| This is the 601st story of Our Life Logs® |
Do not hold your breath when life is kind.
Do not perish when life is painful.
The wheel will always spin.
The sun will always rise.
The moon will coax the sea back and forth, as it does.
Simply, take hope
In the part you play.
I was born in 1989 as the youngest child of the most loving couple. My mother used to tell me that I was so beautiful because of my dark eyes and that my siblings and I made her the happiest mother in the world. My father was a farmer by profession, and he always emphasized our bright future, leaving no stone unturned to make us happy and successful. My childhood had its ups and downs, but we were always deeply loved by our parents.
I have had a responsible attitude towards life since my childhood. Always. I worked my little hands and mind hard to pass every exam with flying colors. I had an affinity for writing from a young age, and I entered writing competitions organized by the Govt. of Punjab with fervor (I even won a few cash prizes and certificates!).
I was taught sincerity, honesty, love, and respect for others by my modest mother. Due to my sensitivity toward ethics and morality, I decided to pursue a law degree. After successfully passing, I began my professional life as a lawyer—a government job in the health sector.
For a few years, I could not complain. I had productive, meaningful days of work, whole nights of sound sleep, good health, and free time spent with friends and family. However, even though I had reached milestones in life, like a degree, career opportunities, and an attractive living, there was still something missing from my life; my quench to explore the new horizons of life with someone by my side.
Now my family was in search of a prince to get me married. And one day my mother whispered in my ear with a smile on her face, “Dear Zeena, it’s to fly, my love.” Soon after, I was introduced to my future husband who turned out to be the perfect match for me. Soon after the engagement, I married Taha, an IT officer in Punjab Information Technology Board, a thoughtful gentleman belonging to the Rajput Clan, and the one who loves me more than anything else.
I was overjoyed that our family would grow from two to three after I discovered I was pregnant in 2019. It's not every day that you find out about such happy news. Yet at the same time, some of the reality of becoming a parent hit me. It can be scary to think of everything you must do to protect your child in an unpredictable world. Still, I decided to set fear aside so as to not overshadow the joy of bearing my child. Because, truly, I was not alone in the pregnancy, and my husband did everything he could to ease the worry and increase the happiness.
As days turned to weeks, and weeks into months, our excitement was overloaded. We prepared a list of things for our baby including bedding, furniture, cribs, and post-natal care kits. On weekends, we went shopping for other items such as car seats, bottles, clothes, and other essentials. And as I waited for my delivery, I daydreamed about meeting my baby in all his perfection.
But it seemed that the world wasn’t experiencing that same joy, and soon I would find out that I would enter a season of fear as well.
At the end of December 2019, a deadly virus named COVID-19 spread worldwide. Lockdown measured ensued as the death toll rose. Even more alarming was knowing that there was no cure for the virus and that it could be anywhere. In fact, it was so contagious that you could get it by shaking the hand of an infected person.
Honestly, it scared me, I was so afraid of being infected with the coronavirus—not just because of how it would affect me, but if I caught it, what would happen to my baby? Would my baby be born with the disease if I caught it? Would it die in fetal development? I couldn't bear the thought of it ending up like that; giving birth to a child that would never live. In Pakistan, the health of the masses is the least important thing, so the risk felt even greater.
Every day after that first grave thought, I dawned a mask and took my temperature. My morning ritual included staring at the thermometer for a few minutes to make sure it was not changing values. It took all my courage just to go to work every day and not stay home.
Despite all the precautions I took, the virus crept up on me in the middle of February of 2020. This was the last month of my pregnancy. What started as just mild, flu-like symptoms quickly turned into something worse. My fever had risen to 103 degrees and breathing seemed like too much work. Every movement seemed more difficult than before.
"Is this what we had feared?" I asked my husband.
He shook his head. "Don't worry; we're taking proper precautions."
“But we’re still going to the office and not staying at home.”
Gloom spread on Taha's face. “Still, don’t lose your strength,” Taha commanded as if reading my mind. “Sickness affects those with little willpower faster than anyone can imagine. You're stronger than you think," he said reassuringly. "I know it's hard right now, but just remember you can beat anything.”
His kind words helped me feel a little better mentally, but his words couldn’t help the physical struggles I was enduring. Out of fear of being quarantined apart, we opted not to go to the hospital. Taha took care of me that evening.
The whole night I couldn’t sleep. Around 4 AM, my emotions burst from my chest. “What’s going to happen to my baby?!” I screamed.
