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Monday, October 15, 2012


I found in my self the love of the ancient times. When I walked through the gates I knew I liked this place. The intensity of history hovering like a cloud over its courtyards felt strong. It was cold but attractive. Build in 1459, by Sultan Mehmed II Topkapi Palace was the primary residence the Sultans of the Ottman Empire for 400 years. It is a large palace located in Istanbul, Turkey. 
Everything was exhibited; bedrooms, sitting rooms, offices, and hammams (bathing rooms) were displayed for the present to meet the past. It was quiet but I could feel the energy of those who lived here many centuries ago. The sense of walking through hallways, bedrooms, and offices of people who lived many years ago was nostalgic. I could feel them, hear their words whispering from echoes in the past. It has been a home to as many as 4000 people at one time. The tour guide explained and brought only a fraction of their lives to our imaginations with concrete facts. In addition to it being a royal residence it was also used for royal entertainment and state occasions. This major tourist attraction holds important holy Muslim relics that include Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) cloak and several swords. This beautiful palace is made up of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings that include a mosque, hospital, bakeries, and a mint. The name Topkapi translates as “Cannon gate Palace” in reference to a close by gate that has since been destroyed.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Write your name

Part a)
My name is Modia Batterjee. Modia my first name pronounced "mo/dee/ya"; I don't know what it means. My mom named me after her grandmother Modia Jewels Cunningham; she was an American from Kentucky; a descendent of William Cunningham of Scotland. Saudi people call me "modi" (mu/dhee) because modia is not an Arabic name. Modi is a very Bedouin name that means the shimmer of the blade of a sharp sword.  My last name is a Saudi name from Hijaz with an unknown origin, however many Indian people I meet tell me it's a typical Indian name. In Arabic the root word of Batterjee, "batter" means amputation. And the entire word together means "he who amputates". My nick name is "mo-dee, Mod, mobi, mox, Snow White, or dingbat". Nobody else has my name besides my great grandmother.

Part b)
Modia is a pretty name, it has a sweet sound to it. I like my name Modia. But unfortunately people don't use it. I don't like Mu-dhee because its beduin and I'm not beduin. It messes me up inside when people call me Mu-dhee and then gasp with surprise when they see me and they say that I don't match my name. It's too heavy, old, and traditional. Women with my name are beduin grandmothers and deep voiced women. I've tried to change my name but I can't imagine another one for me. Modia feels right, Mu-dhee doesn't but the culture forces me to have it. I need therapy. My mom gets mad at me when I discuss the issue.

Part c)
When I search my name on the Internet I either get companies named MODIA, or Modia Bulter who is the Chief of Staff to Mayor of Newark, a man of African decent (I wonder how he pronounces it?), or I get myself. How annoying is that? There is just not that many people out there. If I search Modia Jewels Cunningham I find her (my great grandmother) and her entire family tree. That is exciting. At one point a few years ago I did search her and I found family members whom I still keep in touch with today on Facebook. Through these members we were able to fill in the missing parts on the family tree that included all Modia Jewels’ decedents. I’m sure she would be intrigued to know that her linage has extended to the Middle East. 

Part d)
I like Modia, I like Jewels, and I wish my name was Modia Jewels, but that wouldn’t work here, it’s not an Arabic name. I wish I could just be called Modia. I think I love jewelry because I love her name; I like how Jewels sounds and feels when I say it. Modia Jewels, how pretty is that? I told my husband that my fortieth birthday gift to myself would be to change my name. He asked me the tough question, “what would you name yourself?” Honestly, I have no idea.

I find myself attracted to fine things like lace, roses and teacups; do you think that has to do with the little Scottish blood I have? I think so, there has to be some kind of genetic effect even if is just your taste, likes and dislikes. It is very interesting to look within and find ancestral characteristics of people you have not ever met. I wonder if Modia Jewels would like me? She doesn’t know I exist, or does she? She died giving birth to her third child sometime in the twenties, they named her baby girl “jewels”, just jewels. Jewels died with her mama. That we found out recently from our new relatives. Isn’t that interesting?  My grandmother never knew she had a baby sister and she never knew why her mama died. They told her that she died of a broken heart because their father died a few months before his pregnant wife.

