6- Tightrope

We had been in the villa for three weeks, and while life was lonely and difficult we had at least settled into a routine and acquired some basic appliances. I continued to cook on the electric, swap meet stove that shocked me and heeded his advice of using a wooden spoon while cooking. When he announced the arrival of a used washing machine this was cause for great celebration. Workers lugged it up the stairs to the roof where clothes would be washed and hung to dry. Washing laundry in the bathtub, ringing it out and carting wet, heavy baskets two flights up, was wearing on my pregnant body. Living in this harsh and unrelenting  place was like walking a tightrope. Days were spent sitting on the floor, opening the brown plastic window to catch a glimpse of air, waiting eagerly to leave the villa and walk two blocks to retrieve the boys from school.  Cooking meant working with a short list, a large pot and frying pan to make something that reminded us of home.In the back of my mind still looming was the fact that I was 8 months pregnant and needed to find a doctor and hospital for delivery!

When I agreed to move to Riyadh during my 8th month of pregnancy, my mother pushed me to wait until after delivery. She brought up questions about medical care, qualifications and standards in facilities, something I knew little about. She was the Vice President of patient care services for two hospitals, this was her field of expertise. At this time in life I could not be deterred  by anything and felt an urgency to follow him. I had heard many things about Saudi from my sister and felt that delivery would be fine, even better than in the States. As we stood in the New York airport saying our last goodbyes her face must have mirrored what she was feeling inside. My mother, my mentor and best friend, broke into tears, her face looked worn and tired, the signs of aging that had never been evident now flashing in between her sobs. I hugged her and told her that everything would be fine as I moved through the gate and boarded the plane.

My ideas of delivery had been shattered upon entering the villa and understanding our new living conditions. His words were clear “I want you to live the hardest life possible” and so my anticipation for this birth was now no longer frivolous, maternal excitement but sheer panic and fear.  I had made several attempts to make an appointment, calling from Um Abdullah’s downstairs phone only to have the parties on the other end hang up each time. It was finally decided that a visit to the hospital was in order.  I stood at the counter as people walked past and were checked in for their appointments. I patiently waited, smiling and nodding at conversations although I knew none of what was being discussed. I used my American body language to indicate a need for service but somehow as 15 minutes passed I had grown no further to meeting this goal.  The receptionist’s face was fully covered by a black piece of material, except for her large brown eyes that peered out from two small slits.  She looked at Saudi women and men, helped them make appointments and laughed as she spoke to her counterparts. I didn’t understand how I could possibly be missed, but waited until the last person walked away. I spoke to her but she continued to avert her attention and finally after my inquiry about an appointment she said “NO“. I looked to the men’s waiting room where he sat with my older boys, giving him a nod and a curious look. He approached the woman at the counter, speaking kindly  to her in Arabic. I was then given an appointment and told to sit and wait.  I walked into the women only area with the little ones and took a seat.  I looked around and saw what would become a normal scene for years to come.  Madam sat holding her expensive designer bag, leafing through magazines, as if totally unaware of her children who fussed, cried and jumped from one chair to the next. A small framed lady who appeared to be from India, held a newborn, wiped toddler noses and tended to the numerous children scattered around the room. They looked at me and stared, an American woman, black abaya and scarf, small blonde girl seated on my lap chattering away, another toddler holding onto my abaya and two boys who were not allowed in the women’s waiting room but who continually stood at the entrance asking for mom’s attention. Finally after an hour of waiting a lady appeared and called out loudly “Madam Leen, Madam Leen”

I was ushered to a plain, small room where a lady sat behind a brown desk. Her white lab coat indicated she must be the doctor, although she did not bother to introduce herself or inquire as to my name. She spoke in an abrupt tone,  Investigations??  She didn’t glance at me but repeated in a dull monotone voice,“your investigations!” I was tired, nervous and could not imagine what that meant. I looked at her trying to grasp at any small grain of compassion in her face, she repeated again,“I need your medical investigations!”   It then occurred to me that she needed the files from my OB in the states.  She called the nurse, ordered several tests and stood to leave the room. I sat in the chair looking at her lab coat as it made a swishing sound against the door and that is the last time I saw her until my water started leaking and I entered the hospital 3 weeks later.

