably had muscle spasm” after having twins - in writing.
Why is this important?
Because it was wrong… I was misdiagnosed. Or to put it another way, I suffered from neglect.
My excruciating pain was dismissed.
I am not sure… but it could be because: I am a five foot one, woman, in hijab!
Fast forward one month…
I was rushed to the hospital, instead of solving my initial problem in one surgery, I needed three because complications happen, and your body tries to warn you by sending pain signals that you simply cannot keep ignoring like I did.
I am sitting in the hospital bed after my second surgery in 48 hours to read that my scans showed an imminent problem that got completely overlooked and that could have been fatal!
What happened to my body is not what I am choosing to share with you today..
Why that happened is what I choose to share, and what I did about it.
It is true that the suffering, pain, multiple surgeries, consecutive general anesthesia, and obviously trauma, caused by such physical distress could have been avoided had the doctors paid attention earlier.. However today I do not choose to put them to blame.
It was my fault
I gladly accepted the role of a superwoman.
A superwoman that can raise a family alone, in silence, never complain, always wears a smile, works in and out of the house, gladly, patiently, unlimitedly, everyone claps..and that’s it!
This is 99% of the women you and I know…
This is most of your moms and my mom…
This is not okay.
We are not superwomen!
We are only human.
“Ayb” is an Arabic word or phrase that encompasses multiple layers and deeper connotations. It is synonymous to shame, however it carries with it thousands of years of load and stigma on one party mainly - women.
The amount of pressure that women have to endure is the least to say- inhumane.
Women are expected to be idealistic, always right, perfect, polite, polished, well mannered...they never hurt, accept pain gladly, must be academically brilliant, sacrificing wives, happy moms, always welcoming regardless of time, space, and ability, and most important of all: great cooks - every single time.
Again, we are only human.
This happened to me and happens to a lot of women every day because we have accepted the idealistic role that society has put for us. We are not even willing to compromise it, because our ego won’t allow us to. We want to be selfless to the point where there is no “self” left.
We expect ourselves to be superheroes and yet when our body fails us, we are hit with the same reality. We are only human.
What to do about this?
Start building boundaries for yourself before others! It is okay to say NO, to respect your rest time and family routines. Be empathetic with others and understand that everyone is trying their best and does not need to have the same set of values as you.
Next time you are visited by a mom of five, do not judge her parenting if her kids jump on your couches, you can never imagine how many loads of laundry she just put away.
And when a couple gets married, do not ask for the first ten years of their marriage, when they are planning to have kids. It is not just because it is hurtful, and none of our business, it is also because 99% of the weight of this question falls on the woman. Whether this is a choice or an actual problem, infertility is a stigma associated mainly with women. Being the physical child bearer, it places them as a direct target to have “failed” society in yet another expectation of many.
When a girl graduates from college or high school please stop telling her “I hope you are next” with a smirk hinting that getting married will be her biggest accomplishment in life. If God forbids she ends up being in an abusive relationship, you have just set her up to lose her self worth and value.
When your daughter misbehaves, stop saying “ayb” or “shame on you”. Explain to her what she did, why this is a wrong behavior and ask her for a suggestion on how she would behave next time. At the end of this tunnel… Ayb can get her in the hospital.
My friend Zeina told me once: “as soon as you start to grow you become more and more isolated whether it is educationally, work wise, or spiritually. The glass ceiling for a woman is the lack of empathy and encouragement within the community.”
We are fortunate to have a family oriented community and culture. But it is about time we stop shaming ourselves and each other. It is about time that we accept our shortcomings and those of others. It is about time that we treat each other as human beings and not as superwomen and men.
At the end of my tunnel, there was a dim light… and it was my faith in God.
The more I heard him tell me:
the brighter the light became.
My selflessness, my sacrifices, my superpowers... none of them were there for me when my body failed me.
It was only God and myself.
**The picture below is of me one month post the three surgeries. I went out with my friends for more than a couple hours and did not feel guilty about it.
but I had one problem…
“I feel like a sunflower in that dress'' I told my friend Mariam.. Then we got to the restaurant and found out that they had a sunflower wreath on the door… We laughed so hard at the coincidence and Mariam was kind enough to document the moment.
Life is short.
Naturally, the least we can do is accept our shortcomings.