“Honey, I have a craving!” – Conversations with a pregnant wife
This was originally published as, “Honey, You’re Pregnant” on IslamOnline.net
Part 1: Honey, You’re Pregnant
By Yasser Aboudouma
Writer, Civil Engineer – Egypt
There are common arguments, especially in Egypt, that are repeated daily between each husband and his lovely and adorable wife, who by the way is pregnant for the first time!
Usually, the story begins when the wife suspects that she is pregnant. She runs to the nearest lab for a pregnancy test, and once she is confirmed pregnant, all her life is changed and her husband’s life is pushed to the edge, or more pointedly, to the verge of collapse.
“I have to see a good doctor,” the wife says.
“But, your doctor is good and she has a good reputation,” replies the husband.
With the start of a period of pregnancy, there are a lot of requests, orders, and special considerations, and the poor husband has to listen and obey, because her majesty is going through her first pregnancy!
* * *
Wife: I want to see a male doctor like all my girlfriends. My doctor is old and boring.
Husband: Honey, you are veiled, and there is no necessity to visit a male doctor; and whether your doctor is old or young, what matters is her experience and qualifications. If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor, we can look for another female doctor.
Wife: NO! I know that females are not that experienced in medicine.
Husband: (mumbling) In everything, not only medicine!
The arguments continue till the husband succeeds in convincing his wife that another female doctor would be good, especially that she is a little younger than the previous doctor. But, the wife is still unhappy as the new doctor does not have the latest high technology of ultrasonography.
Wife: See! This doctor also failed to show me the baby.
Husband: Honey, you are still in your first month, there is no baby to see.
Wife: My friend’s doctor showed her the baby in her first month, and the baby was moving, plus she could hear his heartbeat.
Husband: Oh yeah! And the baby was walking too, right! In the first month, the baby looks like a dot.
As usual, that argument ends with going to one of the private hospitals where there are the latest medical equipment. At the hospital, the doctor explains to the wife that there is no way any instrument can show a baby, its movement, or its heartbeat, as the baby is not big enough. Finally, they quietly return back home and the wife realizes that she has to wait.
* * *
The second month of pregnancy means nausea and cravings for certain foods. Hormones start to increase rapidly, which affects the pregnant woman’s behavior with her husband and her colleagues at work. Be careful if you have pregnant women at your company and/or office.
Wife: Honey, I have a craving for watermelon with no seeds.
Husband: I have never heard of that! Watermelon with no seeds!
Wife: That’s not my concern. I crave for it and I want it. Do you want our baby to be born with a birthmark?
Wife: I think my tummy is a little bigger than normal. I believe I have twins!
Husband: No, your tummy is still the same, and the doctor told us that you have a single baby, not twins.
Wife: So! Maybe the doctor could not see him.
Day after day, this kind of dialogue goes on and on, especially when the wife goes to work. Expect your pregnant wife to return from work in a bad mood, nervous, and quite, quite mad because …
Wife: (nervously) I have to quit work. I will give them my resignation tomorrow. I can’t handle work and all the people there. It’s OVER!
Husband: What happened?
Wife: Imagine. At the weekly meeting, my manager suggested something that should be done. I told him that I don’t think it’s beneficial to work. He kept arguing with me, and he wasn’t convinced by what I said.
Husband: That’s normal. He is your boss, and he has a right to argue with you about work.
Wife: Men, men, men! You are one of them, and all men are the same – sure you’ll defend him. No, he has no right to do so and no right to argue with me; he meant to irritate me. All of the men in the meeting, and the world, have to take a one-way trip to Iraq, and I’m ready to pay for the tickets!
Wife: Also, that girl in the meeting, instead of supporting me and taking my side, she supported him and made more suggestions that I have to implement.
Husband: Honey, it’s normal; that girl is your close friend and she has always been kind to you.
Wife: NO! It’s not normal. They have to know that I’m pregnant and my increasing hormones affect my mood, so they shouldn’t argue with me at all!
Husband: Sweetheart, let’s forget all about work – what do we have for dinner today?
