Soon Imane Dumarani is going to be a mother again. But this time it is different. As a consequence of the war in Syria her second child is going to be born into a refugee camp in Lebanon.

October - Chapter one

A flock of pigeons soars across the morning sky and lands on the roof of one of the shacks in the refugee camp outside Ketermaya in Lebanon. 60 Syrian refugee families have settled here, since the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011. Children are playing around on the dusty cement-moulded paths, which are dividing the rows of tents and shacks covered in UNHCR tarpaulins. Behind one of the tarpaulins 29-year old Imane Dumarani sweeps the ground in front of her shack with one hand on the broom and the other carefully placed on her belly. She tries to get rid of all the dust and sand, but she quickly feels tired and has to sit down. Her eyes are swollen behind the layer of black mascara and beige concealer, even though she tried to cover it away. Once again she had trouble sleeping in the night, because the fear of another nightmare kept her awake for hours. But the sleepless nights are almost normal to Imane now. She has been haunted by nightmares ever since the war broke out in Syria, which forced her to flee to Lebanon with her husband Rami Dumarani and their nine-year-old daughter May. Imane looks down, it’s a long time ago that she has been feeling like herself. Nervous breakdowns and depression have become a part of her life now. Imane’s hand is carefully resting on her round belly. Soon she is going to be a mother again, and she likes to think, that maybe the little baby girl will bring a positive change to their life. 

Escaping Syria

In 2012 Rami came home from work and went strait to the bathroom. Normally he used to hug Imane as the first thing, when he entered their house – but this day was different. Imane saw the drops of blood on the floor, and she realized, that Rami got beaten up at his work. This was the first sign of the coming civil war in Syria. In the time that followed the conflict developed between the regime and the opposition groups, and rockets started falling from the sky in the opposition controlled areas. Soon a rocket also destroyed Imane and Ramis house, and they lost everything. 

For two years they had to live in a basement to avoid other attacks. Rami went out everyday to look for food in abandoned houses in the village. It was dangerous to go out, and he used to tell Imane and May, that if he didn’t come back, they had to take care of each other. In 2015 they fled to Lebanon – first Rami, and later May and Imane. 

They were reunited in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, where they stayed for 8 months, before they moved further to the camp outside of Ketermaya and build their shack with their last savings. It was after arriving in Lebanon, that Imane started to develop the nervous breakdowns. Whenever she was with other people, she suddenly felt very afraid and paranoid.

“I felt I couldn’t laugh or enjoy anymore. Sometimes I cut my wrists, and Rami asked me, why I was doing it. The only thing I could say was, I don’t know, I don’t feel like my self… I just had to feel pain,” Imane says.

Every day, every hour

Imane’s daughter May shows up in front of the shack after playing with the other children in the camp. She hugs and kisses Imane, which brings a smile on both their faces. They sit next to each other for a while, before they move inside the shack to prepare some food. Imane sprinkles some Zatar over a piece of bread, and she gently folds it into a roll, which she gives to May. They always try to find the cheapest solutions, when it comes to food, in order to save money.  But Imane can feel the lack of varied food taxing on her body when being pregnant, even though she sometimes gets supplements paid by the UNHCR. She often feels dizzy, and she struggles a lot with migraine. It worries her, as she is constant nervous of the health of her unborn baby.

“I think about her health every day… Every hour,” Imane says.

Three years ago, when Rami, May and Imane were living in the Bekaa Valley, Imane had two miscarriages. Both times the main reason was lack of the right food, as the fetus needed blood and vitamins to survive. After the miscarriages Imane blamed herself a lot.

“Both times I felt, that I had killed my own baby.”

A study, made by BMC Women’s health, about reproductive health among Syrian refugee women shows that lack of vitamins and increased anemia are very common among pregnant refugee women, which according to the report might be related to refugee status and food insecurity. 

A blue stork

As the afternoon passes by, the darkness falls, and only the small bluish lights in front of the shacks reveals the camp on the field. Imane wakes Rami up from his nap. She has made coffee for both of them. A few hours earlier Rami came back from work. He always leaves early in the morning with the other men from the camp to go to Ketermaya. There they are waiting for a truck to pick them up, if there is work for them on that specific day. Normally the work consists of demanding psychical labour. Some days the truck comes, and other days it doesn’t, and they have to return to the camp with no money. Usually they can earn around 10 dollars pr. day, which is important money in terms of being able to buy food, medication and other needed materials for their families.