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209 thoughts on “6- Tightrope

    1. I was not fully awake and still felt the blame was with me!! I was so brainwashed for so many years. My oldest son begged me to take the kids and leave when he and his brother went to University in 2005, I could not. one time when Osama asked me why I stayed, interesting words flew out of my mouth I said that God would destroy me and I would go to hell if I left him! Osama was so mad and tried to convince me that was not true. YEars of being told to worship, not go against him etc. The first villa was like prison or it seemed like it. So, broken down to nothing and living in fear. Answer to your question- no. Even now I see why I stayed, fear, at least being with him I knew where he was, what he was doing etc.

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      1. So Osama and Yusaf knew-that alone is disturbing. Not a wonder they do not want anything to do with him Lynn. You have to respect their decision as grown men. Each child was affected by him. However, he is still their Father and it is up to each one as they age to determine what they wish to do regarding a relationship, if any, with him. A pop-tent in the USA is better than that life! xoxoxo

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  1. They treated you horribly, Lynz. What kind of people are they? You have had patience.
    I yelled to a doctor only because she told me to be at 10 at cabinet and I got in one hour later…

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  2. This is such a disturbing circumstance Lynz. So far from familiar surroundings with no apparent cooperation in the adjustment. My heart goes out to you. I hope you always remain safe and comfortable. This is an amazing text, written with subtle but powerful details.

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    1. thanks so much! It was written months back but I am introducing these old stories for those who missed them and also editing and changing them for the book! that sounds so funny! Sorry haha thanks for reading!

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  3. You are so right about the Arabic ladies and their children..it’s like they are nothing to do with them! Those poor tiny ladies that looks after their homes & children are amazing. The children are so out of control!!
    What a world you entered hey? 😦

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    1. I look back and feel it was so scary he was tiny and the dr. left us she was mad at me because I would not agree to medication at that point, wanted to wait an hour or so see if labor came! so 30 hours later she came back!!!

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  4. Wow! I’ve noticed you and your family moved around a lot while in the Middle East. You went through SO much over there! How’s the book coming along? I think you should include recipes in it too.

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  5. I remember this post from a little while ago but it’s just as chilling now. The lack of compassion both privately and publicly is hard to fathom. Lynn, is it true, you’re working on making your posts into a book?! This is fantastic news! Congratulations and keep going! 🙂 xo

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    1. Thanks Anita, I am trying. Last Thursday I posted a beginning to a book. If you have time can you read it and tell me what you think. I would start with it and then move back to when I met him. then onto the years of living in Saudi.

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      1. Oh wonderful! I will certainly go back and see if there was a post that I missed last week. If ever you need a beta-reader, please don’t hesitate to ask! It would be my pleasure to help in anyway I can. Yay, I’m thrilled for you. I know it’ll be hard work, but hopefully a therapeutic experience as well! xo

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  6. That sounds awful, Lynn. There’s nothing worse than unfriendly medical staff when you’re worried about your health, not to mention expecting a baby in a new country where the language was a factor! Why were they so rude to you, was it because you weren’t from Saudi? That’s sounds so hard.

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    1. I don’t know! The drivers, maids, nurses were amazing! It was like we were sharing this bond of being foreign and treated badly! The nurses were the people who were lovely! Doctors are seen as so important and you do not question what they say to do. After delivery I met an american nurse she said that they do not like american ladies because they question what doctors are doing!

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      1. Yes that was the issue, my water leaked and she told the nurse to give me an enema and all of this medicine, not telling me but I could understand enough to know. So I dared to ask her, she looked at me like I was crazy! So I said I wanted to wait and she left and did not return for 30 hours!

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      2. well they gave me med. and then contractions started back up, It took a few hours and then the dr. felt things were not moving along quickly enough, she put something into my IV again without permission. I had hmm hideous pain, convulsing and had to push, they said no no no but my body just pushed, my son came out and he was only 5 pounds! So, thank God he was ok! The next delivery I didn’t go in until 35 weeks! I was so scared.

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  7. I can still remember when you left to move over there…. At the time I had thought it would be such a great adventure for you, and I so wished we could move there also. It hurts my heart to know, now, how awful your time there was. I still treasure my memories of visiting you there. I had no clue of what you were truly going through.

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  8. This all makes me so sad and angry. Sad for you, angry at the inhospitable people and that wretch of a man that put you in that situation. Please keep forging on with the book! I really do believe it will help many woman out there who may be in a similar situation. Love and Hugs, Lynn!