Wife: (In a very shy, soft, and passive voice) Honey, do you really want something to eat today? I was nervous today and needed to rest because I was worried about the baby. But there’s a tin of tuna in the kitchen.
Husband: What! You will not join me for dinner?
Wife: No. When I had finished the meeting, I returned to my office and ordered some food to help me relax.
Days will pass, and life will crawl along slowly until “this woman” reaches her third month of pregnancy.
* * *
In this month, the pregnant wife is assured that she has a single baby. Hormones increase rapidly, which affect the routine of her life and make her feel lazy and sleepy most of the time. She will be curious to see the baby each and every day, and she will want to trace its growth accordingly.
Wife: Yesterday, the doctor didn’t show me the baby well. The baby’s hand didn’t show up clearly.
Husband: Don’t worry. The doctor and I saw the baby, and it looked really great.
Wife: I’m not asking for what you and the doctor did or didn’t see! I have to re-visit the doctor next week, and I’ll ask her to show me the baby.
Husband: She arranged the next appointment for next month, not next week.
Wife: No problem. She won’t remember, and my friend told me that her doctor had ultrasound and showed her the baby on a weekly basis.
Husband: Honey, your friend is in her sixth month, while you are in your third.
Wife: Arrrrrgh! Stop arguing with me. You are just like my colleagues at work; useless!
Or the dialogue may go back to the size of the wife’s “tummy”!
Wife: Honey, I think my tummy is starting to get bigger.
Husband: No dear, I think it is still the normal size.
Wife: You see, my pregnant friends told me so. They also told me that in the third month my tummy starts to get bigger. Plus, I’ll feel the baby’s movement and I’ll hear his heartbeats too.
Arguments, arguments, arguments; your life will be all about arguments with your sweet, pregnant wife! You have to be patient and quiet, and you must support her, even if she surprises you by trying to manipulate everything for her own benefit.
Wife: Honey, I want to eat something.
Husband: What’s that, sweetheart? We can have it delivered here.
Wife: I wish to eat at that restaurant we went to on the day we got married.
Husband: Yeah, but it’s far away from here and previously you complained that you get tired from being in the car, especially for long distances.
Wife: No, no. If we go to that restaurant, I won’t feel tired.
Husband: OK honey, we’ll go this weekend.
Wife: No, I want to go today, NOW – otherwise, the baby will be born with a birthmark! as I crave eating in that restaurant.
Husband: Sweetheart, I understand that pregnant women crave for certain kinds of food, not certain kinds of restaurant!
Wife: Have you ever been pregnant? How would you know about cravings? This is my desire.
Of course, these arguments end in one direction only, the pregnant wife’s direction; and the husband has to admit that he will lose his case to his wife, who represents the half of society, whom we call weak!
Yasser Aboudouma is an Egyptian-Canadian who lives between Cairo and Ontario. He holds a B.Sc. in engineering and a diploma in project management. He is interested in issues of social and cultural differences.
Egyptian Wedding and Other Cairo Photos
This lovely collection of Cairo photos was posted on Flickr by RvDario, a world traveler and photographer.
Marriage in Egypt: a Mass Wedding in Idku
In Egypt and across the Middle East, many young people are being forced to put off marriage, the gateway to independence, sexual activity and societal respect. Marriage plays an important financial role for families and the community. Often the only savings families acquire over a lifetime is the money for their children to marry, and handing it over amounts to an intergenerational transfer of wealth.
Observing the Pilgrims to the Giza Pyramids
Reprinted from Maryanne Stroud Gabbani’s superb blog, Living in Egypt, May 15, 2009. I consider hers to be the most interesting expat blog I have ever read. She’s a great writer and a serious photographer. I highly recommend it.
I had a nice couple from the UK staying at the farm for a weekend not long ago and they wanted, naturally, to visit the pyramids at Giza. Even more, they wanted to go inside the Great Pyramid, a trip that takes some organising these days. We got up at 6:30 am to be at the pyramids at 7:30 so that we could be first in line for the tickets to the area and the pyramids. In the old days things weren’t nearly so organised and it was just a matter of showing up, but now you have to buy a ticket to the plateau and another to go into either the Great Pyramid or the Middle Pyramid at the entrance. There are two entrances, one down by the Sphinx in Nazlit Semman and one up the road from the Mena House. Once you are wandering around the plateau, it is a long dusty hike back to the ticket offices to get entrance tickets to the pyramids. We were first in line, and they got their tickets to see inside the pyramid.
