Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Born into a better life than her kin

My anxieties about the vast gulf between my life here in Holland and those of many of my baby's less fortunate compatriots in Afghanistan began when she was born.

My baby was born three months ago. She is our first, a little girl with big blue eyes who becomes wildly excited, flailing her limbs and grinning toothlessly when mummy leans over the crib in the mornings to pick her up. My heart bursts every time.

Motherhood is supposed to be chaos particularly in the early days but we are settling into a gentle routine. An early feed around 6am, then a nap together, followed by a walk in the woods or the nature reserve behind our house. The Dutch air is fresh and green, the linden trees are in blossom now, releasing a sweet floral scent after a rainfall.

I carry Serena in a sling and hum or chat as she gazes at everything in this clean, new world with wonder and curiosity. When it becomes too much she turns her face inwards and falls asleep contentedly.

I will remember these precious moments for the rest of my life, well aware that they pass too quickly.

All babies in the world should have such love and security. They do not, of course. My mind sometimes wanders into dark corners, unexpectedly.

What will I tell my child about her Afghan heritage, about the little Afghan boys and girls who are not as lucky as her? I would like to collect all the toys and clothes she outgrows and when she is older, send them to a charity to help young Afghans. It would be a start.

There is a risk here of sounding trite, like parents telling children who refuse to finish their meals that people are starving in Africa - which only prompts much eye rolling. But my anxieties about the vast gulf between my life here in Holland and those of many of Serena's less fortunate compatriots began when she was born. I had a terrible experience with labour and had to undergo an emergency Caesarean.

Without a doubt, one of us, probably both, would not have survived if we had been in Afghanistan, where mothers often give birth at home on the dirt floor and their babies die as a result of unsanitary conditions. Instead I was in a wealthy country, in a hospital with access to every modern technology.

Although we have both recovered from the ordeal, I still feel privileged even doing everyday things like taking a stroll in the woods without having to worry for our safety: in Afghanistan, of course, it would be unthinkable. The villages are not safe places for mothers and their babies. Many parents will not even send their older children, particularly girls, to school because it is so dangerous.

We stop sometimes in a café so I can feed her and have a coffee. The customers are often retired couples and they smile indulgently as my baby screams for milk then settles contentedly to finish her bottle. At such times I often think of my aunt who lost her husband during the civil war but kept all six of their children safe and alive. There was no fresh milk so she gave her youngest soured milk, shaking it so the curds mixed in as much as possible. It was either that or starvation.

Even as spring turns to summer in the calm of the Netherlands, dark thoughts intrude. I want Serena to remember her childhood as one of kindness and happiness, but I don't want her to grow up ignorant of the pain and evil that also exists in this world - a world that could so easily have been hers. Is that going to be possible? Or is the divide between the two worlds impossibly unbridgeable? The doubts of motherhood …

Hamida Ghafour is a former staff writer for The National

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 An tenant in the Al Barsha area of Dubai has been sent a non-renewable contract by the landlord. Randi Sokoloff / The National

Dubai landlord refuses to pay back Rera fees after losing rent case

Keren Bobker helps a tenant who wants to know how to reclaim his RERA case fees and who has also been sent a contract with a “one-year nonrenewable” note.

 A Brabus Mercedes 6x6 Sports Utility Vehicle is readied for display during Auto China 2014 in Beijing, on April 20. Adrian Bradshaw / EPA

In pictures: Auto China 2014 exhibition

Leading automakers have gathered in Beijing for the kickoff of China’s biggest car show, but lacklustre growth and environmental restrictions in the world’s largest car market have thrown uncertainty into the mix. More than 1,100 vehicles are being showcased.

 A customer looks at a large mock-up of videogame console Game Boy.  Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP Photo

Nintendo’s Game Boy at 25: hand-held legacy lives on

Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks its 25th anniversary Monday with the portable device’s legacy living on in cutting-edge smartphone games and among legions of nostalgic fans.

 Ashish Nehra of Chennai Super Kings bowls to Kings XI Punjab at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Hard-hitting Chennai not deterred by opening loss in IPL

But some questions remain about the team's attack ahead of Monday's match against Delhi Daredevils in Abu Dhabi, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 A projectionist takes a break in the projection room at Ariana Cinema in Kabul, Afghanistan. Going to the movies, once banned under the Taliban, has become a popular form of entertainment in Kabul, but women and children rarely take part. All photos by Photo by Jonathan Saruk / Reportage by Getty Images

Afghan cinema: Forbidden Reel

The lights go down and the projector whirls into action as Sher Mohammed, 35, begins his routine, bouncing back and forth between two projectors, winding reels, and adjusting the carbon arc lamps inside the projectors.

 Business class seats inside the Emirates Airbus A380. Chip East / Reuters

In it for the long haul: flying 16 hours with Emirates to LA

Our executive travel reviewer tries out the business class offering on Emirates' longest A380 route - and finds time passing quickly.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National