Author Aisha Khalifa recounts her courageous journey to overcome difficulty in conceiving and become a mother in her memoir, My Precious Abalone, published by Qatar Foundation’s HBKU Press, and how she hopes her book can help break down the stigma surrounding the issue and provide the foundation for open dialogue and change.
My journey towards motherhood is something I continue to experience every single day and throughout my lifetime. I recall it sometimes during the late hours of the night, and sometimes during the middle of the day. Whether I’m on vacation, or during a hectic day at work, my journey lives inside of me.
And with every passing year, I remember that on this day, however many years ago, I found out I was pregnant for the first time, or I miscarried for the first time, or I had my first, second, seventh round of invitro fertilization. On this day, I often think, I gained hope and lost it hundreds of times in a single day.
But most of all, I remember that on this day, I endured. I persisted. I prayed. I had faith. It is the power of my mind combined with pure faith that healed my soul even as my body continued to bleed.
My struggle is not my own. Thousands of women in Qatar and millions around the world, from all walks of life and all backgrounds, suffer from difficulty in conceiving. Neither my privileged lifestyle nor my faithful heart would spare me from this journey that was, I believe, written as God’s will.
I published a book detailing my heartache and loss, my ups and downs and all of my experiences on my journey, titled My Precious Abalone, with Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press. Though technology has advanced enough to be able to provide solutions for infertility, I believe that, in countries and cultures around the world, there is still much stigma around the issue.
It is still common for women to be blamed, either directly or indirectly, for difficulties in conceiving or miscarriages. Their bodies are the first thing to be criticized and blamed for being weak, unwell, or ‘less than’. Women are made to feel shame for something that is often not in their control. They feel the need to hide this trauma from society, suffering alone, silently, in the shadows, to avoid the judgement they will surely face. In some cases, it is used as grounds of divorce.
And where recent studies show that verbalizing trauma, such as that experienced as a result of difficulties in conceiving and miscarriage, can help alleviate the psychological stress and impact, these forums for discussion are limited to the private sphere. Support in the form of education and knowledge through books and resources that consider cultural stigmas are few and limited. Why should this burden be one carried solely by women, when they already endure so much?
Even the words “infertile” or “infertility” themselves have such a negative connotation– I refuse to associate them with myself and let them define my life. How can I, a being full of love, compassion, hope and faith be labeled by such sterile words? They are used by scientists and doctors to describe a condition. It is not who I am. It is not who thousands of women, at their core being, are.
During my own treatment process, I met women from all over the world. They were all of different ages, had different backgrounds and countries, practiced different religions, and spoke different languages. But their support for one another was universal: strangers holding hands in a waiting room, hugging and brushing away each other’s tears in group therapy sessions, praying and providing each other with the strength to stay strong, positive, and happy. This kind of unity amazed me. It is the true definition of humanity, a universal language that we, as powerful women, spoke when we were together.
I wrote this book while on my journey to honor those women. To share my story, our story, and push it into the public sphere in the hopes of finding understanding and support from both genders, from every culture. To break down the stigma and the taboo surrounding this issue. I am blessed to say that my family supported my journey 100 percent of the way. I felt nothing but strength from my parents (my in-laws still don’t know about my journey), and my dear husband. I never once doubted their love for me.
But that is not always the case. My hope for my book is that we can begin to normalize discussions about difficulties in conceiving and miscarriage, that we as a society know how to react to this issue and how to provide a safe space to discuss it openly to provide comfort and support for women in the process.
The Lord chooses His best warriors for the toughest battles.
I often recall this quote and it has gotten me through some brought days. I’m happy to say that my story has a happy ending. My daughter, my rainbow baby, my precious Abalone, is a living and breathing testament of my journey. Whenever I look at her, I am reminded not about the struggles I went through to become a mother, but rather the journey that I endured, the strength that I composed in my darkest moments to overcome.
All of the words in the pages of my book were me talking to myself. Processing my thoughts and feelings during each stage of treatment, during every loss, and during every small triumph. It served as a type of therapy to get me through it all. It documents my heartache and loss, yes, but it also discusses the best and probably the happiest moments of my life…the moments that made me a mother! It documents my strength, my hope, my fears, and my faith and will to overcome – just like all women who experience a similar journey to overcome.
My book is a celebration, a testament to the strength and resilience of women everywhere. I now hope that, in sharing my very personal, raw account of my experiences to the world, my book can be a starting point for discussion, acceptance, learning, and change.
My Precious Abalone, published by HBKU Press, is available to buy in bookstores around Qatar and can be purchased through the Rafeeq and Snoonu applications. It’s also available internationally online as an eBook through various retailers. For international sales, please contact HBKU Press by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at +974 44543098/2356.