I don’t like the name Mudhee (that’s how it is pronounced in Arabic), although it has a sexy meaning. It makes me feel sad and gives my heart a heavy feeling of rejection. Why is that? Is it because I don’t relate to the Bedouin culture? Or is it because of the reaction I get when people ask me my name. They react with a shocked look and say something like this “what? Your name is Mudhee? That’s old and very Bedouin! You don’t look like a Mudhee. I imagined you to be a big fat old lady with a deep voice”. I smile and that feeling casts itself over me like a cloud. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy BIRTH day MOM!


Today is a special day! It is my birthday ...however it is my mom's achievement. I would like to extend a special thank you to my mom! You did it! You survived labor and brought life into this world. Thank you for giving me 39 years of life, unconditional love, support, and a warm home with a father, siblings, pets, horse-riding, art and music lessons, an education, and much much more. I love you. And happy BIRTH day to you!!!!!!!!!

The Truth about ASPARTAME!

The information below was taken from a presentation by Suheir Khalil, Clinical Dietitician

This article is meant to put your mind at ease about the notorious artificial sweetener Aspartame. I have discussed this substance with health professionals and come to the following conclusions based on scientific facts. I will begin with the definition of Artificial Sweeteners; these are synthetic sugar substitutes derived from naturally occurring substances, including corn, herbs, or sugar. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than regular sugar. Artificial sweeteners were designed to be a lower calorie alternative to sugar. These substitutes mimic the flavor of sugar but with virtually no caloric energy.

Well-known artificial sweeteners are Aspartame and Saccharine; these low-calorie sweeteners are used to sweeten a variety of low- and reduced-calorie foods and beverages such as diet sodas, chewing gum, powdered soft drinks, candies, gelatins, dessert mixes, puddings and fillings, frozen desserts and yogurt. These include low-calorie tabletop sweeteners such as Tropicana Slim, Sweet n Low, and Equal. Artificial sweeteners are approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar; they taste like sugar, can enhance fruit flavors, save calories and do not contribute to tooth decay.

Believe it or not products sweetened with Aspartame can be useful as part of a healthful diet. Aspartame is composed of amino acids, aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methyl ester. Amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins. Aspartic acid and phenylalanine are found naturally in protein containing foods, including meats, grains and dairy products. Methyl esters are also found naturally in many foods such as fruits and vegetable and their juices.

The safety of Aspartame has been the subject of several political and medical controversies; there have been Congressional hearings and Internet deceptive claims since its initial approval for use in food products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1974. These accusations vary from causing hyperactivity in children to causing diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. A 2007 medical review on the subject concluded that due to the weight of existing scientific evidence that indicates that Aspartame is safe at current levels of consumption it is considered a healthy and acceptable non-nutritive sweetener. Aspartame is safe, however only for those who suffer from the genetic condition phenylketonuria (PKU) must avoid it, because its metabolic breakdown produces phenylalanine, which increases the severity of their rare disease.

Over the years many research studies have been conducted to test a number of health effects of varying levels of aspartame; these included ingestion of large amounts that far exceed the acceptable daily intake, on animals and humans. In addition to healthy adults and children, studies also looked at effects on adults and children with diabetes, hyperactive and sugar-sensitive children, and people with Parkinson's disease and depression.

The Expert Panel's evaluation concluded the following:

·      Allegations spread via the Internet and the media by a few individuals that aspartame may be associated with a myriad of ailments are not based on science. These have come to be called “urban myths.”

·      Aspartame does not cause cancer according to the American Cancer Society, the FDA and the National Cancer Institute.

·      There was no increase in brain tumors or any other type of cancer during research.

·      When aspartame is digested, the body breaks it down into its components, aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol, which are consumed in much greater amounts in common foods, such as milk, meat, dried beans, fruits and vegetables.

·      The body handles the components from aspartame in the same way it handles them when derived from other foods.

·      Aspartame does not enter the bloodstream and therefore cannot travel to essential organs including the brain. Thus, there is no physiological reason why aspartame could cause cancer.

Rest assured Aspartame is not dangerous to consume. It has been tested for more than three decades, in more than 200 studies, with the same result: Aspartame is safe for use. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner noted, "Few compounds have withstood such detailed testing and repeated close scrutiny, and the process through which aspartame has gone should provide the public with additional confidence of its safety."

