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Halo of Light: A COVID-19 Story

| This is the 536th story of Our Life Logs® |


There are some things that we may see or hear very often throughout our lives, like snippets of advice or oft-mentioned quotes. Yet, no matter how many times they pass us by, they never really seem to resonate until we’re presented with the perfect opportunity. I experienced that with a quote from late actor Jimmy Dean: “I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

Upon a first glance, it is certainly poetic, but once one has had the chance to truly live it, its meaning went deeper than the sea itself. While I only recently was able to realize what Jimmy Dean meant, I feel that even in my past, I have sailed through the waters of change.

I set sail in the seas of life in 1994, in the Middle Eastern country of Kuwait. I have no childhood memories of there, though, as soon after my birth, my family made the move to Amman, Jordan. My parents were everything to me, especially my father. Both raised me to be caring, strong, and driven. In fact, it was my father’s teachings that helped me grow from scribbling block-and-triangle houses with chunky crayons, to fervently sketching places around me, to finally walking out of university, a degree in architecture in tow.

Yet, though one of my hands grasped a hard-earned degree, my other hand longed for something warm, something soft, yet strong…the hand of someone who I could call “my husband.” Luckily, that final, missing piece was just around the corner. I married my husband Mohammed in 2017. It was such a joyous occasion…yet, it was clouded by a feeling of unease at the same time.

You see, Mohammed worked as a pilot—but not in Amman, the home I had known for over 20 years. He worked in Saudi Arabia. The reality of leaving everything I had ever known behind was almost impossible to grasp. My family, my friends, my city…even the shops and longstanding landmarks that I had come to know so well. In a world where nothing is certain but change, such a small consistency is a comfort that not all know. A comfort that I would soon lose.

Yet, I knew I had to support my husband. Not had to, in fact—I wanted to. He wanted to build a life with me, and I wanted to do the same with him. So, our fingers entwined, and our bags packed, we took that first step onto the plane…and into our brand-new life. Through my husband’s support, and soon, the kindness of those I came to know, I found myself beginning to enjoy—and, dare I say, even love—my new home.

My home, Amman. Photo credit: Dimitris Vetsikas

In December of 2019, my husband and I were expecting our first child. As soon as we received the news, my heart was all aflutter. A baby, the most priceless of God’s gifts! My husband and I, hoping for a girl, had already decided on a name. It would be Ayla—meaning, “a halo of light around the moon.” I was thrilled knowing my family would be around me again. The presence of family in such an event was a given. They would not only stay for the birth, but into the baby’s first few weeks and even months of life. In Jordan and even here, in Saudi, a birth is never an occasion to be celebrated by mother and father alone.

As the days gave way to months, right into 2020, my days were filled with the frenzy of preparation. Researching, learning, buying, setting up the nursery—I wanted to be prepared as possible when my baby entered this world. My husband, when time in his demanding schedule allowed, helped me in my preparations. We held off on finishing touches, even though we could put them early. There was time, after all. Lots and lots of time.

It was at the very beginning of March when we first heard the news. We had already heard of the COVID-19 outbreak, but so far, we were safe. While the cases climbed in other countries, Saudi Arabia seemed to be isolated from it all. Yet, one day, as I sat down to rest, I saw it—the announcement from the Ministry of Health that we all, deep down, expected, but refused to believe all the same. The first case of COVID-19 had found its way into the country.

I hoped that the virus would soon pass. After all, a pandemic was something that belonged in history books—not the here and now of our present. Yet, the cases changed from popping up here and there to becoming a steady wave, ever-growing.

As the cases in the daily COVID-19 reports arrived, my fear grew along with the numbers. While I worried for my own safety, the true terror came when I thought of my husband. He still had to work; business as usual. Perhaps to some, just one element of normalcy is seen as a comfort in such a time where everything is flipped upside down. But to me, this one thing that stayed normal was like a knife of ice to my chest.

I prayed to God that nothing would happen to my husband. I couldn’t—I wouldn’t—let go of the hand that so firmly, so lovingly held onto mine. And, I couldn’t have my future child grow up with a void that could never be filled. My child! The thought swam around my head from the moment I heard of the virus, but I couldn’t face it in full. Yet, there it suddenly was, right before my eyes.

