Meet Dr. Minaz Memon. Chirpy, bubbly and a devil-may-care person. Melodious, ringing laughter that reaches the confines of your soul and lights them up. She infects you with her childlike enthusiasm, and forces you to think positively. Her genuineness is unadulterated. She is one of a kind.
She is also a single parent, bringing up her one-year-old daughter Aaliya all by herself.
This is her story.
“I always wanted my baby to snuggle up cozily in my arms, lay her head on my shoulder and sleep. Aaliya never did that as a baby. I so longed for it when I saw similar images flashing on television. And then one day two months ago, she did. All by herself. I can never forget that.” She begins.
I prod her to tell me more.
How difficult it is to bring up a child all by yourself?
“Extremely difficult. First of all you have your own mood swings and frustrations. Having to live in your parents’ home with your brother and sister-in-law is difficult as it is. Throw a single parent into the equation and you have serious issues cropping up every now and then. But what gets to me most is the juggling. It gets hard to manage your time. You have to strike a balance between professional and personal life. As a single parent, both aspects of your life are at stake. You must work so that you can raise your child well, and give her the education she deserves. You must also be both parents to the child, therefore double the love.”
What about giving your child the time she needs from you?
It used to be heart-wrenching. Every time I came home from clinic and someone else had to pick her up, her face would fall. So now whenever I enter the elevator of my building, the watch comes off, the sandals are untied and everything is done beforehand so that my hands are completely free by the time I reach home, to give her a big bear hug.
Don’t you get frustrated ever?
I do get frustrated, many times. Sometimes when she is sick, I have to leave her with someone else caring for her, when all I want to do desperately is to be by her side, soothing her. No matter how hard I try to pull my schedule together, but something is always missed, and I end up feeling guilty. I can’t give as much time to her as I would have liked, but do I really have a choice?
How do you cope?
Initially I used to get paranoid about almost everything. But I realised that somewhere down the line, my paranoia and apprehension was rubbing off on Aaliya. She had begun to sense something amiss. The paranoia had to go. It doesn’t serve much purpose to get irritated anyway. I had to compose myself so that I could be a better parent, and do a better job of raising my daughter.
It must be bone tiring, trying to do everything at once.
Nah. The tiredness evaporates as soon as Aaliya gives me a hug. That is my reward.
Do you miss having a father figure for Aaliya?
Of course. I dread the very day when she will ask me why every friend of hers has a father and she doesn’t. How do I tell her that the one who was supposed to be responsible for her didn’t even want her to be born?
I was married for four months before I found out that I was pregnant. It was the happiest day of my life. Yet, when I conveyed the good news to my husband, instead of jumping for joy, he asked me to go abort it. He didn’t think that he was ready for a child. I was against abortion. This was life growing inside me. She was a part of me. I couldn’t let her go.
We got divorced when I was six months pregnant. All he did was call me and tell me, “Look what you have done to yourself because of your stubbornness.”
Has he contacted you in the past year after Aaliya was born?
No. Not a single time. I don’t even think he knows whether he has a son or a daughter. But it is better this way. Let him not see, let him not want. It will save us from bitter custodial battles that might ensue should he have a change of heart. He doesn’t know what he’s lost. All I feel for him today, is pity.
Tell me about your pregnancy and delivery. How was it?
My aunt is a gynaecologist and my uncle is a pediatrician. I was lucky to be monitored by them through the nine months. My hemoglobin count was very low. I had to take intravenous iron every week. Then from seventh month onward I had to take Vitcofol intramuscularly every alternate day till the ninth month. Only then my hemoglobin levels regularised. Besides that my history of hydrocephalus and cranial surgery, and bariatric surgery were complicating factors. I chose to go for elective cesarian. My baby’s health and well-being was foremost on my mind. I had even asked my aunt to not sedate me until I had seen my baby.
In the eighth month of my pregnancy, I had a horrifying incident. I was standing by the roadside after work, waiting for a cab to take me home, when suddenly out of nowhere a biker came and whizzed past me. In his hurry, the handle of his bike hit me on my belly. I was in terrible pain. But more terrifying than the pain was the fear of something bad happening to my baby. When I went for a check up immediately afterwards, and they could not find a heartbeat for nearly ten minutes, I thought my world was going to come crashing down. But Allah be praised, my baby was okay. I thanked God for His mercy and vowed to stop going to work till my baby was born.
The day before my daughter was born, I went to the hospital to get admitted. It was Friday. I offered my prayers to Allah and went into the O.T. I was so nervous. But I was sure that once the baby was out, I wanted to see her and hold her before being sedated. It was so surreal the whole process. My mind was reeling all through the time. Each day from the day of my wedding to that day came flashing before my eyes.
And yet everything I had gone through, all the pain, disappointment, and emotional hurt just dissipated when my Aunt cried,”It’s a beautiful girl!”
I felt numb. I was a mother. I was a parent. This is my daughter.
I heard her cry and for the first time in months, I felt tears running down my cheeks.
My uncle and aunt hugged me and wept. I guess we had all held it inside for so long, that we couldn’t contain it anymore.
Aaliya had saved me.
What happened then?
Oh celebrations! Followed by fights, of course!
Yeah, about who was going to name her. But my sister Mahek named her Aaliya. No one can fight with her. But I wasn’t angry. I was satisfied.
It didn’t matter who won that argument.
I was holding my prize in my arms.
I won my battle.
Any advice to other single parents?
Never lose confidence in yourself. Always be positive. You can and will do the best you can for your baby. Bringing up your child in a happy secure environment is all that matters.