Taha said to me, "Calm down. We are not alone." He was right that the entire globe seemed to have been infected with this dreadful virus, but it didn’t make me feel any better.
• • •
I don’t remember when I slept, but as soon as I opened my eyes the following day, I immediately regretted it. And truthfully, my high-grade fever made it hard to tell if I was still dreaming or not. I felt hot all over like my skin was covered in fire. It was horrific. Taha gave me a cup of lukewarm water to drink, but my shortness of breath made it difficult for me to take more than a sip or two.
"We should move to the hospital," he said, this time even his voice was faltering as fear and panic crept up.
I was at the 39-week point, and I had already everything packed up in my maternity bag. It was just a few days before my due date, so I was already prepared to leave. Although the hospital was replete with ailing souls, we were not refused treatment. My job and status helped me get in without issues since I was a human resource and legal officer at the same hospital. I knew many members of the staff and they took care of me despite how busy they were.
The gynecologist was in the operating theatre, busy in an emergency C-Section when we arrived. After she finished, the doctor came into my room apologizing, “I'm sorry for being a bit late, Zahra, but you're not supposed to be here yet; you must complete 40 weeks of your pregnancy.” Before I could reply, the nurse informed her of my situation and my terribly high body temperature, and she immediately took action.
After my detailed checkup, the gynecologist asked the nurse to make calls to the pulmonologist, anesthetist, cardiologist, and general physician. After one hour of the detailed panel discussion, they concluded—even before my lab reports were ready—that I was virus infected.
Hard luck! You need to undergo an emergency C-section in the hope of living with your loved one.
Being in utter distress, I called the people I loved before leaving for operation theatre. I could hear my mother sobbing on the other line while she listened to me recounting how sudden it all came upon me. And she was right. I went from feeling fine one day to being practically on my death bed the next afternoon.
As soon as we hung up, a nurse walked over and informed me that they were ready for me and told me that if I wanted some privacy before surgery began, it best be now. My entire body trembled violently at this moment. Still, there seemed no turning back. We would meet what was waiting inside of those doors, whether it be a second chance or the finality of death.
The next hour was a blur, and I felt like my head was on a tilt-a-whirl. But soon, my baby was welcomed into this world. My elder sister Momin reached the hospital to receive him. I would have loved to see my beloved sister with my little boy, Muhammad, in her hands. I wish I could've seen the way she picked up and held him, gently cupping his head like a flower between her beautiful palms. I wish I could have seen my husband’s eyes glisten at the sight of our son’s soft skin and light brown hair. But no—
I was in the other room, gasping for breath, feeling like someone had been suffocating me while I was on the operation table. The beautiful dream I had of being back in the ward with my tiny boy never came true. Instead, they put me on a ventilator and I was shifted from ICU to Quarantine— barred from touching or feeding my baby for several, painful weeks. I could only see him on a video call. The doctor advised me to stay in quarantine for more than two months as I had to look after an infant after my recovery.
Third day of Muhammad in the cradle
Being a mother for the first time and staying away from your loved one for more than two months, what a pity; only sensitive hearts can feel my pain. I can only say that I felt so alone.
• • •
After my quarantine was through, my face-to-face battle with COVID-19 came to a close. I was reunited with my family, I was able to kiss my new baby, and I felt happiness again. As for the rest of my story, it has unraveled much like most others. The lockdown order has been odd and frustrating, but it has sparked some joys that I have not seen since I was young. I returned to my love of writing and found that I so needed to pour my struggles onto the pages of short stories. Some I kept for myself. Some I shared with clients and online platforms. All were crafted with love.
Muhammad with Baba
My son is 1.5 years old now. I am nourishing and training him for a better future. I love to play with him and lull him in my lap. I have a handsome, freelance content writing job that I can work from the comforts of my home, and life is just as kind as it was before.
This is the story of Ghulam Zahra
Ghulam is a Law graduate who was posted in a hospital in South Punjab, a job she always dreamed of having. After getting her career in order, Ghulam got married and got pregnant. Unfortunately, during her pregnancy, COVID-19 became a growing issue all over the world. Despite her taking caution, she still caught the virus and was put in a life-threatening position where she had to be quarantined away from her baby to keep the baby healthy. Ghulam shares her experiences of pregnancy during the pandemic and is happy that she is now reunited with her baby boy and is living a happy life once more.
Muhammad exploring new horizons
This story first touched our hearts on March 15, 2021
Writer: Ghulam Zahra | Editor: Colleen Walker