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Power Struggle (part-six)

Fahad sat up in bed; he couldn’t stop hearing the screams of his son over and over in his head. “I have to bring them home. It has been three weeks and I have no role in my son’s life. Maybe if I held him I could keep him quiet. I’m his father; he is my son. I’ll bring them home with me tomorrow after work. It has been too long. How do other couples do it? I swear that with the next baby, I am forcing Sarah to stay home with me,” he said to himself.
Morning came quickly, but Sarah could not open her eyes when she heard her son screaming again the same way he did during the night. Norah rushed in. “What? What is going on? Poor, poor boy, have you been screaming all night?” Norah picked the baby up out of his crib and carried him out the door. “You stay with me,” Norah whispered to the screaming baby, “let your mother sleep,” and she closed the bedroom door. Sarah was relieved to be alone and left to sleep. She closed her eyes and felt her breasts throb with milk. The pressure eased as the milk dripped into the breast pads and she fell fast asleep.
Sarah awoke that afternoon with unbearable pressure in her breasts; the pain was excruciating. The skin of her breasts was tight and red. She walked into the bathroom and stared at herself in the mirror. Oh my God! I can’t bear the pain. “Mama!!” Sarah’s screams echoed down the halls.
Sarah and her mother spent the rest of the day applying hot compresses to the breasts in an attempt to relieve her pain. Norah’s recommendation to Sarah was to rest her breasts and not give Abdulrahman any feeds directly from the breast, because her milk was now too much and may be infected. Sarah was relieved by her mother’s advice for two reasons. First, it was validated by her mother that now she had too much milk, second, she could not bear the pain and pressure in her breast and was happy not breastfeed the baby. That afternoon, Abdulrahman was bottle fed all the breast-milk that Sarah was able to express with an electric pump in an attempt to lessen the abundant milk supply. However, without Sarah and Norah’s knowledge, the hot compresses and pumping kept the blood flowing and increased the swelling of the breast and the production of milk, causing no relief for the pain. Sarah cried.
In the evening, Fahad came over to pick up Sarah and Abdulrahman to visit the pediatrician to discover the reason behind the baby’s crying fits. Norah was reluctant to let Sarah go, but she did not want to fight with Fahad, as he seemed very determined to take them.
Sarah’s breasts hurt as she watched the pediatrician check Abdulrahman. The baby screamed, which made her breasts fill up with milk and throb; her breasts were so engorged that they no longer dripped as they did before. This made Norah believe that Sarah’s breasts were infected with mastitis. Sara asked the pediatrician, “Why is he screaming like that? He screamed for hours last night, and I didn’t know what to do.”
The doctor spoke with great confidence. “Maybe your milk is not satisfying him enough. He may need more than you can provide.” His words did not go down well with Sarah, because she knew in her heart that she had plenty of milk, and the evidence was that her milk had been leaking through her clothes. She dared not explain to the doctor what was happening with her body, as it would be too embarrassing to describe to him her breasts and how they were full with milk. “I think you should try giving him a lactose-free artificial milk formula. This is a new kind that might ease his suffering,” the pediatrician recommended. Sarah smiled politely and packed up her baby and his diaper bag. She and Fahad thanked the doctor and left the clinic.
In the car, Sarah cried. As soon as Fahad asked her why she was crying, she began to sob. Her feelings of fear, frustration, and confusion were out of control. “I don’t understand why everybody thinks I don’t have milk, or don’t have enough milk, or that my milk might be the reason that Abdulrahman is crying. I want to be a good mother, but my mother always makes me feel like I don’t know enough. I know that she has good intentions, but her statements are strong. I feel like she knows more than I do, which is true. I don’t understand why Allah would create a mother’s body to make milk, but then gives her a baby that cries all the time and is harmed by that exact milk! How can this be?”
“Sarah, my dear, don’t be upset. Relax. Please don’t cry. It is just a matter of time and you will be in our home and together we can do what is best for Abdulrahman. Just relax, and do what you think is best for the baby now. Listen to your mom, because she has experience, and breastfeed him every time that you can. If he cries and shows that he is still hungry after you breastfeed him, give him the bottle of the lactose- free milk. That way you are pleasing everyone—your mother, Allah, the doctor, and Abdulrahman.” Fahad realized the pressure that Sarah was under, and he felt that he needed to give her culturally appropriate advice that would not confuse her further or cause any more distress. Sarah smiled and her shoulders dropped as she stared at her beautiful baby sleeping in her arms. It is not customary for families to use car seats for children and infants in Saudi Arabia.
Sarah and Fahad felt comfortable with their decision. It is typical for a young couple to try to please everybody in their social circle. Day by day, Sarah’s frustration with her mother subsided, especially when she moved back to her home with Fahad. However, she still struggled with breastfeeding Abdulrahman. The only times she could breastfeed him without a screaming session was when he was asleep. On good nights, the baby suckled gently at her breast as if he was soothing himself on a pacifier. This was okay with Sarah because she felt that she was doing her best and she was feeding him despite her severe reduction in milk supply.
Sarah shared with her friends that she was still breastfeeding him at two months. Many smiled in disbelief and others scorned her about breast milk not being nutritious or satisfying enough for a two-month-old baby boy. She heard comments like, “Poor boy, he will not be full if you only breastfeed. I hope you are giving at least one feed a day of formula,” “When you breastfeed you are tied down, and the baby does not sleep well at night,” “How can you breastfeed? Your breasts are so small, I’m sure you don’t have enough.” These comments hurt Sarah, but confirmed what her mother had been telling her all along. Everybody was saying the same thing, so it must be true. Sarah breastfed Abdulrahman as much as she could, but by the age of four months, he went on a breast refusal strike and weaned himself.
Two months later, it was seven o’clock in the morning and Sarah hadn’t slept yet. She was rocking
Abdulrahman as he lay in her lap half-awake. Fahad was at a loss and did not know what to do to help; this was the fourth time that his now six-month-old son had suffered from an ear infection in just a few weeks. “His temperature won’t go down” Sarah said to Fahad with a weak and tired whisper. “As long as we are giving him the medications there is nothing we can do,” Fahad responded to her quietly. The pediatrician’s voice repeated over and over in Fahad’s head. He could hear him explain that their son could suffer from chronic otitis media (ear infections) if they were not careful, and that would mean surgery to insert tubes in the eardrums to protect any potential hearing loss in the future. The doctor’s voice was interrupted by a piercing wail coming from Abdulrahman. Fahad jumped and ran over to his baby and tried to calm him down, he continued to ask, “what can I give you to help?”
All parents strive to provide for their children the best opportunities for health, education, and wealth. 