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  9. So sad at how you were treated and he accepted treatment of you as normal…to bad men can’t give birth just once and in a foreign land….your the most bravest woman I know…..I bow down to you….kat

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  10. Lynn, the first time I read this (many months ago)I was so angry. (And I hardly knew you then.) But now as I read it once again, I am truly overcome with sadness that you had to endure this treatment. And I am relieved to know you are safe and I can chat with you whenever I want. And encourage you to publish your amazing story. One more thing- Guess what I made for dinner last night? Your chicken pot pie! For the third time! And it gets even better with practice. Take care and we’ll talk soon. Clare

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  11. If someone believes in karma and such, I’d say you’ve atoned for all the past sins twice over. Misery compounded over time. In relation to all the other poor women trapped out there, and those who have fallen victim to emotional abuse, your story may inspire them and give them hope or perhaps see themselves in your story. Have you considered looking into your local domestic abuse agency and sharing with them your experience? That might also help your healing process.

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    1. when I first arrived in my home town I went in and saw someone. I wasn’t sure if it was abuse, so I went in! then when I moved to my little town I spoke with them as well. After he left this time and was physical I also went back in. they are very kind and a nice young man sat with me and we chatted. He calls me every month to check in on me and see if I need anything! so, yes I have had contact with them. thanks dear Karina!

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      1. The first time I went I was not happy, I thought oh no I don’t feel comfy but he is very soft and understanding and well trained and the age of my oldest son! He and his partner are both graduate students and funny thing he is learning arabic and an author! Anyway I was surprised that I felt so at ease

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  12. This is the worst nightmare a pregnant woman could ever imagine. No support from husband, and dirt-like treatment from strangers. It really takes a lot of courage to continue life. You are a great inspiration. I believe your book too, will be able to inspire a lot of women out there.

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  13. I thought it immediately and saw it also in the comments: The worst nightmare for a pregnant woman. Not only being in the worst living conditions but also pregnant and left outside alone. The worries must have been overwhelming.

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    1. I look back and it worries me now and I think how awful it sounds but at that time I was just limping along trying to keep going. I think the shock of the living conditions kept me confused for a long time! It was scary during the delivery and the next birth I did not see a dr. for months I was so scared. Thanks for reading Erika! xxx

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      1. When you left for Saudi Arabia you trusted that all would be taken care for or at least that you are not left alone with eveything. So I understand why you did not worry before. I can only imagine the shock about what you found after and in what life and situation you found yourself in. Hugs, Lynn! 💖

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      2. thanks dear Erika for your insight and understanding! I felt he was a good provider as he talked about how he was all day and night. That I guess was part of the brainwashing, “That is the kind of guy I am” “I always look our for my family not like other guys” etc.

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    1. I look back now and it seems like a movie not real life. I was so nervous and felt sick and alone! I hate to say I did not go in until almost my ninth month in the next pregnancy and that was because neighbors intervened!

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  14. I continue to be shocked at your awful situation and how he treated you in Saudi. Yet you have enough emotional strength to write about it. About your writing, you have a special talent of knowing when to stop a particular narrative which gives it a sharp focus. Bravo to the budding author in you!

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  15. As the saying goes, mom knows best. Hindsight, I know you wish you’d listened but it’s moments like those that help us understand our own children during those times when they don’t heed our warnings. There’s something to be said about seeing and experiencing for certain things for ourselves.

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  16. What a scary time for you, especially having already delivered in the U.S. and knowing what the experience should be like. In this case, ignorance definitely would have been bliss. Love reading your words, Lynn! Keep it up! I see not only a book, cooking show, and recording contract, but a movie as well! 😘 xx

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  17. I can imagine how terrified you must have been. Making things so hard for you is inhuman, the thought of living like that a virtual prisoner is so upsetting, I can imagine how it is for you re living this as you write but the good thing is it’s all in the past and you have a wonderful future to look forward to.

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    1. Thanks so much. People tell me” Do not say you are not a writer, you are Lynn! ” haha well I don’t feel like one and it is hard to come up with the words! So I am trying and so lucky to have so much love and encouragement!! Thanks

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  18. Finally catching up – again – this is so graphic, I actually felt panic. You’re writing is really going from strength to strength and you have a lot of isolated ‘episodes’ now. I think tis is the time to begin collating what you have into a semi structure for this book, which just has to happen (never mind the book, let’s get working on the movie script)
    Off to search for some more that have slipped my net – if I don’t have time to comment on them all, I will read them xxx
    P.S. you have a shout on my latest post that I have done for your Friday friends xxx

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