Cursed Baby

parwan-baby

“It’s a girl,” the doctor said and a horror ran through the mother’s body; deep grief showed on her face like the world had ended, the same feeling as you get when you’re waiting for your kankoor exam result and you find out that you have failed.

The mother started crying. “Again I have a girl. How am I going to face my husband and his family and society?” She hated her baby. Her eyes were filled with tears—tears of sorrow and regret. The baby had brought misfortune and tragedy.

The baby was lying there like a little angel, like a snow peak, soft as silk, her eyes closed. Unlike all the other newborn babies, she wasn’t crying or asking for food. She was silent and calm as if she already knew what life had planned for her. She seemed to already know that there were so many challenges waiting for her in life, starting the moment she was carried out the hospital door. She was special but in a different way; wrapped in her blanket, all I could see was her pale little face with her tiny cracked white lips. Her silence shouted that she didn’t want to live, that she had surrendered and didn’t want to fight. She wanted to go back where she came because her tiny shoulders and hands just didn’t have the strength to carry the load of being born a girl.

Lying next to her was my nephew. He seemed pretty confident because he was a boy and knew his value in Afghan society. He knew he was wanted and needed. You could already see the arrogance in his eyes as he looked around with his half-open eyes. Both babies had only been in the world a few minutes, but culture had already created the dividing wall between them. The baby girl was labeled a burden and garbage.

I thought mothers were the kindest creatures on earth: they stay up all night so their babies can sleep in peace, but it was the other way around in this case. I went closer to this mother and asked her why are you so sad when you were supposed to be happy because you have a baby and she replied, “I can’t have another girl, I already have four and my husband warned me on our way to hospital that if I give birth to another girl he will throw me out of house along with my daughters.”

I said, “But she is such a cute and innocent baby. See, she isn’t even crying!” I got the most awful and cruelest reply, “Yeah, because she knows nobody cares if she cries.”

I stood there so stunned and so helpless. I felt so disgusted. I wanted to grab the baby and take her away, to share her grief and tell her that the society she is going to step into is filled with beasts and monsters who are not going to miss any chance to torture her, abuse her and violate her rights. I wanted to tell her that no matter how ugly this world is, she must suffer and struggle, but never give up. She must wipe her own tears and console her soul. She will have to fight for dignity, respect, education, and even meaningful work in this society.

The doctor came into the room and said to the mother, “Jamila, you can leave now. Your husband is waiting outside.” Jamila started moving like the loser on a battlefield. Her head was down and she looked defeated. No one even came to escort her out with her baby. Giving birth to babies seemed like an everyday task to Jamilla. She picked up her bag like nothing had happened, wrapped the baby in a blanket, and said goodbye.

My mother and I had spent the entire night in the hospital. The doctor came in and looked at my nephew and said he is a lucky baby to have been born a boy, but the other baby is the most unfortunate baby ever, because she is an unwanted girl and on top of that, she is disabled. The last sentence felt like a punch in my face. I asked what is wrong with her and the doctor said the baby’s right hand is paralyzed, but they did not tell the mother.

Life had played a good prank on that baby. Her entire life was right in front of my eyes: an unwanted baby with a disability, she would either die in early childhood because of no attention or some disease, or even if she does make it to live some years, she will eventually be sitting on a road side or knocking door-to-door begging for food in this extremist and fundamental society and someday in the crowd of life, where intact and full men can hardly make it ahead, she would get crushed under the feet of hustling society. All this for what? Just because she was born a girl!

I was born as a healthy baby and brought up in an open-minded family where everyone loved and supported me. But in this society most girls are deprived of their rights and thousands of girls are disabled from years of war, and I know what it feels like to be unwanted or disabled. It’s not hard at all to put myself in their shoes. So when I saw this little baby girl in the hospital, I became her for a second and anticipated what troubles are waiting ahead of her.

In an Afghan society women are accused of being women, even though they were not asked what gender they wanted to be; they had no role in choosing their sex. Sometimes people say to me that I am just like a son to my father. I don’t take this as a compliment because I am proud of being a woman.

God created everyone equally. The Quran says there is a purpose behind every individual’s existence. This makes me confident and tells me that women are a crucial part of society. We are not created useless, and no matter how difficult it is, we have to fight all the challenges and prove to this male-dominant society that we play a big part in the future of our country.

If I ever have a daughter, even if she is disabled, I will tell her that before anything else, she is a human being. Being born as a girl makes her even more special and she should always be proud of who she is.

By Rabia A.

Photo by CBS.