However, some parents may not realize how valuable and influential the practice of effective breastfeeding is on a child’s wellbeing. Unfortunately, in the Middle East breastfeeding is not cherished as an investment that deserves the time and attention. The short story demonstrates how breastfeeding is recommended in a Saudi community but it is not supported. In most cases even if a mother and father have every intention to breastfeed their child the surrounding environment does not support it therefore forcing it to fail. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Power Struggle (part-five)

The struggles went on. Three weeks after delivery, Sarah continued to struggle with breastfeeding baby Abdulrahman. Norah continued to struggle with Sarah over motherhood. And Fahad continued to struggle with the loneliness that fatherhood brought him. 

Abdulrahman needed to be on a sleep and feed schedule that all babies were customarily put on as newborns. According to his grandmother Norah, “This feed and sleep on demand jargon is not acceptable!” Norah was training Sarah well for motherhood, according to her own experience. She felt that she had the experience and she knew well that carrying and holding the baby too much would only cause him to be spoiled and more demanding. Norah’s role was not unusual. In the Middle East, grandmothers usually take their daughters in and train them on how to feed and care for their new babies. Some believe that these women live vi- cariously through their daughters during this time. “My dear daughter, you already fed him, why is he crying again,” Norah asked Sarah as she walked into the guest bedroom where Sarah and her baby had been staying for the past three weeks. Sarah was carrying a screaming Abdulrahman over her shoulder as tears ran down her face. “I don’t know Mama, I just breastfed him and now he’s screaming again. Do you think he wants the bottle and not my breast? When I was feeding him, he was biting me and it hurt so badly but I forced him and I tolerated the pain, just like you told me to do.” 