What if my baby caught it?

I knew from that moment that, no matter the cost, I would fight to protect my family. Though there were hopes of togetherness at the time of birth that I held ever since I wanted a baby of my own, I knew that giving those up would be better than endangering lives that were dearer to me than anything.

I thought about my ideal baby shower, surrounded by smiling faces and pastel-wrapped gifts in the shapes of teddy bears and tiny clothes. That bright dream faded into nothingness as I sent the text, “I’m sorry, but I’ll have to cancel.” I always pictured my family, gathered around me as I lay in a hospital bed, my baby in my arms. That memory was also obscured by the bold, dark headlines that declared the country was locked down—and my insistence that they stay home. Each thing that I so looked forward to was now shattered, and those broken pieces cut at me like daggers.

Then, as I thought of the little heart that beat within me, that heart that beat along with my own, I felt invigorated with a new strength. This was all for that heart. It had to keep beating.

As I went into labor, I lay in the hospital bed in the maternity ward, alone. I looked to my side…nothing. I looked to my other side and was greeted by the same sight. I looked straight ahead, at the closed door. Behind it was my husband, waiting anxiously. He was not allowed inside to hold my hand. I could imagine him sitting tensely, his face drawn with worry.

Today was a day that was to be celebrated with a roomful of family. Yet, I lay there, all alone, pain pulsating throughout my body from the aftermath of the delivery. And, my precious one, my new daughter—it was her birthday, and she was all alone, too. Due to COVID regulations, they had whisked her away from me. I had held onto the dream to at least to hold her in my arms. When my husband and I could finally see her, we could only stare at her behind glass, swaddled up, an arm’s length, yet somehow an eternity, away.

We were able to go home the next day, our daughter in her carrying cot. When we stepped through the door and I was finally able to pick her up, stare into her sparkling little eyes and hold her close to me, I couldn’t stop the tears. I thought back to the tears that pricked my eyes as cancellation after cancellation popped up before me—and it all seemed far below me, like how my husband would see the world from the cockpit of his plane.

The biggest thing right now (how funny, for she was so little!) was my princess, Ayla. Unfortunately, my husband and I barely had the chance to enjoy the moment together, for he had to go off on a flight for five days. Worry consumed me. The pandemic was not over, after all. Plus, I needed him more than ever right now. A new baby…so many things to keep track of…it was so overwhelming!

At that moment, a new hand tugged on mine, one I could fit in the palm of my hand. It wasn’t firm nor strong—rather, it was the softest thing I ever felt. As I looked over at its owner, into her eyes full of a love and trust still untarnished by the world, I felt a new hope rise within me. Nothing went as planned. The world—it was immersed in a state of uncertainty and fear that seemed to have no end. I was alone yesterday, and I was alone now, my husband high in the sky, somewhere far away. Yet, my shining Ayla made it into this world.

In the darkest night, the moon is still surrounded by a halo of light. Even if we find ourselves stumbling about in a forest shrouded with darkness, that halo can break through and help us find our way. All we must do is keep looking at it, for with every glance, there is hope.

This is the story of Hadeel Mohammed

Hadeel was born in 1994 in Kuwait, but soon after her birth, the family moved to Jordan, where she grew up. She got married to a pilot and they both moved to Saudi Arabia, where a few years later, she learned she was expecting their first child. Into her second trimester, though, COVID-19 hit—and, for Hadeel, the coming months were a flurry of worry, fear, and broken dreams. Yet, despite the unprecedented circumstances, she was able to fight through it all and deliver her daughter, Ayla, safely.

Hadeel works as a freelance architect, her lifelong passion. Once the pandemic is over, the first stop on her radar is Jordan, so she can see her family and introduce them to Ayla. There, she also wants to give her mother a big end-of-pandemic hug! Despite the struggles that Hadeel faced in the COVID-19 pandemic, she will miss the quietness of the streets at night.

This story first touched our hearts on August 12, 2020.

| Writer: Safiyya Bintali | Editor: Our Life Logs |

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