Pregnant and holding it together in Gaza's despair

Pregnant and holding it together in Gaza's despair
International Women's Day: In Gaza, extra burdens are placed on women as heads of households where men are in prison, disabled or killed. But Gazans cope. They have to.
3 min read
08 Mar, 2015
Gazans have become experts at coping in a desperate situation [Getty]
I was seven months pregnant when the last war on Gaza started.

We were desperate. We felt things would not be fine, that some kind of change was inevitable. And change in Gaza usually means war.

But this time it was different. I thought of other pregnant women and how all this psychological stress would affect us as women and mothers; how it would affect our as-yet unborn babies.

Generally, coping with the level of bombing around us went well. But there were a few times when I could not control my sense of fear and anxiety.

Neither could little Zayneb inside. She lay still, not moving for almost a day, in my tense stomach, when Israeli F16s hit Gaza's harbour, not 200m away. It is a place I see every day from my window. 

She also froze that evening when we all left our building when we heard that our building and the ones nearby might be hit. One or two of our neighbours stayed in the empty dark houses. The rest of us left.

I became a new mother two months after ceasefire.

I have never thought it would mean so many things, so many things different from what I expected. It's not only the protectiveness, the concern for her safety, which is overwhelming. Its the daily details of life here.

She got used to electricity cuts. She expects now to stay a few minutes in total darkness every day until we switch to an alternative power supply.

With no power there is no clean water centrally delivered. I bathe her with water cleaned by a home RO unit to filter the water of impurities and salt. It usually takes few hours.
I carry her up and down nine flights of stairs. I plan visits only around the electricity schedule. Today, as I write this, it is only four hours in 24.

     Women carry the burden of the entire family when the man of the house is unable to provide a means of living.
Finally, she is used to the sound of bombs exploding in our neighborhood.

The current 'calm' masks a reality of abject suggering. Living for months in tin huts, or with dozens of other families in a UN school classroom does not make headlines. Yet this is the reality for tens of thousands in Gaza. 

Families affected by war sit and wait on broken promises of reconstruction. Not only have they lost their homes. They have lost all means of living. They have nowhere to go. Their relatives and friends can no longer bear any additional burden.

Women in shelters or makeshift homes, have almost no privacy and no proper access to decent sanitation. Nor do their children. And there is hardly enough food. Giving birth and taking care of infants in such conditions is a great risk. At least four babies died of cold in the Huda snowstorm back in January.

See our full coverage of International Women's Day here

Women carry the burden of the entire family when the man of the house is unable to provide a means of living. The majority of Gaza's workforce is unemployed. The financial pressure, sense of hopelessness and insecurity is only accumulating more social and psychological stress.

Gaza has witnessed three wars in five years. How long will this last?