“Sarah?” Norah questioned, “What if you don’t have enough milk. Maybe your breasts are too small to feed a healthy boy. Do you think maybe you are just like me and my sisters? We never had enough milk. Poor thing, I was hoping you would end up like your father’s sisters and breastfeed for two years.”
Sarah felt the cloud of misery settle itself heavily over her head. Norah based much of her advice on personal opinions and what she heard other women talk about in the community. It is not unusual for an Arab mother to impose her personal beliefs on her daughter without any proper training or scientific knowledge. These statements are common and are meant as insinuations to influence the daughter’s own beliefs and thoughts about herself. “Mama, I have milk! Look! It is dripping down my clothes. My breasts are not that small, but when he is breastfeeding, he cries. The book says that you can’t give a bottle if you want to breastfeed, because the baby might get nipple confusion. Maybe he has nipple confusion.” Sarah didn’t know enough to decide whether or not Abdulrahman was suffering from nipple confusion, although her intuition was correct.
“Sarah, please! Don’t believe everything you read. He’s only a baby, what does he know? How can he be confused? He doesn’t even think. He knows that your breasts are no good and that is why he cries. Maybe your milk is salty, or too light, or it hurts his tummy. Here, let me have him, I prepared his bottle about an hour ago, the milk is not bad yet.”
Many Arab families believe that babies don’t have feelings or thoughts and that they are trainable and become accustomed to what the mother enforces on them. Families in the Middle East and similar cultures often blame the mother’s milk for the failure of breastfeeding, and it is common to claim that a woman’s milk is light, salty, or causes vomiting.

Norah grabbed Abdulrahman once again, settled with him on the bed, and gently placed the plastic nipple dripping with artificial formula milk into his mouth. The baby sucked and sucked, as he learned to do in the hospital nursery, until his little tummy was full and he calmly fell asleep. Sarah sat in the armchair across the room and wept; she held her full breasts with both hands and watched her milk stream down her skin, soaking her nightgown for another night. Sarah’s instinct told her that she had to breastfeed, but her ignorance did not allow her. The maternal hormones flowed through Sarah’s blood as she watched her baby sleep in his grandmother’s arm. She had the urge to grab him away and run home with him, but the traditional role of respect and honor for her mother controlled her and forced her to keep quiet and give in to sadness and what was called the baby blues.
It was a few minutes past midnight, and Sarah woke up to a screaming baby. He screamed so loud and forcefully that she felt hysteria taking over her mind. Sarah held Abdulrahman in her arms and bounced him gently to calm him down, but the screaming went on. She sat down and gently pressed his mouth against her breast, but the screaming continued. Her milk flowed, but he turned his face and screamed. He tight- ened his tiny body and his face turned blue. She stood up and threw him over her shoulder to help relieve him of a burp or gas trapped in his tiny tummy, but the screaming continued. He screamed and screamed until the small tears flowed out of his eyes as he cried with pain. One hour later, Sarah could no longer tolerate the screaming. She asked herself, “Should I give him medication? I heard my friends talking about a medi- cation to calm the baby down. What was it? Where do I get it from? I can’t. I can’t do this anymore.” Sarah picked up the phone and called Fahad. “Fahad, my love, I’m sorry to call you so late in the night, are you sleeping?”
“Sarah?” Fahad was startled. “What’s wrong? Why is he screaming like that?”
“Wallah (in God’s name), I don’t know, he’s been screaming for over an hour now! And I’m worried, I don’t know why.”
“Where is your mother? Wake her up!”
“I can’t. Poor thing, she has been taking care of him all day. I want her to rest. Anyway, she will prob- ably just give him a bottle. I feel like she doesn’t want me to breastfeed, but I feel bad about thinking that way. Of course, she wants the best for me. Maybe I am just like her and her sisters and I don’t have enough milk, but Fahad, wallah, the milk is pouring out onto my clothes.”
“Sarah, leave the breastfeeding now; try to make him stop screaming. How can you stand it? I’m not there and it is driving me crazy!”
“I can’t, I’ve tried everything. Can you come over and take him to the doctor with me?”
“Now? It is two o’clock in the morning! There is no doctor clinic open now; we will have to take him to the emergency room.”
“No, no, khalas (it’s ok), I’ll try to give him a bottle of yansoon, maybe it will settle his tummy. I miss you.” “Me too; I’ll come over after work. Bye.” Yansoon is an herbal tea made up of anise seeds and caraway seeds boiled in water with natural sugar to sweeten it; the drink is used to relieve colic in babies.
Sarah looked at her screaming baby, his little face looked so stressed and miserable. She reached for the prepared bottle of herbal tea, a concoction of yansoon, caraway, and sugar. It was cold, so she placed it in the bottle warmer for a few minutes to make it warm. Abdulrahman gulped the warm tea down and continued to whine as he fell asleep. Sarah felt alone. It was a weird feeling of relief and sadness; her life had been changed forever. She had been looking forward to motherhood, but now she realized that it was not fun; it was exhausting, confusing, and scary. Now that Abdulrahman was quiet, Sarah changed his diaper and gave him his midnight feed. She offered her breast and he suckled happily while his mother held him, enduring the pain. Suddenly the world seemed bright, and happiness filled both their hearts.

