At the crack of dawn

As I sat in the doctor’s office and listened as she threw her scary jargons around, something about ‘hyperstimulation’ all I heard was that my ovaries had a mind of their own and I was not going to be pregnant this month. Tears rolled down my brown cheeks. I rushed home to put away all of my unused pregnancy test strips. The ones I used certainly didn’t prove that I was finally going to feel like crap for nine months. My period was just late and the doctor had made it clear I wasn’t pregnant. I just had an hyperstimulated ovary. Lucky me.

I had a bath and got ready for bed. The hubby was away so no need for dinner, I said to myself,  ‘I would just drink garri later’. The cassava paste always made me feel better. I could hear my sister Fati say ‘jenebu it is only you that can drink garri at night’.
My name is Zainab, but Fati couldn’t pronounce it as a baby and then Jenebu stuck because it was the local and easiest way to say it. Everyone calls me Jenebu except my husband Amir. He calls me Zainab.
I have been married to Amir for 10 years, but he stopped being the love of my life 2 months after the wedding. He was the first man I knew and married him at 16 fresh out of high school. After my first menstrual period in my matrimonial home, I watched my darling turn into a monster. By my second period, he had divorced me. Luckily my aunt got on her knees and begged him. She even played the ‘orphan’ card. You see my parents died 2 years prior.
I have not only been insulted but also assaulted and violated and I have borne it all because no one else would marry a barren woman. I have been called a lot in these 10 years, but only one has hurt. He said I was unattractive, that I was like a man to him after which he forced himself on me. Once I was so excited about my friend’s wedding, he banned me from going and said, “After all, they all get pregnant and then you tell me you want to go for naming ceremony”. I never went to any weddings again except his family members to which he always accompanied me. There too, everything has to be linked to my barrenness. Like this time where I mistakenly broke a tumbler as I was doing dishes when his mother said “Shegiya! How can you hold cup when you can’t hold on to your husband’s semen?”. Another time, he bought a different brand of rice and I cooked my normal measure.  The final quantity was not as expected so I said, “This rice doesn’t swell” and he replied, “It’s barren like you”.

He had ended my relationship with everyone except Juwayriah and Nneka my best friends. We go way back and they understand. After my 3rd year of marriage, Nneka advised me to try something new more like someone new. The next year, Juwayriah helped me speak to a mallam who needed my husband’s semen. I did not go through with both offers.

I was diagnosed once with PID short for the pelvic inflammatory disease just after my wedding, but the doctor said it was because I wasn’t cleaning up well after intercourse. I was naive that way and I did not know better back then.

To speed my chances to procreate, I took Clomid for the next 18 months after the PID was treated. The doctor stopped prescribing after six months because she did not want to put me at risk for cysts, but I went against medical advice. Lucky me no cysts instead I am stuck with an over stimulated ovary. So now you get this picture.
Amir came back from his trip and stopped talking to me or eating. So this blessed day, we attended a wedding with his pregnant sister when she choked as she was eating in a bid to pour her a glass of water in a hurry, I  spilled some  and she said “Amir, this woman is useless, marry another one, we aren’t barren in our family; after all, this is the 9th child am carrying”. He responded as he averted his eyes from her, “I’m working on it”.

That day as I said my prayers before bed, I wept my heart out asking Allah to take away my problems. I woke up the next morning and realised I did not hear Amir go to the mosque so I went into his room to wake him. We have not slept in the same room since he pronounced the first talaq ten years ago. He just summons me when he needs me and I leave to my room when he was done. I called his name a few times and he didn’t respond so I shook him. Then I realised he was ice cold and not breathing. Fear sat in heart and I started trembling. I shouted for help and the neighbours came in and we rushed him to the hospital. The doctor confirmed him dead. He had a heart attack. I started crying not because of my loss but because that was the answer to my prayer that I wanted…at least a part of me.
Four months later, I was putting his clothes into boxes when an envelope fell. I opened it and saw a test result pronouncing him infertile due to the total destruction of cells by an infection. I looked at the date… 21st July 2005. The same day he pronounced the first talaq. I hugged myself and wept.

Two years later am staring out my window with my hand on my bump as I feel the twins scramble for space thinking about this joy I feel at 26 after  10years in hell when my new husband Umar walks in with a tub of my favourite ben and jerry’s chubby hubby ice cream. “What are you thinking of?” He asked. I replied, “How blessed I am”. “Masha Allah” we both chorus at the same time and laugh. A thought crosses my mind. ‘eleven years later and my Clomid is paying off ‘. Then my heart whispers…”Alhamdulillah for early marriage”.


Shegiya – An abusive word meaning adulterous daughter

Mallam – A man people believe to be knowledgeable in the Deen but sometimes is just a native doctor.

Talaq – divorce which is usually final when pronounced three times in Islam.


I wrote this a while back. It is my first work of fiction ever. Please let me know what you think. I am open to criticism.