Comments

  1. Oh, Rabia.
    I’m just sitting here, breathing in and out, taking in this piece. There is so much that is deeply affecting here, from the story itself, to your observations, to your deep and beautiful empathy, to your storytelling. Oh this poor baby girl! May the angels, and good-hearted and wise people, intervene from the fate we fear is hers. Oh that poor mother. I wish the same for her. I am so happy that you were raised in a loving and open-minded and open-hearted family. And I love very much your last paragraph, when you tell us the kind and true words that you will share with your children, no matter their gender, no matter if they have a disease or a disability.

    “Like a snowpeak”… I will always remember that simile. I will always remember, too, the well-drawn comparison between the two babies.

    Well done, Rabia. Well done.

    Stacy

    • rabia jalalzai says:

      Dearest Stacy :
      thank you so much for encoureging me ,i am glad you liked it, and i will keep writing for the website.

  2. Elizabeth Titus says:

    Dear Rabia,

    The way you describe the newborns, one a girl, the other a boy, and how the boy is arrogant and sure of his value, after only a minute on earth… that is amazing, brutal and harsh, and true. You were born to be a writer.

    Best wishes,
    Liz

    • rabia jalalzai says:

      Dear Elizabeth,
      You gave me such a strong comment (YOU WERE BORN TO BE A WRITER).thank you soooo much.

  3. Lili Clement says:

    I loved this story. I didn’t want to stop reading even though I’ve gotta leave for class! This story was special and made me think about how I was adopted in China and how they don’t really like girls either. I would never compare those two things though, both are very different. Just know you are strong and you’re voice is being heard.

    • rabia jalalzai says:

      Dear Lili :
      You took out your precious time to read my article means alot to me and thank you for commenting .

  4. What a powerful piece. It makes me want to pick up every baby I see and give them all the love I have inside!

    • rabia jalalzai says:

      Dear Sarah,
      I know exactly what you feel,I also wanted to do the same, i too think that babys are to be loved and cared for,thank you for reading the article.

  5. Francesca says:

    Rabia,
    Thank you for the gift of your beautiful writing that had the power transport me into the cruel life that lays ahead for this innocent girl. I hope that your voice and strength will begin open up the world for women and girls in your country to be able to live the lives that they deserve and are rightfully entitled to as human beings. My hope is that all women and girls should feel proud of who they are.

    With my best wishes,

    Francesca

    • rabia jalalzai says:

      Dear Francesca
      I am the one to be thanking ,so thanks alot for reading and your nice and encoureging words ,and i will always keep writing ..

  6. Wow, what a touching essay!
    I hit me when the mother said he is going to throw “me and MY daughters” out. As if it weren’t his, too. It is so hard to read that a father and husband can just throw his family on the street.
    It must be so hard to live in a society where a woman is unhappy because her child has the same sex as herself. How can you accept or love yourself if you hate the fact that your children are like you?
    It surprises me everytime again to notice how much culture determines our feelings, our identities, our selves.

    • rabia jalalzai says:

      Dear Naela
      I also was very shocked to see what was happening ,and yeah it is hard for women to live in a society like afghanistan,the majority of women are struggling and suffering from violence, and i dont blame them if they hate it to have a doughter ,it is becouse they actually hate what they have gone through and they dont want that for thier doughters too.
      I thank you for reading my article and showing your empathy towards afghan women.

  7. Fari Jalalzai says:

    Dear Rabia, I am so proud of you today for trying to bring attention to what truly women in Afghanistan face on a daily base, and of course I want to assure you that the day you were born, we were all so much waiting for mom to come back home and bring you along with her. Daddy was so happy too , I remember , the night mom went to the hospital , he came back home to stay with us and he played a song loud and sung along with it and we all followed him dancing with joy :)

    You are my exception and Afghanistan’s exception too.

    Love you ! Fari

    • Thank you for sharing this, Fari! So wonderful to be able to imagine this great scene of love!

    • rabia jalalzai says:

      @ Fari, ahhhhh really you guys never told me that ,i am kind of imaging that scene and it seems soo cute and magical,you know i always thank god for giving me siblings like you ,love you all sooooooo much ,, and love youuu snow white…

  8. Stephanie Hayes says:

    This essay made me want to cry and throw up at the same time. It is very well-written and moving, but I wish with all my heart it weren’t true. How can we ever hope to change the world when this is the reality for so many women? Thank you, Rabia.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I loved this story…….
    Proud of u dear sis jan, u were born to be a writer……. Well done, well done, well done,
    S. Shafaq