They wanted to wander around for a few hours and I said that I would amuse myself at the pyramid while they did whatever it was they wanted. Sometimes my visitors want my company, but they were very independent, so I settled down to watch and photograph visitors to the pyramid. It didn’t take long for the crowds and buses to begin arriving and soon I had more than enough to watch. It was a Friday morning and there were people from every nation on earth, along with Egyptian families and some school trips towing crowds of children around the area. At first I sat on the stones facing the pyramid and taking photos of people having their pictures taken. I find people posing next to one of the wonders of the ancient world to be utterly enchanting. Their delight in being there is written all over their faces and the poses are marvelous.
The photographers in the groups were so intent on their shooting that no one noticed the fact that I was shooting people rather than stones. Their subjects would climb up a few steps to stand on some of the lower stones, or they might pretend to push. Some people would simply stand quietly at the side of an enormous block of limestone resting their hands on it, as though feeling the pulse of the stone.
Moods varied from solemn and awed to hilarious enjoyment of the experience. As someone who has been visiting Giza for the past thirty years, watching the visitors awoke the delight and awe that I felt the first time I came and gazed at these unbelievably enormous structures. The first time I came to Egypt my husband brought me to the Sound and Light the first evening and the next day we came out to the pyramids with a group of his teen-aged cousins. They had all seen the pyramids before and their enjoyment of my delight was obvious. We had bought a good camera for that trip and were having a marvelous time taking photos of everything…everyone assumed that my husband was a foreigner since why would an Egyptian take pictures at the pyramids? Times have definitely changed.
As the morning progressed, I took shelter in a shady niche about three stones up the pyramid from which vantage point I watched the visitors as they faced me. It was almost ceremonial. The footing at the base of the pyramid is quite uneven and the SCA have built a wooden walkway over the rocky platform along which many of the first time visitors approach. It’s a lot to take in and there is a moment for each one when they stop and try to take in the enormity of what is in front of them. From a distance they must turn their heads from left to right to see the expanse of the one face and then they must lean back, back, back to try to see all the way to the top. After a few moments of orientation, the group photographer begins to motion people to stand in front of the pyramid to commemorate the day.
I was there about four hours and have to say that I never had a moment to get bored. The parade of visitors was unending, the buses filling the parking lot never thinned out, and I took about four hundred photos that one morning. I did a lot of critical trashing of bad shots but I was left with almost one hundred that I felt were worth keeping.
I always feel that there is a peace in the pyramids that tolerates our human foolishness. They have seen it all over the millenia. They had their centuries of glory, of neglect and even abuse, but over all they persist. I’m quite aware of my anthropormorphising large piles of stone but when you live with them as neighbours, it’s easy to do. So a Friday morning watching the endless games of the pilgrims who come in wonder and delight to play out the ancient rite of celebrating these ancient observers of our history made a perfect day.
Helping Iraqi Refugees in Egypt
Tales from Egypt: Student Journal
By Katie Ball
Seton Hall University School of Law
“We killed your brother in Iraq, and now we will kill you, unbeliever.”
The threat came quietly, unobtrusively, with the gentle beep of a text message as I sat on a foam mattress upon the dusty floor. Samir, ashen, read the SMS aloud to my Yemeni translator, and then turned to me: “Now you yourself can attest to the horror that is our lives.” I looked over my laptop to the front door of Samir’s cinder block flat, and its simple push-button lock, the only measure of protection that he, as an Iraqi refugee, had.
My preparation of Samir’s legal testimony regarding his life in Iraq and his flight two years before had come to have critical importance: His approval by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) for resettlement, based upon this testimony, was the only effective escape from the Shi’ia death list which had forced him to flee Iraq. Just three weeks before, a phoned death threat similar to the text message had been traced to a public pay phone six miles away, in the heart of Cairo.
