Women’s stories about health
Contributed by Arab Educational Institute on 25.10.2013:
This is a series of stories of Palestinian women from the countryside of Bethlehem, taken in 2012. They were written down as part of an AEI project on women’s rights. This series focuses on the field of health.
Weak health, many responsibilities
Ibtisam, 40 years, from Artas: “I didn’t complete my education as my family got me out of school when I was in the 6th grade. I got married at an early age to my cousin and I used to suffer from general weaknesses as I was too young. I carried many responsibilities when I was a teenager. I couldn’t take care of my self and my health due to the poor economic situation of my husband. I gave birth to my son when 16 years. My delivery was difficult due to my weak health and the lack of good nutrition during pregnancy.
Two years afterwards, I discovered that my son suffered from deafness and dumbness. Unfortunately, all the children I got afterwards had the same health problems. When we consulted doctors and did medical tests we found out that the marriage within the family is the cause of the problem. As I accepted to have disabled children, my life became very difficult in the family. I neglected myself and started to suffer from pressures and diabetes. I needed continuous treatment but there was no money for.
The doctor advised me to take contraceptives so as to stop having babies, but this affected my health as I started to have problems in my womb. At the same time, my husband still insists on having more children but I keep on refusing. This by itself creates many other problems with my husband. So, my life is unstable and uncomfortable.
Both my sons need hearing headphones. Many times I can’t find any help to afford them… I always feel sad for my deaf daughter who is ashamed to wear the headset in the neighborhood. As a mother, I don’t have any demands myself. All I care about are my deaf children and how to help them to overcome their problems, and how to support my eldest son who is the only breadwinner at home. I think he’s taking a big responsibility at an early age.
Children with disabilities
Wafa’, 38 years, from Artas: “I only studied until the fourth grade at school. I was forced to get married to my cousin when I was 15 years old. My family favored early marriages. However, I opposed marrying him due to many reasons. The most important one was kinship and the existence of hereditary diseases in the family history. After I had to marry him, I faced many problems with my husband’s family. My husband’s financial situation was very bad and we used to depend on his father as he was the only provider. At the beginning of my marriage I suffered from severe infections in my uterus. I didn’t handle it in a good way as there was no money for treatment. So, I suffered a lot in my first pregnancy.
Unfortunately, my first baby was having disabled fingers and he suffered from lack of hair on body and head. After this experience, I got psychologically sick. I didn’t know how to deal with this problem. I was just crying constantly about him. After having my second baby boy, my psychological state improved as he was healthy baby without physical problems. Days passed, and I delivered a son for the third time but unfortunately he suffered from the same physical problems. Desperately, I knocked for treatment doors but with out result. Living with suffering and regret, I decided to stop having children.
However, my husband used to threaten me with a second marriage despite the fact that he is unemployed. Due to my fear for his threats, I got pregnant for the fourth time and delivered a beautiful baby girl. However, my joy was not complete because she suffered from the same problem. My sorrow and grief about my daughter was unbearable because we live in a merciless society where they is no sympathy on girls. Due to all this, I started to suffer from high blood pressure at an early age as well as toothache. However, our financial situation doesn’t allow for any kind of treatment.“
Health and poverty
Amal, 47 years, from Artas: “I did not complete my education because my grandmother convinced my father not to register me at Al-Khader school. She thought that it was not necessary for girls to continue their education. So I got married at an early age. At that time, my father didn’t even take my mother’s opinion into consideration as in his view she wasn’t supposed to express herself on any subject. At the beginning of the marriage, I wasn’t happy and faced many problems with my husband’s family. After my first birth, I lost many teeth. I couldn’t fix them because the treatment was too expensive. I worked as a maid at houses to provide for the basic needs of my family.
