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My partner, Adam, and I are expecting our first child at the end of July. Frankly, I’ve never been so terrified or anxious about an impending event.
While I’m not fasting, Ramadan gives me the time to dwell on all of the implications and transform them into desperate pleas and prayers. Here are the prayers I’ve been dwelling on the most often:
1. May our baby have a safe transition into the world.
Every year at my sister’s birthday, my mother tells us the same story of her rocky labour. Her usual obstetrician was away and the covering obstetrician sent her home not knowing that my mother’s contractions didn’t follow a normal pattern in the two babies she had previous to this one. By the time my mother came back to the hospital, my sister had gone into distress, my mother needed an emergency C-section, and they both nearly died.
Of course, now that both my sister and I are pregnant, we’ve been hearing this story on a weekly basis. Not to mention, I’ve began having nightmares of all that could go wrong for weeks. Couple that with all the things I have seen go wrong as a physician and know that could go wrong from the textbooks, and essentially, I’m a mess.
A psychiatrist I know noted that pregnancy is a life experience that forces women to face mortality. I know I’m not the only pregnant person feeling these feelings.
Ultimately, I’m extremely privileged to have access to good medical care. My midwives are incredibly experienced and super knowledgeable. I’ve received all the prenatal care I need. The rest is totally and completely in Allah SWT’s hands. I pray this baby has a smooth transition into this world. I pray that I’ll labour with relative ease, without complications, and be capable of parenting for the rest of my life.
2. May I maintain the physical and mental health I need to care and love our new child.
Pregnancy has been the most physically and mentally brutal experience I’ve had in my life. I am not the stereotype of a woman who loves being pregnant. I’ve had weeks of terrible nausea, months of worsening migraines, insomnia and, to top it off, an asthma exacerbation. If I could have opted for this baby to have been incubated via some test tube for 9 months, I would have signed up.
Mentally, I find myself spending nights deeper in despair, all courtesy of depression I’ve had diagnosed previously. I know I’m at a higher risk for post-partum depression, an experience that 1 in 10 women have and that was recently very eloquently described by Anneke. Fortunately, I have the expertise of a psychiatrist and a midwife to see met through this.
I want so badly to love this child; to connect with them, hold them, and not resent their existence. I expect there will be many nights where I’m bawling besides an inconsolable baby. I pray that physically and mentally, I can hold it all together. I pray my mother will pick up the phone at 3 am to tell me it’s okay. I pray the weeks and months will pass, and this child will be healthy and happy.
3. May I have the strength, wisdom, and insight break intergenerational violence.
I grew up in a household where my father was an emotional and physical terror. One of my earliest memories is of being 7 years old, throwing myself on my mother to protect her after my father kicked her in the face.
I left home when I was 17 and it has taken be years to unlearn self-destructive habits and ways of thinking. Some of the things that I think I’ve unlearned – thinking the worst of situations, pervasive self-doubt, distrusting people I love – rear their ways when I least expect.
In raising our child, I know that Adam and I will be able to provide the both the emotional and financial strengths and stability that I never had. I want this child never to know the pains I saw and endured. I pray that my traumas don’t seep into my parenting. I pray that I don’t parent from a place of fear; that I simply learn how to love this being and trust in all that will happen.
4. May our child always be surrounded and strengthened by our community.
In any moment of crisis, I know at least four people I can call immediately. At our baby shower, we hosted a house full of people who already love this baby that has yet to arrive. Given all my doubts and worries, I realized I have to let all the people who love us into our family. I’m not a super hero. Adam and I can’t raise this baby on our own.
I pray that our friends and family always circle around us. Most of them have raised children. We need their knowledge and wisdom to help guide us through those first bleary eyed weeks and months. I pray they’ll always be there to give us advice when we’re at a loss. I pray they’ll be the people our child runs to when they’re too scared to come to Adam and me but know they have adults that love them.
5. May our child appreciate their places of privilege in the world.
Hands down, our child will have enormous amounts of economic privilege far greater than what I had as a child. By virtue of having a father that is white and a mother that is a lighter skinned woman of Indian decent, bets are this child will also grow up to be white passing. What their sexual orientation or gender identity will be and whether they have any disabilities, time will tell. But, either way, their economic and racial privileges will form a significant buffer in the way in which the world will interact with them.
It’s relatively easy for me to talk about how being a queer-identified South Asian woman marginalizes me in the world. More often, however, I take for granted the privileges that come with my economic location and the ability to function as an able-bodied person. Making the world a genuinely more equitable place, however, requires that we be cognizant of our privileges and provide allyship in ways that give up power.
I pray that our child will learn to recognize all that is unearned in their life as a result of their socioeconomic status and their whiteness. I pray we’ll have a child who will smash the patriarchy. I pray our child will deconstruct and challenge homophobia, transphobia, and ableism. Most importantly, I pray our child has the humility to live a real commitment to social justice by creating spaces in which they do not exist within the centre.
These are the prayers I’m dwelling on the most. My mom says that Ramadan is a time when the doors to heaven are open and gates to hell are closed; that heaven descends a bit closer to earth; that prayers are more likely to be heard and accepted.
I’ve always felt guilty praying for certain outcomes only because I’ve thought that Allah SWT will provide that which is best without me specifically asking. Yet, on the many nights I can’t sleep with all my anxieties swirling around my head, I find myself on my prayer mat asking out of desperation.
May all of our prayers be heard this Ramadan.