My thoughts were wandering during my birth class. My students were asking questions about how long the “Pushing Stage” lasted, whether a cord around the neck was really an emergency, whether a water birth was any different from a dry birth – and if so, which type of birth could reduce pain? I mulled through the answers, sharing my own readings and experience, but my mind was on my own pregnancy, brewing deep inside. I took a quick peek at the calendar and I knew these weekly surges of oxytocin that I was sharing with my birth students bore the onus of baby number five’s conception. I took a quick peek at the calendar and I knew that being around expectant mothers, full of love hormones, was just contagious. And I was now pregnant with baby number 5.
As usual, pregnancy is a personal and private time for me, so I indulged all these pregnant mamas and their queries about their own pregnancies and upcoming births, while keeping my own a secret.
The next morning, I was mapping out plans for my birth business and how many cycles of classes I could run before I gave birth and how I would handle the classes throughout the bouts of pregnancy. And that is when my husband broke it to me – no he wasn’t pregnant nor expecting another baby – he simply said he had been offered to pursue his doctorate at the University of Nottingham in the UK and he was in the running for a full scholarship.
I glared at him. What? Now? THIS YEAR? When I had finally directed my passion of birth into a career!
But it had been years of his hard work paying off, trawling upwards his career in the world of academia and every year we had tried to relocate overseas, but it was not part of Allah’s I plan as yet. But here he was – fair enough – with a baby of his own, gleaming with nerves and excitement that this may be the opportunity to break away from what we had carved out as our comfort zone.
As I was already holding my planner, we looked at the possible dates of his course, the time we needed to prepare for the move, the ideal time to actually relocate – and of course my due date for our baby number five.
It was horrendous.
He started his course a week after my due date, meaning we had to come a little earlier. And by earlier I mean I had to abide by flight guidelines as set out by the airlines. Well, that meant even fewer classes for me, meaning a little less income and savings for the trip. I looked at the time I had to pack and the actual time we needed to de-stash our belongings and perhaps raise a little more money for the tickets and visas and… I realised Ramadan fell right smack before the move – I would also be very pregnant, probably exhausted and it seemed that yet again I would not be able to fast during the Holy Month.
And then my thoughts turned to my four homeschooled children below the age of eight. I wondered where and how I would fit them in – inclusive of meals, reading time and getting them to settle down through the night amidst this massive juxtaposition in their tiny lives.
The Mayhem Begins
Despite the many pending factors in the relocation, we decided we would accept the offer. After years of praying for some sort of break-away, Allah (SWT) was handing it to us, along with baby number five, whom we believe was this new source of rizq (sustenance). It was exciting to say the least, but nerve-wracking in moments full of doubt. We only had one choice, to plan and strategise and control what we could and to place our full trust in Allah (SWT) that as long we put in the efforts to move on out and forwards, He would take care of the rest as He is The Best of Planners.
And that is what we did when we clinched economically-friendly flight tickets for a family of six even before we had received confirmation of a living stipend in the UK. That is what we did when we forked out money to get our passports done, much earlier than we had anticipated, and it was a blessing that we had done so too, as the reel of documents that we needed sprung forth from the passports into procuring the visas, which procedure-wise was nothing short of a nightmare. I began selling our belongings on Facebook and packing the necessities, searching for cost-effective movers and second hand luggage bags that would accommodate the first few months of survival in the UK. We found bargains in pre-loved stores for the children’s sweaters and long trousers, neither of which were ever relevant in Malaysia. All this we did while our move was still in limbo as there was still much documentation on the financing side to be completed.
Yet Allah (SWT) provided for us at every turn. I doubled my birth classes and editing gigs and we cut down on activities for the children. At times, I wished they were in school so that I didn’t have to drag them around from office to office and from counter to counter for the formal and legal matters, but at the same time, this was what homeschooling was about and they were also needed for much of the discourse, since they too, needed visas and passports. Patience is not a virtue of a roomload of little children, especially when having to wait in line. Neither is it mine, but keeping my calm was something I learned while dealing with their curiosity and questions, groans and moans of boredom and their constant needs to snack and use the potty.
We held hands. We talked about England and the double-decker buses. We talked about strawberries in a park and living in a house with a garden. We could even keep rabbits if all went well. We talked about this even when none of the property agents felt inclined to entertain a foreigner’s request to reserve a three bedroom home over the internet. [EH2] But still, we talked about how exciting it would be in a new country, a new culture, with new food, new activities and new friends.
We somewhat survived the ordeal despite a few meltdowns relating to the lack of snacks or who got to sit next to Mama during the long wait at the health check up clinic. But nevertheless, it was an experience far beyond a classroom for them.
Then the day of the flight arrived, after month and months including Ramadan (which I fasted through) and we were about to board the plane. But the prospects of the 12 hour flight ahead kept me up the whole night. And 18 hours later, due to delays at one airport and congestion at the other, we were waiting for a bus at Heathrow, then waiting to check into our hotel for our first night in a foreign land. The next day we were enjoying strawberries and peaches in a park. In a little over a week, we secured a home and we were visiting the library and the youth centres as a family of really nearly seven.
Our journey seemed like a long one and only Allah (SWT) knows all that we had to go through to uproot our lives, turning us upside down, complicated with chesty coughs and sniffles amidst the adaptation to the new climate and an ever present, ballooning pregnancy. I would not romanticise such a relocation just due to the sheer impossibility of doing so. But our journey continues. There is supposed to be a full moon in the next few nights and I wait for the tingle of gravitational tides that it is said to cause in amniotic fluids. It will be like the whole move comes full circle from the time this new baby was sent to us as a new form of rizq. It’s just a matter of putting full trust in Allah (SWT), as always.
Maria Zain was a prolific contributor to SISTERS magazine, writing extensively about issues including parenting, inter-cultural relationships, homeschooling and homebirthing, and even Muslim fashion. In December 2014 Maria Zain died, insha Allah a shaheedah, related to birthing her sixth child, who survived. SISTERS magazine will always be indebted to Maria for the immense work she did for the magazine as well as for the SISTERS family as a whole. We ask that readers consider donating to a fund for her six children in hopes to help their father continue to raise them in the loving and deen-centered style the parents worked so hard to foster.
Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/mariazain