Moreover, I have a daughter who suffers from mental retardation. She is now 20 years old. Since she was a young girl, I could not afford to put her in a private school. Dealing with such problems without solutions makes me suffer from many health problems. “
Naziha from Dheisheh, 37 years and a mother of eight sons and daughters: “I ended up having high blood pressure and diabetes because of the difficult life I live. The struggle for survival affected me a lot. I have many psychological pressures. My husband is unemployed, and I’m not an educated woman who has a degree and can use it to get work and to earn money. My children are all students at school and my daughter is a university student. My daughter couldn’t get access to her university as she did not to have money for transportation.
Moreover, due to my husband’s suffering from kidney failure, we’re overloaded by hospital expenses. I resorted to UNRWA aid and some charities but my family expenses were too high and it was my responsibility to provide for the basic needs. I sold all my gold and resorted to Social Affairs to have a health insurance for my husband… With all these psychological and physical pressures, I started to suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes. I can’t afford money for my health at all because my priorities are my children and their studies.”
A woman of the Sumud Story House tells: “There was a pregnant woman who had 4 daughters, she felt very happy when she knew that she had a baby boy… When she finished 4 months, the obstetrician told her that she was wrong and that the fetus was a girl. When the woman heard that she got pregnancy poisoning and had such inner pressures that it led to her death. “
Break from delivery
A nurse at the Sumud Story House: “One day, I went to one of the villages on a mobile clinic. A young girl aged 17 years came with her husband and mother-in-law. When I asked them about the reason they were there, her mother-in-law answered in a harsh tone: “We are here so you can help her to remove the IUD [intrauterine device] which she put in a visit to a Bethlehem clinic without consulting me and her father-in-law.” The reason of course being that she shouldn’t stop having babies or give her body a little break from a new delivery.”
Appeal to God
“I know a woman in Dheisheh camp who got pregnant after 18 years of marriage. Unfortunately, she knew that the baby would have many disabilities. But nonetheless, she insisted to keep him. When she gave birth, she stayed at Charitas hospital for 3 months, and then started to appeal to God to take her baby.“
Giving birth during shelling
My name is Lubna al-Hajajleh, 34 years, from Al-Walajeh, I have BA degree in education and work at Ansar center in Walajeh.
I still remember the date 24 October, 2001. It was during one of the invasions imposed by the Israeli occupation. I was pregnant in my last month. Suddenly, i felt birth pains at 15:00 PM. I hurried with my husband and mother to the hospital which was not far, in Bethlehem. But because of the siege imposed on my village which borders the Har Gilo settlement, it was dangerous to go out without permission from the army. The road was closed and the soldiers prevented us from passing and going to the hospital although it was clear that I would gave birth any moment. My husband tried to call an ambulance but the soldiers prevented it from entering our village.
When the pain increased, my husband was obliged to use a bypass road through the Cremisan monastery, a particularly bumpy road. We went by car but the road wasn’t safe and the Israeli shelling just started. Fortunately, we were close to the house of Dr. Jadallah Najjar, a gynecologist. My husband hurried and knocked at the door and asked the doctor for help. We entered his house and after examining me he said, “You need to go to a hospital immediately because you will give birth any moment.”
The doctor tried to contact the hospital in Bethlehem, but the ambulance could not go there because of the heavy shelling in the area. When my pain intensified, the doctor started to convince me to give birth in his house but I refused to do so because I wasn’t psychologically comfortable and prepared. Then the doctor suggested to my husband to take me to the Arab Society for Rehabilitation, a hospital specialized in bone treatment.
When we arrived there, they refused to take me as a patient because they were afraid to hold the responsibility for such a case as mine as they didn’t have the equipment for a baby’s delivery. However, after a long argument between them and the doctor, they accepted… The delivery was really difficult and it was a conducted by surgery without anesthetic, I suffered much but I finally gave birth to a beautiful girl.
The next morning my husband and mother took the child to Bethlehem to give her the necessary vaccination and make the necessary tests for her… I also suffered a lot after the birth. I couldn’t forget the severe pain and fear that I felt. I am grateful to have four children now. My daughter is 11 years and she is in good health.