People often live in a bubble, over-thinking about their jobs and material possessions. Expectant parents, on the other hand, overcome their own self, but still, they stay somehow too occupied in their own worries. However, in times of global crisis and political madness, there’s a topic that we should not push away from our thoughts and lives: the refugee crisis.
The refugee problem is a tragedy for many and even though it’s not so much reported anymore – it’s a main political and economic concern in Europe, especially in the Balkans as they are the bridge between Europe and Asia. Power, money, and irrationality worsen the situation in Syria and many other countries in the Middle East and Africa.
As a consequence, Syrian people were forced to leave their homes to stay alive. While it’s true that some people speculate with this pain trying to get a hold of a foreign citizenship, especially a German or a Scandinavian one, many people suffer in silence.
So let’s focus on these quiet but brave people. And here we’ll talk about the bravest among them all: women, with a particular focus on expectant women, who are often tortured and assaulted in times of war.
Learn about 15 things, based on stories from some refugee camps across Greece, that expectant women in the Western world wouldn’t even dare think about during pregnancy; only frights in the West, but a reality for many women from the East.
When it comes to children, in a relationship between a man and a woman, they create life and sometimes adopt children because they love each other and want to share their love with someone else: a baby, which is the “result” of their harmony and trust.
Many refugee women, however, don’t have a partner next to them. They share stories about being abandoned by their men who left their home country in order to seek a better life. Unfortunately, the miraculous feeling of being a parent was not as strong as the fear about their own survival for some men.
Other women reveal how they were left behind on their long journey for a better life. Being pregnant wasn’t a special time in their lives but a burden. They had to walk for miles and miles without any physical or emotional support.
Imagine not having someone to support you when you are upset during your constant mood swings or someone to massage you or buy the so carved pickles! Scary, isn’t it?
Having a child is accompanied by the lovely nesting syndrome of pregnancy. We all have experienced it: painting the nursery, ironing baby clothes, and putting family pictures around the house.
But refugee women don’t even have a house. Their homes don’t exist anymore. Their dream of a kids’ room and a home that smells of homemade cookies has vanished. Because bombs and guns ruin not only buildings, they take not only lives, but they kill dreams. And that’s the worst thing that can happen. Many women share how airstrikes hit their houses leaving them alone, desperate and cold.
For us, it might be difficult to imagine how all we’ve built and worked for can disappear for seconds just because strangers fight for strange causes we don’t support. But war is happening out there and that’s the reality for many pregnant refugees.
Home, partner, kids: that’s the dream for many women, workaholics or not. In the end, our family is what gives a purpose to our everyday life. Grandparents, parents, kids, and friends – so many people to love and being loved by. Nowadays, many Westerners decide to end their families due to small problems and unclear communication. Divorce is a common phenomenon, especially among young people.
However, separated families for many expectant refugees are a result of something else, something that lawyers or arguing cannot fix: war.
Leaving their families behind just to keep the life in their bellies alive is a sad reality. Many women miss their old parents, disabled relatives and lost in the ruins siblings, but they don't stop fighting for their own unborn babies.
Imagine not having anyone to share your first kicks with or anyone who’ll be happy and smile with you about your first ultrasound!
For many women in the Western world abortion is a decision. It’s a right – women should have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies, especially in a case of abuse or rape.
However, sometimes abortion can be unwanted – many refugees face the cruel fact that only by terminating their pregnancy they can continue their journey to a safer and more humane world. Can you imagine ending your unborn baby’s life not because you want, but because you have to? Can you imagine all the desperate feelings and loneliness that only a mother can feel?
In addition, performing an abortion in unsafe and not very hygienic conditions threatens the life of the mother, and many women die. In many countries abortion is still one of the main causes of death among pregnant women.
And if abortion is a choice, miscarriages are something nobody can ever plan or wish for. Imagine living with your baby under your heart for months, feeling it kicking and moving, and then losing it. Imagine having dreams about her or him growing up and try to visualize yourself talking to your belly about the future.
And now, even for a second, try to see yourself losing your child after all that love you’ve given! Painful is a word that can’t describe that image, right?
Sadly, many refugees lose their babies. Air strikes, injuries, stress or hard conditions are only some of the causes of their dreadful miscarriages. Some women share their sad stories about their miscarriages – sometimes they were so close to the country they were hoping to make their new home, and just then, after all the miles and fears, they lost their babies due to exhaustion and stress.
There is something even worse than losing an unborn child: losing a child you’ve held in your arms and sung to. Maybe mothers of preemies can imagine what it’s like to lose a newly born baby. Many expectant refugees face the scary reality of their own kids’ deaths.
Not having enough food or water and living in cold weather can be impossible for the little person and even after all the efforts of the mothers to keep their babies alive, death is the consequence of the irrational war that forced them away from home.
Many families tell stories about losing their children under the ruins of their own homes. Can you imagine that only one second – the second the bomb has been dropped, can cause an eternity of pain – a life without your child?
Pregnancy can be scary for some women because often it is associated with the fear of giving birth. While some fear the pain, other women embrace the challenge and devote their time to yoga and healthy lifestyle. Many parents have planned the birth of their child – a pool, a ball or a c-section, there’s an idea of what’s going to happen.