Imane and Rami sit next to each other on the mattress and slowly take sips of the hot beverage. Homemade cardboard flowers are decorating the four walls of the shack, and a few family pictures are placed in the middle of one wall. One of them is showing a much younger Rami and a smiling Imane holding little May in her arms. On the other mattress May is colouring on a piece of paper. She is pushing a yellow pencil hard against the paper in order to paint a sun in the corner of the page. May always saves her drawings, and a small collection lies next to her on the mattress. One of them shows a drawing of a blue stork flying in the air and holding a wrapped bundle in its beak - a drawing for her baby sister.

November - Chapter two

Imane sits on a stair outside the central hospital of Mazbod, which is a UNHCR contracted hospital near Ketermaya. Her skin is pale, and she feels dizzy each time she is standing up. She looks at her watch; fifteen minutes to her doctor appointment. In the morning she woke up and felt pain in her belly, and she quickly booked an appointment at the hospitals clinic.

Setting a date

The doctor appears in the door to the clinic, and Imane follows him into the consultation room. After hearing Imanes symptoms, the doctor decides to make an ultrasound examination. Imane lies down on the examination couch ready to look at the small black and white screen, as the doctor moves the scanner across her belly.

Imane already knows, that she is going to have a caesarean section, as she can’t give birth naturally. In 2009 she gave birth to May via a caesarean in Syria, and now the doctors at Mazbod hospital are worried, that her old scar will break, if she this time gives birth naturally. 

The doctor tells Imane, that her baby is putting a pressure on her kidney, which is the reason, that she is feeling pain. He calms her down and says, that it can be normal during a pregnancy. Imane feels a sense of relief, as they sit across each other in the consultation room. The doctor writes her a prescription with vitamins and sets the date for her caesarean section in the beginning of January.

December – part one

Chapter three

On the 24th of December the cry of a baby spreads in the surgery room in the hospital - a little girl is breathing for the first time. The warm sheer of a lamp touch her newborn skin, as she is lying on a small table with a wrinkled hospital blanket underneath her. The nurse is placing a stethoscope on her purple vernix covered skin, listening to her heart and lungs. Imane is lying on the operating table, while the doctors are stitching her belly. After cleaning the baby’s airway the nurse holds her up, and shows her to Imane for a few seconds. This is the first time she sees her little daughter, and despite the anaesthesia her eyes glows.

“Her name is Elma,” Imane says with a dimming voice.

On the blue plastic chairs outside the surgery room, Rami and May are waiting to hear news about Imane and Elma. The doctor appears in the door, and they both quickly stand up. He gives Rami a small label with the name of the ward up stairs, where he can find his newborn daughter. But up stairs the nurse tells them that they can’t see her yet. It is critical, as Elma can’t breath. She needs to be put in an incubator and treated in the hospitals neonatal ward.

Imane knew, that it was three weeks early for Elma to be born, when she felt the strong contractions in the morning. When she entered the hospital the doctors told her, that they had to do the caesarean section immediately, and she had no choice, than to go through it.

After the surgery Imane was transported to another ward. She was tired, and the anaesthesia still dimmed her. She only saw Elma that one time in the surgery room, but Rami told her what happened while he caressed her forehead. When Elma is better, she will get to see her again. But for now they have to wait for her to get better.In the neonatal ward Elma has fallen asleep in the incubator. 

December – part two

Four days later heavy drops of rain hit the shacks in the refugee camp. The cement-moulded paths are almost deserted, as people are sheltering inside. In Imane and Ramis shack a couple of women are sweeping and washing the floor, trying to make the surroundings as comfortable as possible for Imane. She lies in the corner, unable to move because of her caesarean scar. Her eyes are empty.

The day after the caesarean section Imane was discharged from the hospital and had to leave with only a plastic bag of painkillers. She asked the doctors, if she could see Elma before she left, but they did not allow it. The following days Imane and Rami kept calling the hospital for news about Elma. Each time the doctor gave them a concise answer. Elma was still in the incubator, and they took care of her at the ward.

On the third day the doctor broke Imane’s heart in only three responding words, when she called to ask about Elma.

“Your daughter died”

Only three days old Elma passed away, because of problems with her lungs, leaving Imane devastated. 

Imane never saw Elma’s body. Rami considered it to be best, as he was afraid, it would break her completely. She never touched Elma, and the only mental picture she has of her was the few seconds she saw her in the surgery room, where she was dimmed by anaesthesia. It was the few seconds of pure happiness Imane had felt for years.

“I thought; today my life will start again. I will forget my suffering. I am a mother again,” Imane says

The women finish cleaning the floor in Imanes shack, and one by one they leave after sending her a worried glance. Her chin is shaking, and the tears show in her eyes. The white plastic bag with the painkillers from the hospital is beside her. The painkillers can relive the pain from the surgery, but not the pain she feels in her heart. 

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