Sarah did not realize that the artificial formula milk
was causing her baby to suffer from gas and hard stool. She also did not know that the more she fed him from a bottle with an artificial teat, the more he would suffer from nipple confusion, the more she would suffer from cracked nipples, and the more likely he would be to reject her breast. Norah did not know that telling Sarah to feed her baby from the breast less frequently would mean Sarah would have less milk. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Power Struggle (part-four)

As soon as Fahad fastened his seatbelt, he called his best friend Mohammad. 
It is very common for Arab men to have a best friend with whom they share their worries and from whom to seek advice. 
“Salam! Give me your congrats, my wife delivered our son. Alhamdulillah he is well, and she is okay.”
“Mabrook (congratulations), mabrook; should we say Abu Mohammad (father of Mohammad) or are you thinking of something else?” Mohammad was very happy for his friend. “Wallah I don’t know. I need to consult with my father because Sarah wants to name him Khalid after her mother’s father and I’m not happy with that, because everybody will think that I am a weak husband. What do you think?”
“My friend, if that is the way it is, just go safe and name him Abdulrahman after your father. That is our tradition, and it always works for the best. Her family cannot argue with you, and your father will be very
pleased. You will also maintain your position in the family that way. Otherwise, you are in a losing battle with her family for eternity.”
Fahad knew Mohammad was right, so he made arrangements to register the baby’s name as Abdulrahman as soon as possible. Sarah would be happy that the name is not Mohammad, and his parents would be very happy with his decision.
Sarah spent two days in hospital with her female family members and friends; they visited while drinking coffee and tea and snacked on dates, biscuits, and chocolate. Her hospital room was decorated lavishly with baby bottle shaped ornaments hanging from the ceiling over her bed, the door to her room had a large welcome baby boy sign on it with two large floor arrangements, and the tables were garnished with trays of ornate dishes filled with flowers, chocolate, dates, and biscuits. The women laughed and giggled over stories of births, marital relationships, schools, childrearing practices, and parenthood. Sarah was happy to be the center of attention and was pleased that the nice nurses took good care of her son and fed him well in the nursery while she rested with her guests. This was her mother’s recommendation. She would not want her son to be exposed to diseases and illnesses that the guests might have unexpectedly brought in with them to her hospital room, would she?
“It is much better for the baby, and this will give your body enough time for your milk to come in,” Norah mistakenly advised. Fahad called a few times during Sarah’s stay in hospital and asked about his son, not disclosing to Sarah what he had decided to name the baby and leaving it a surprise.
Sarah’s first night at her mother’s house was a disaster. She ached with exhaustion and didn’t know what to do with this screaming stranger. He screamed all night as she tried to put him to the breast for his first feed. Her mother stood by closely and assured her that her milk still hadn’t come in, and it would be best to give him formula to stop the crying and try again for the next feed. “But mama, the book said that I should feed him at the breast when he’s hungry. I didn’t get a chance to read the entire book, but it said something about feeding on demand. Mama, please let me try. He is hungry, and I want to try.” 
This panicked behavior is commonly seen in postpartum mothers. After the festivities are over and real life sets in, mothers realize that they have an interest in breastfeeding. Mothers such as Sarah may have purchased a few books and skimmed through them a few days before delivery. 