53 thoughts on “At the crack of dawn

  1. ameenadmg says:

    Awww this is such a beautiful story and also beautidully written. And to think it was ur first story, kudos! Why Amir had to behave like a monster though when he knew he was the one responsible for her infertility, beats me. Definitely its guilt and a bit of pride. Whatever the reason, he was a monster. And i pray men like him are exposed soon enough.
    All in all, it was really a beautiful story. Weldone Umm bilal once more!


  2. Papatia says:

    Masha’Allah, I felt the pain. When I get a chance next week, I’ll send you a word doc with my comments and suggestions. It felt so real and it’s real because many women face these issues. Masalam honey.


  3. Ayesha says:

    MashaAllah, you are indeed very talented!!! This story took me on a real rollercoaster of emotions. Well done! I want to know what happened between her iddah, and how she gopt married again… There needs to be a part 2! lol


  4. Ayesha says:

    MashaAllah, you are indeed very talented!!! This story took me on a real rollercoaster of emotions. Well done! I want to know what happened between her iddah, and how she got married again… There needs to be a part 2! lol


  5. Papatia says:

    I love the revision masha’Allah. Now, I get a clear sense of the timeline 🙂 and you have more details. Just a few punctuation issues but sis, this is very good for a second draft. Alf mabrook! ^_^ . You could continue telling us more about Umar, hehe :p, so that we can be hooked on your storytelling abilities!


  6. maryamkabir says:

    It is so beautiful and so amazingly written sister. I’m 18 years old and so scared of marriage. When I was reading this my heart was beating so fast because I could see myself as the married girl. Oh man that was intense … Keep up with writing !


  7. aussiepursuit says:

    From the story it seems like Amir wanted to free her from his infertility but hesitated to come clean with what the real problem was and that is why he gave her the first talaaq. But she stayed. He kept pushing and pushing her away by making her feel uncomfortable about her alledged infertility, but she did not leave his side. May be in the end he took his own life to free her, or may be it was a real heart attack as a side effect of the infection. Thus I am not quite sure why she said his death was the answer to her prayer. I mean what was she praying about? That quite puzzled me.


      • aussiepursuit says:

        I kind of think that being just relieved at someone’s death to get out of your own misery is kinda mean, even though he pretended to be like a monster. Being sad about the death, but realising that this is her way out and there was a hikmah behind his death sounds more rational. There may be other possibilities than his death, such as he tells her what the real thing was and she could decide to leave him or to stay without telling everybody about his infertility, so if she prayed about this, this possiblity can still happen, not only his death. I think it sounds rather unsympathetic if the protagonist is just relieved by the death of the husband without realising where he is coming from, especially after discovering his infertility test papers. She should have added 2+2 and realise where he was coming from, so that at least everyone gets a closure, including the one who acted like a monster. And then she realises this is how God decide it to be, and she moves on, gets a husband and even a baby, probably as a reward for her patience.


      • ummbilal01 says:

        She never asked Allah to kill him. She just wanted a way out and never wanted to leave because she had nowhere to go. His death was a relief to her such that, now I am free. But she was still sad too as she did not know at the time he was infertile. The wisdom of Allah now started to on fold.


      • aussiepursuit says:

        First of all I think the story is beautifully written lolz… please don’t get me wrong. And I did not say she prayed for him to be killed. But may be to make the story more wise, it would be better to give closure not only for the narrator, but also Amir, the one who acted like a monster. A bit explanation in the end why he did what he did. And then may be some sort of forgiveness from her part: he could have done better and what he did was a mistake, but seeing the big picture, it is forgivable. This way the story will have more moral content and educative value. Sorry if I sound too critical. May be that’s just because I am amazed by the story 🙂


  8. umn asiya says:

    Mashaa allaah, I couldn’t stop reading. At first I thought to myself she should leave him, then subhanallah her patience pays off. Beautifully written story. I think this is such an important story that needs telling, not having children is such a taboo in some cultures. May Allah make it easy for those who are barren.


  9. Amina says:

    Captivating… a true but sad reality of many marriages today – ABUSE. May Allah(swt) save our sisters from such marriages and grant our ummah a better understanding of what an Islamic marriage truly entails


  10. Amina says:

    Captivating… a true but sad reality of many marriages today – ABUSE. May Allah(swt) save our sisters from such marriages and grant our ummah a better understanding of what an Islamic marriage truly entails


  11. Muslim Mummy says:

    Masha’Allah I enjoyed reading this! This could potentially be a full story from her marriage to her re marriage! But the moral of the story clearly comes across in the short story.


  12. MrsTee says:

    Maa shaa Allah! BarakAllaah feeki.
    As one who is going through almost four years of infertility, I keep wondering how some men are able to hide their problems from their wives while blaming her. Firstly, all hospitals we have visited test him first before facing me. I get to see the results before him. It’s even me that suggests the hospitals. More women need to be aware of the fact that infertility is not always only from the woman. Sometimes, there is just no explanation. In all, infertility is scary. It leaves one so uncertain.
    May Allah reward you.


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