They say you never forget your first, but I had never imagined that taking the first deposition of my legal career would be quite like this.
I met Samir, his wife, Rajah**, and their young son Amer** through Seton Hall Law Cairo Summer Program Director Bernard Freamon’s ties to Barbara Harrell-Bond, a faculty member at the American University of Cairo. In 2000, Ms. Harrell-Bond established the first and only Egyptian legal clinic providing pro-bono legal aid for the up to half a million refugees amassed in and around Cairo. Yet while the clinic administers to the African refugee majority, the recent influx of Iraqi refugees into Egypt, mostly Sunni uprooted by sectarian violence, created a new vulnerable subgroup which infiltrated this ad-hoc office apartment.
They came, referred by word of mouth, to seek her and the handful of American law student interns who had committed their summer to huddling around her table, processing refugee cases and trying to keep the noise low enough to hear the Skype phone. In this office, interns learned the basics of refugee law and were then thrown head first into the fire, learning from one another what worked and what didn’t when filing applications for a UNHCR refugee status interview or for the Department of Homeland Security. I had not known stakes so high before. As I interviewed Raja about the abduction and torture of her child Amer by Iranian militias and photographed the rippling scars on his tiny frame, I prayed privately to be worthy professionally of the trust which they gave me so readily.
Cairo, Egypt, as one can probably surmise by now, is not the typical summer abroad study program. Instead of European ivy, we settled in amongst the bustle and grime of sixteen million people living on less than $2 per day in cinderblock tenements cropping around a dingy European early 1900s era infrastructure, and city walls dating to the Crusades. Foreigners don’t drink the tap water, and per-capita average drop in IQ among children from exposure to lead in fuel peaked in the nineties at four points per child. None the less, our program filled to capacity, with a waiting list. The capacity, I later inferred, is the number of students who can fit in a single bus, and with good reason.
The odds of two busses successfully navigating Cairo traffic in tandem is about as high as the public perception of George Bush in the Arab world.
Despite the economic situation at home, the dollar traded high enough in Egypt’s recovering socialist economy that we students lived like sultans, enjoying $1.25 taxis, $11 five star meals, $7 manicures, and $0.17 for a falafel sandwich. Yet the veneer of luxury was paper thin: bread lines formed across the street from our hotel for government-subsidized bread, and housekeepers scavenged the garbage to harvest any “good” items thrown out by Westerners with different senses of social abundance.
Our physical presence in Egypt perfectly complemented and greatly enhanced our learning. Course offerings in Islamic Jurisprudence, International Human Rights, International Criminal Law, and International Petroleum Transactions all found contemporary relevance to our culture and daily routine. Every few days, another planned extracurricular highlighted aspects of Egyptian culture, society, and economy which contributed to and built upon “conventional” classroom scholarship. In Oil and Gas class, we visited the Suez Canal, received a lecture from an oil company attorney, and glimpsed off shore oil platforms in the Gulf of Suez. International Human Rights and Islamic Jurisprudence both raised the issue of the cultural practice of female genital mutilation among 96% of Egyptian women, and the 2007 fatwa (religious edict) pronounced by Egypt’s Grand Mufti (religious leader) that this practice was haraam (prohibited) in Islam. In Islamic Jurisprudence, we visited the Al-Azhar “the radiant” Mosque, a 951AD structure claimed to be the oldest university in the world. We entered between prayers to hear a sheikh describe Al Azhar’s famous madrasa, one of the preeminent schools of Islam in the Middle East, while our corresponding classroom lectures with one of America’s most prominent Islamic mujtahids taught us ijtihad, the process of legal reasoning in Islam.
Despite good faith “best efforts” to study, the lure of Egypt was often insurmountable. Course load not withstanding, we took trips almost every weekend. We traveled to a private Mediterranean beach in Alexandria, saw the Lighthouse (a wonder of the ancient world), Roman catacombs, and the famous Library of Alexandria, where philosophers and scholars of the ancient world had pondered for hours, much like ourselves. Our stay in Cairo was highlighted by program dinners at the best and most famous restaurants, as well as a city driving tour, a class trip to the Khan al Khalili bazaar, a Nile dinner cruise, and of course, a group tour of the Pyramids of Giza.
