I had delivered this perfect little baby boy, he was amazing and precious! I bundled him up and held him close as we made our way home in the tiny old car that his company had loaned him. Leaving the hospital was like everything else I had experienced so far, more negotiating and questioning. They objected to my release and said I was to stay 3 days, that was standard. When I refused, the first order of business was to get his permission. I would not be able to check out or take my baby without his approval. After they got his o.k. they gave me a stack of paper work to sign stating that I was leaving against the advice of the doctor. I happily signed and left. I was not excited to return to the villa but it was looking better than the hospital at this point. It was a case of everything being relative, and the villa was looking pretty good at that time.
It was a relief to be past the worry of delivery and to be home or at the villa again. In the bedroom we laid the three pads together to make one large bed. We had our blankets and pillows and the weather had cooled down nicely. We all snuggled up as we would for years to come. He slept on his own pad in another bedroom, he could not be bothered with the sound of fussing or crying babies. I was happy to just be there at that moment in time holding my children close.
My first child born in Saudi
After things returned to our old routine, boredom and reality set in quickly. I looked around me, no more jet lag, no more excuses. A bare room, no furniture, no way to call anyone and no one to call. The boys were not happy in this neighborhood school, they were of course the only Americans at the school. At night they had hours of penmanship, writing pages of Arabic letters and numbers. I had insisted on several occasions that he go in and speak to the teachers, but this did no good. Other students threw rocks at them and called them names. When they asked the teachers for help the response was, “Go throw rocks back”. The numerous trips into the school were forced on my part and resulted in resolving a current issue (such as the rocks) only to face something else. In the villa there were no pans except for a frying pan with a broken handle and a medium size pot. The stove barely functioned and there were no cupboards to put any grocery items in. I was not allowed to purchase Western products but expected to make large, elaborate meals. I tired my best to be happy and look at the bright side, as I had been told many times I was privileged and lucky. But clearly things were starting to fall apart for me and the kids. My mother taught me over the years to strive for my personal best no matter what others were doing. Looking back I guess this was my motto and what I tried to live by.
We had been told we would have full medical coverage with his job, but upon arrival found we had access to a doctor who had a tiny office in an old run down apartment building. We were allowed to have 3 people seen by him, so I took the baby for a check up. On the way out I saw a tiny bukala (neighborhood store) nearby. I asked him to stop to get milk and I quickly ran in. I saw shelves lined with chips, candy bars, pop and Western goodies. I took my chance and grabbed a handful of snacks along with a container of milk. I looked out the window to see if he was looking, but he was occupied by the chatter and commotion of my two little girls who were playing and jabbering and being typical children. I pushed the snacks up first and waited for the cashier to ring them up and bag them. I shoved them haphazardly into my diaper bag under an array of motherly items. I grabbed the milk, slung my diaper bag over my shoulder and readjusted tired arms that were holding my baby. I was delighted with my purchases and knew this would give the kids a little taste of home!
This is an average Saudi street with mini markets (bukala) and many other shops
My sister lived in Al-Khobar (four hours from Riyadh) but I had yet to see her, so a call from her husband (to his work place) inviting us for semester break came as a huge beacon of light! My sister had met and married a man from Saudi Arabia while she was at University, during my summer break I went to visit her in the small University town of Pullman, Washington, and this is where I met him. So it was really just a matter of coincidence that a family with only 2 daughters, both married middle eastern men and moved to Saudi Arabia! I was an impressionable 20 year old whose only life dream was to sing Jazz and go on the road with a band, he was a 25 year old man from Damascus who was studying Engineering. So, that is where it all began.
My heart had been lifted and I felt the relief that comes with seeing a light in sheer darkness. I had no suitcase but set to packing and planning. She had a large Saudi house that they rented, it had a yard with a place to run and play, air conditioners, beds, a t.v. and all of the things that normal houses have. I was elated and started day dreaming and telling the kids they would soon see their cousins. At that point she had three children and they were the ages of my children.The cousins were close, like siblings and when my sister made her annual visit to the states, before our move to Saudi, we saw each other often. This upcoming event made the days bearable and gave hope that things would surely change.
A week later when he came home for the noon time lunch and nap, he flippantly threw out the words,” Oh we cant go to Al-Khobar!” I felt a sick rush of heat lather my face and body, it started at my head and seemed to rush like waves down to my feet. I had not realized the effect of this living situation in its totality until now. I stammered and asked what, why? His response was that they might be out of town that week, ” maybe some other time.” Tears welled up and crashed down my face in uncontrollable splashes. But I gathered myself together and served the lunch.
After he left I felt a little twinge that would later become a large crack until it broke through to my brain and I could see my way out! But at this time it was a tiny little crease, a start. I huffed and puffed and cried and let out 4 months of sadness and frustration. My hair was now long and fell onto my face and shoulders constantly wet from the heat and sweat in the villa. I found some scissors and went to the bathroom, I locked the door and stood looking in the mirror, who was this person, who? I chopped my hair wildly as if I were a toddler who found scissors on the top shelf of a forbidden cupboard. I randomly cut chunks,chopping every where until the feeling of tears mixed with wet hair stuck to my lips and tongue. I sat on the toilet and sobbed, wiping away the fallen hair from my face and mouth. After 5 minutes I stood and looked, horrified! I was the rock, the stable person who could absorb all things. I had learned early on that I was not and never would be a beauty queen, but I was funny, helpful and stable. Now, what had become of me, what a bad woman, willful and defiant, not God fearing at all! I shuttered at this thought, quickly cleaning the floor with a wet tissue. I rinsed my head under the shower and composed myself. What was I thinking, this could never happen again, I needed to be more patient and try harder. There were people who had nothing, no water or electricity, no access to any medical care. I was lucky! I felt a sick reality rush over me, was he right, was I really just a spoiled, entitled woman?