“My dear daughter, you just said it. He is hungry, you don’t have enough milk yet, and your nipples are very small. Just let me feed him, and you can try again later. It is sinful to let him cry like this.” Norah grabbed Abdulrahman out of his mother’s arms and stuffed a full bottle of artificial milk in his tiny mouth as she sat down comfortably on the bed. This practice was famil- iar to her and she acted naturally, the same way she had after delivering her own children.
Sarah complained to her mother, “Mama, Fahad really wants me to breastfeed; he said that it is recom- mended in the Quran, I have to at least give it a try.”
“My dear, of course you have to breastfeed because it is recommended in the Quran; however, it is bad enough that Fahad didn’t let you choose the boy’s name, and now you’re going to let him tell you how to
feed the baby? He is not a mother, and he doesn’t know how hard it is. He would die if he heard this screaming. Anyway, you don’t have milk yet. Believe me, I know. What do you want to feed the poor boy, air?!” 
In the Middle East, most mothers get into a power struggle with their daughters’ husbands. It is very frequent for the daughter/wife to be caught in the middle. This example also demonstrates how breastfeeding is encouraged in the Middle East, but not supported. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Power Struggle (part-three)

“Sarah you are fragile and inexperienced and cannot endure the hardships of motherhood. I’ve had five babies myself, and I know how to prepare the soothing teas for the baby and special foods for you just like my mother did for me. You cannot do it alone. We will have a great time when you deliver, I am so excited!” Norah prepared her kitchenette with new bottles, teats, a sterilizer, and of course, the most probably needed artificial milk formula for the baby.
Labor started, and it started fast that night. Fahad saw Sarah suffering in pain with every contraction. He quickly jumped out of bed, got dressed, and threw Sarah’s abaya on over her nightdress as she wobbled to the door. Sarah moaned and groaned in the car on the way to the hospital. “Ya Allah, I’m sorry I upset my husband. The pain is unbearable, I am sorry. Ya Allah, please stop the pain! Forgive me Fahad, forgive me,” Sarah wept.

 Eighteen hours later...“Sarah gave birth to a lovely baby boy this morning” Norah boasted to her friend over the phone. “No, I didn’t attend the delivery, I waited outside. You know I couldn’t handle seeing my beloved daughter in pain,” Norah explained to her friend. They said their goodbyes and she hung up the phone. Sarah’s father walked in the sitting room, and the proud grandfather asked his wife if she was going to the hospital soon, as it was almost five in the afternoon. Norah explained that she was waiting for the florist to send his driver to meet her at the hospital with the flower arrangements for the hospital room. Sarah’s parents paid several thousands of riyals to ensure that her room was decorated well to receive the congratulating guests.
Sarah and Fahad were delighted that the delivery was over. Sarah was left in her hospital room to rest and remember her delivery experience. As soon as the baby was born, he was whisked off to the nursery to be weighed, bathed, and fed, only to be brought back to his mother upon her request. Most Middle Eastern mothers prefer for the baby to remain "safe" in the nursery so that the mothers can "rest and visit" with her congratulating friends and family. Not many women understand the importance of early initiation of breastfeeding or understand that it is essential to build up the immunity of the infant with colostrum in the first hours.
Fahad was being kind, especially after his wife so earnestly apologized for last night’s comments and asked her what she would like to name their son. “Khalid” was her request, but his mood suddenly changed and he said, “In sha Allah (By the will of Allah).” Norah suddenly burst into the room with hugs, kisses, and smiles. She was so very happy and delighted at the birth of her first grandson. “Ma sha Allah, Fahad; I am so proud of you. You endured her screaming and pain, what a brave man to be attending your wife’s delivery. These are the men of the modern day. Khalas ya habeebi; you go home and rest. Come and visit us when we are settled at home. I will take good care of her and the baby. Bye!” Fahad felt like he was being pushed out of the room, which he was, of course. It is very common for the Middle Eastern mother to take charge of her daughter and the new baby and to play a major role in decision making about feed- ing, changing, bathing, and all other care routines that in- volve a baby. Fahad was just thinking about the baby’s name, but decided not to discuss the subject in front of his mother-in-law. Fahad smiled at Sarah and quietly walked away. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Power Struggle (part-two)