The crowning “vacation,” falling towards the end of our semester, was a group trip to the Sinai Peninsula to hike Mount Sinai, and then on to Sharm al Sheik. The intense desert heat overcame our air conditioning, and we arrived exhausted at the tiny town of St. Catherine’s, tucked amidst a range of the most eerie mountains I have ever seen.
After dinner, we came together over water pipes, Bedouin rugs and a camp fire for reflection on our Cairo Program experience, and its role in the greater picture of who we were as law students and who we would become, professionally and personally. Contemplating at the foot of Sinai was particularly meaningful because of the shared belief of the three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – that the “law” itself was given to humankind upon this very mountain. After our hosts brought out hot Arabic black tea with mint, the mood changed as our Sinai Bedouin hosts begin to perform music and dance for us! Apparently many Egyptians learn belly-dancing as children – our hot hosts seemed to have as much fun dancing as we did watching them and often managed to cajole us to join in.
Four hours later, we arose in the darkness to make the trek to the base of Mt. Sinai, and began what seemed a quasi-mystical experience. The moon’s brightness backlit the jagged mountains, and we climbed, first chattering, then falling to our own thoughts, finally emerging at the peak, drenched in sweat and huddling under musty rented blankets to await the coming dawn. As I climbed, I remembered the ardor and stress of 1L, and recognized my own bodily weakness bred literally by sitting in study for a year. I thought of what was ahead. I thought of Samir and Rajah, my first clients, and how much I wanted to help them. I thought about the stark dichotomy of our lives: free and rich by local standards, I vacationed while they waited, prisoners of fear, clinging to the thread of hope of resettlement. I thought of my choice to study law as the best way to make an impact in lives like theirs. I bristled at the possibilities. We watched the sun rise across the granite Sinai range, posed for photos, and descended, jubilant.
With our muscles shocked from their state of law school atrophy, our group then headed to a private resort in Sharm Al Sheik. For the equivalent of $60 per night, we stayed at a five star hotel with four private beaches on the best coral reefs in the world. Our group chartered a private yacht to go scuba diving, and took individualized dives with instructors in the pure waters. In retrospect, the thought of having so much fun in the middle of what technically was a law school “semester” is absurd.
Upon return to Cairo, we tolerated a brief flurry of study before exams, after which our group dispersed across the globe, on to an optional Nile cruise down to Luxor, or elsewhere to vacation spots, international internships, second(!) study abroad programs, or clerkships back in the States.
Before leaving Egypt, a friend and I invited Samir, Rajah, and Amer for a night of shared friendship and recreation for Amer at the palatial Citadel Overlook Restaurant in Al Azhar Park, one of the few places in Cairo where there is green grass. The park’s surcharge was fifty cents per person and the meals were $15, which was prohibitive for Egyptians, let alone Iraqi refugees. In fact, there were no Iraqis there. As Samir gazed upon Cairo’s famous Citadel while we dined on kabob, he told his wife, “For the first time in Cairo, I feel that I am relaxed.” Young Amer, forced behind locked doors in the years since his torturous abduction from his Baghdad front yard, did not know how to approach the Egyptian children playing on a nearby hill. Impulsively, I lay down and showed him an American childhood game – rolling down the grassy hill. Wild with glee, we repeated it over and over while Rajah’s eyes glistened with tears of joy. We left them with a gift: a framed photo of them as a family, the first such photo they had ever owned.
As I have moved into my second year of law school, Cairo remains as pictures on my desktop monitor, but plays out more vividly in my mind. I think of Samir, Rajah, and Amer often – so often that I emailed the Cairo refugee aid clinic a few weeks ago to check on the status of their application, and to relay some much needed donations I had obtained. I was told by the office that the UNHCR had not called them about their application yet – nothing had changed for them. Stunned and upset, I was glad I had inquired. Rajah called me briefly on her cell phone to say hello, and to say they had received the contributions I had gathered: “We are glad you did not forget us.” Indeed, I won’t. Rather, the memory illuminates my late nights, and reminds me of why I study. Thank you, Cairo.