But many expectant women from the East don’t have a plan because they don’t even know if they’ll survive. Some give birth while carrying their belongings, others - on a boat, and often refugees give birth in front of many people as due to the horrible conditions as there’s no privacy.
Birth can be challenging because for many expectant refugees there’s no midwife to help you or a partner to hold your hand. Actually, many times hospitals are the target of attack and new mothers are in danger. Hard to imagine, but a fact!
We do fear pain, and that fear is completely normal. However, birth is becoming more and more medicalized in the West, and different medications are used prior and after birth. An epidural has helped many women have a safer and not too exhausting labor.
For many refugees, though, pain is something they cannot escape from. Imagine starting giving birth in the rain while walking through a forest without any direction, and imagine not having anyone to give you a nice massage on your lower back. We don’t want to think about it, I believe!
Well, many refugees experience that. Amani el Mekhilef, a 29-years woman and a mother of six, says that she lost her child and she was taken to a place where the baby was removed from her belly without any analgesics.
Fortunately, some expectant refugees are lucky enough to have a healthy baby. However, they lack aftercare. Infections, insufficient food, and cold weather can cause a lot of health problems for the mother and her baby.
If in the West we expect presents and greeting cards, plus that nice feeling of being a new mother that’s given birth to a little human, many women from the Middle East can hope only for food and enough clothes.
Also, we know that labor is exhausting and rest and emotional support are crucial for new mums, but many refugees lack that “privilege” as they have to continue their journey to a safer place only hours after they’ve given birth. No balloons, no chocolate, no calls from friends – on your feet with a crying and fragile baby whose life you have to keep.
Pregnancy and birth are a miracle, but we know that they are very tiring. That’s why many women in the West take some time off, try to eat healthy food and don’t feel ashamed to rest more. After birth, mothers also should try to sleep more giving more responsibilities to their partners while dealing with bleeding, breastfeeding and hormonal imbalance.
Many expectant refugees, however, can’t rest. They live in hard conditions and many share scary stories about their journeys to the West. Some had to use their shoes to prevent the boat they were on from sinking; others had to carry their toddlers for days while being pregnant.
After reaching Turkey, Greece or Italy, many refugees were sent to camps where the conditions were bad and the food was far from a nice homemade meal.
On top of that was the emotional pain and stress.
Our western culture is marked by individualism and a high desire for privacy. We share things on social media but we always try to keep things for ourselves. That’s why privacy is very important, especially for pregnant women. They don’t want to know how often they fart or burp, right?
However, lack of privacy is one of the terrible aspects of the refugee camps. Women share how they have to live with families they don’t know and how raising a child surrounded by many strangers can be hard. Especially, when living in a tent and sleeping on a mattress.
Toilets and running water are one of the great inventions of our society and we accept it for granted. However, many refugees have to use a facility outside or use a bucket instead of a proper shower. For women this can be embarrassing, especially for someone whose culture and religion insists on modesty.
Pregnant women often suffer from a hormonal imbalance and mood swings are something usual. People know that for a mother to be relaxed they have to be patient and respect her feelings. Many husbands describe their wives as different human beings while being pregnant, and let’s be honest – often as not nice human beings. And that’s still fine because of the little human in your belly.
Many expectant women, however, should hide their emotions. They don’t have privacy, as mentioned above, to cry or shout. They can’t show their fears because they have to continue in order to provide a better life for their children. Many have to overcome exhaustion and distress so they can be strong for their children. Expectant women in many refugee camps are deprived of one of the most important things: showing their emotions.
And while they have to hide their emotions, they have to be patient not only in front of other people but for their own family.
We in the West often want things now: we can’t wait for our baby orders to arrive, we can’t wait to know the gender of our little creature; we just can’t wait. But expectant refugees like the ones from Syria can’t afford to be impatient: they have to stand tall and resistant because their children depend on them.
The Greek journalist Papadopoulos has pictured Syrian refugees across different refugee camps in her home country while standing in order to show that these women are in transit. As she says, ”the amount of patience that these women have is incredible.” And that’s what every mother does: she sacrifices her life for the sake of her own children.
Another thing that’s common for many expectant refugees is that children give them meaning: they are the reason for them to continue and fight for their lives. While we have jobs and cars, and many other things to distract us, refugees have found a purpose in the most meaningful thing: their families.
The famous psychologist Frankl who survived a Nazi camp has always claimed that a meaningful life is what everyone needs. So after they’ve lost their homes, they actually found a purpose, a purpose shaped by love and sacrifice.
They are stories of people finding love in a camp. Fidaa Rahil al Saleh tells us her story of love – she met her husband in a refugee camp in Turkey and they got married soon after that nice encounter. Now they enjoy their family life and a baby.
The last thing that Westerners might find hard to believe is the fact that some women want to get pregnant and give birth only to continue our mankind. No selfish desires but a simple and natural way to continue life.
Some refugees have seen so much disaster and death, they’ve lost their kids and relatives, and they have seen many of the children of their neighbors lost under the ruins of their own homes, so they admit that their desire to have a child was born as a consequence of war. As Rim al Saleh says, “I saw many of my friends losing their children. I saw many men die. And this also made me want to have more kids.”
And if there are things that expectant refugees go through and that are hard to believe for women from the West, there is one thing in common: each mom changes the second her baby chooses her belly for a home; she enters a new stage of her life – a more spiritual life, which among all the diapers and crying, is dedicated to New Life.