Sarah placed her nightgown and robe in her suit- case and reached for her feather slippers. Her pregnant belly was too big, so Fahad kindly pushed them toward her and asked, “Are you really going to wear those?”
“Yes, I have to. There are going to be so many guests coming to see me and the baby in the hospital. I have to look nice. I have arranged for the hairdresser to do my hair soon after I deliver too,” Sarah responded with a smile.
“Why are you packing so many things, how long do you plan on staying in the hospital?” Fahad asked, already knowing the answer, but hoping he would get a different response.
“Fahad, I already discussed this with you, Habeebi, you know that this is our tradition, and we can’t change it. You know that my mother decided that it is a better idea for me to go to the hospital from her house and not from our home. After delivery, all the girls stay at their mothers’ houses for the forty days. It’s not like you and I know anything about babies; we can’t do things on our own. What if the baby cries? I am going to be too tired and will need my mother’s help. At least that is what all the women say. I’ve never had a baby, so I am going to need my mother’s help.”
“Sarah, are you telling me that I will be all alone for six weeks? That is a long time. What if I want to see the baby? What if I want to carry him, and get to know him? I can try to help you, and your mom can come here to help you if she wants,” Fahad said with sadness in his voice.
“Fahad, khalas (enough), this is our tradition, and you have to abide by it. This is how it is here in Saudi. Where do you think you are, America? Didn’t I already tell you that mama and my sisters invited their friends and family for dinner tonight? We are going to be working  on  the  final  preparations  for  all  the  d├ęcor,  chocolates, and guest favors. We’re not going to be the ones who change this tradition,” Sarah responded harshly.
“Fine, go. But choosing the name will be mine. You have to leave something to me. He will be my son, bearer of my name! Oh, and don’t forget to pack your books. You need to learn about breastfeeding, or is your mom going to do that for you too?” Fahad left the bedroom, sat on the living room couch, and turned on the TV. “Sarah! Tell Fatima (the maid) to prepare my dinner, I’m hungry.”

A  huge  cloud  of  sadness  floated  over  Sarah’s  head.   She suddenly felt alone and lost. Sarah truly loved Fahad and did not want to hurt or upset him, but he just didn’t understand the importance of her mother’s role in her delivery. Besides, Sarah didn’t want to embarrass her mother in front of friends and family by staying with her husband and resting at home during her last month of pregnancy. Her mother had repeatedly told her that she would need her help, that she might need to use formula because she might not have enough milk to breastfeed. Besides, her breasts were small, and she would not be able to carry the baby and address all his needs by herself. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Power Struggle (part-one)

The following short story is fictional and not based on any real people or true story. Any similarities to actual experiences are completely coincidental. The story depicts my experiences with average Middle Eastern families faced with the arrival of a new member and the interaction between the family members and the placement of roles. I hope you enjoy the read and perhaps you can relate to some of the frustrations that I work with.


“What about Mohammad? Let’s just give the baby a name that can be universal and accepted by all,” Fahad recommended to his wife, who was thirty-nine weeks pregnant, while he stood in the doorway of the master bedroom after coming home from a long day at work.
“Assalamu Alikum,” she responded quietly, “When did you get home? I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Wa Alaikum Alsalam,” Fahad sighed with a tone of frustration, because he noticed that she was packing her bags.
Sarah looked over her shoulder and saw that Fahad seemed upset. “It should be the other way around, you say AssalmuAlikum first. I am the one at home, and you were the one who walked in—Islam 101!” Sarah responded to Fahad while trying to figure out his frustration in her mind.
Fahad tore the ghutrah and igal off his head, threw them on the bed, sat down on the plush chair in their bedroom, and took off his shoes. He didn’t make any eye contact and he didn’t say anything more. Sarah continued to have the conversation about the name Mohammad. “But that is such a common name nowadays. I want my son to be special. I want him to have a strong name, one that is appropriate for a little boy and for a man. Mohammad is nice, and it is the name of our beloved prophet, but today, people name anyone and everyone Mohammad—men on the street, strangers, waiters, cleaners. I don’t know; I have to think about it. I should ask my parents. My father wants us to name him Abdalaziz, and my mother wants us to name him after her father, Khalid. You know how she feels about my father not letting her name any of my brothers after her father. My poor mother, she had to name her boys after the men in my father’s family, so typical of her times. It would make her so happy, husband is different, right? You are going to let me name my son whatever name I want, right? Well, we can decide on the name together. We’re not going to name him Abdulrahman after your father or Hassan after your grandfather, right? You are a modern man, one who lets his wife participate in these personal decisions. I am so lucky.”