  10. Thank you Stacy, for giving your precious time to reading something about Afghanistan, a woman’s words about another woman from a country that has been indulged in war for decades. I am afraid it’s the only part of the world, where people has long forgotten the feeling of simply waking up in the morning, having a piece of bread and a cup of milk on the table and going out without being afraid of suicide attack, a roadside bombing or a group of militants targeting a school building, or a healthcare center or a student etc…
    Afghanistan is one of the world’s youngest populated countries with – according to a United Nations report – more than % 65 of its people under 25 years of age. It means %65 of its publication has been born during the war. Imagine the 9/11 and think for moment that those terrorists were based in Afghanistan for years and I am sure you cannot imagine how it was to live under a regime led by such terrorist? But with all this, Afghanistan’s young men and women are so talented, very hardworking, ambitious and optimistic. Going to school in Afghanistan means, anything is possible to happen including being killed in a bomb blast or a suicide attack. But, they still go to school if there is any.
    To give you a bitter picture of how Rabia goes to the university every morning, I have to write to you in details, I think it will be really surprising and interesting to hear about, but for the moment, I have to say that when I first heard Rabia speaking French, I wanted to cry, a deep feeling of anger and sadness filled me for I was thinking how she struggles and fights for survival, and my heart went out for those girls that are forbidden to go to school or don’t have a school at all in their villages.
    Bless, Fari

    • Dear Fari: I am just seeing this note and I want to thank you for writing it. That feeling, of “anything can happen”, we have that in some places in our country–often in the inner city, where concentrations of impoverished and longtime-oppressed people live. Sometimes we call them ghettos. And when there is so much pressure on life, anything can happen. *Yet* we do not live with war on our land, and there are opportunities. I wish peace and opportunities for you and your sisters. May we all be able to enjoy coffee and bread in the morning and not be afraid. Love, Stacy

  11. Anonymous says:

    very nice i respect ur feeling against afghani women, and ur feeling expressing in word. i also hate the position of a girl in afghani society, but i think we can change it if we give hand to hand to each other and fight .i mean those women who have opportunity like u, me and other must do hard and show men we are human, have rights like men have and there is no difference between a girl and a boy.
    at last i must say that i proud on u that ur my friend.

    • rabia jalalzai says:

      Dearest anonymouse:
      I know your are one among my close friends but i just can’t figure out ,which one,anyhow thank you soooooo much for reading my story and im also very proud to have a friend like you ,becouse i am proud of all my friends and you are one among them. and yeah do tell me who you are in tuniversity ;))

  12. Well, I can’t say that I hate the position of a girl in Afghanistan, because I have always been so much loved and respected, all my life. I know problems exist, but they are not in every girl’s life. I believe such problems are rooted in lack of education, poverty and isolation, amongst people that have never been exposed to the outside world, who didn’t get a chance to hear a second opinion, and I think it might change through education and it would take time. I particularly, don’t see it a “we women” thing, or a fight against men, but more like a joint effort by everyone in Afghanistan. I ancient societies and old traditions don’t change overnight, but take a long time and a main tool for the change would be brining quality education into the society, introducing the society to hearing a second opinion and raising awareness. Godd bless you . Fari

  13. Laheeb Akbarzad says:

    A nice heartbreaking story of how girls are treated in a traditionalist society where men have all the credits and fortunes, while girls are treated as an unfortunate creature. Also, it is another side of the dark story that ‘mothers’ are always blamed to be the gender creator, whereas men are equally responsible for each birth of whether a boy or a girl. It is a spectacular reflection of the Afghan society where women are always underrepresented and are victimized for all the miseries. Most importantly, we shall not forget that we are all human above anything else. As a man, I would like to have daughters and would treat them equal with my sons, as so in all respects.

  14. I read it once and I read it again… Then I thought, for us (men) is impossible to understand the problems women and girls face in our traditional society. This is the saddest reality of our country..
    An inspiring piece! Keep writing…

  15. M.Masoom says:

    Dear Rabia! Article was the one of most wonderful articles i have read yet, let’s pray god to forgive all of us and lead us the way to obey all quran and islam’s rules.

  16. Haseebullah Amin says:

    Dear Rabia,
    Although this is tragic but, unfortunately this is a fact among some group of people in Afghanistan. You know mostly these people are traditional, old minded and affected from three decades of internal war in Afghanistan and left noneducated and have no information about Islam, hy Quran and saying of Allah and his messenger. And I think a big campaign and hard working is needed to perish such trashy ideas from society. And once again I want to mention that it was wonderful and heart touching piece. Keep writting.
    Regards,
    Haseebullah Amin

  17. I love your story very much. I as a conflict transformer it was really helpful for me. Write more and I could not stop your writing.

  18. Working in a labor unit in an American hospital, I have seen this same prejudice against girl babies by some cultures we serve. I have taken these fathers in hand and tried to educate them as to the Scientific Fact that the fathers’ contribution in conception IS the factor that determines whether the fetus becomes male or female. They are usually unaware of this and surprised to learn it. I feel hopeful for the futures of the girl babies when I see the thoughtful regard of the fathers, after learning this fact. Education does make a difference.
    I am very encouraged by reading stories from all the Afghani women who keep working toward a kinder, better life for all in your homeland.
    Thank you for sharing with the world.
    Peace .

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