(2/2) We weren’t allowed to watch the news in Iraq, so we didn't know the war was coming. But my uncle who lived in New Zealand knew and so when he called, he would say, ‘You know, it might be best if you try to go to Syria. It might be a better future.’ He had to just hint, because at that time, phone calls were always listened to.

So finally, in 2003, when I was 13, we packed up, hired a driver, and drove to Syria, leaving behind all our things. On our way, it was pretty scary. A lot of military people with guns kept stopping us, telling us to get out, and asking us why we were leaving. We had to say it was just a holiday. But I could see my dad’s face looking more and more worried. Still, finally, we made it. My grandma was already living there, and she had managed to rent two bedrooms for us to live in.

Exactly one week later, we woke up and my dad had tears in his eyes. He told us they had bombed Iraq. We were very lucky to have left just before the war started. But we still had all my mum’s family there, and we lost members of that family.

It was very hard for my father to find a job, especially during that time, when many Iraqis were arriving in Syria. And we were only able to renew our visa once. Luckily, our landlord had connections, and helped me and my little brothers to go to school. But my parents had to hide at home from the police, and just quickly go out to get whatever food we needed so that nobody could ask how long we had been there. I remember the shopkeepers on our street were lovely. There was a butcher that would give us meat bones for soup, and a grocer who would give us a discount because we were from Iraq. My uncle in New Zealand would always send money, but it was still financially a struggle.

After two and a half years, when I was 16, we finally got accepted to come to Australia as refugees. It was very happy news for us. We couldn't wait to settle down, to have a proper future for all of us.

I finished high school in Melbourne, and managed to get accepted into university. But I then fell in love with my husband, Mahir, and we got married. Eleven months later, I found out I was pregnant.

When we found out that it was a boy at the ultrasound, we were delighted, and immediately went and bought a little baby suit. But the sonographer had asked us to return for another ultrasound, and after that one, he told us to go straight to the hospital. There, the doctor told us there was an abnormality with our baby’s heart, that it was twisted from one side to the other. We went home and I cried myself to sleep. I wondered why this was happening to me.

The next day I was admitted to hospital. Every day, there was something new like, ‘We can’t see the baby’s spleen,’ or, ‘One lung is underdeveloped and the other is overdeveloped.’ But we still continued with the pregnancy and finally the labour was induced, with eleven different doctors in the delivery room. My son did not survive long. We lost him after one month of life support. It was very hard for me. I felt I could not go home, knowing there was still a piece of me in the hospital.

My second pregnancy was all fine until 38 weeks, when I felt that the baby wasn’t moving. I went to the emergency department but they reassured me that everything was okay. Two days later, I felt I was going into labour, so I went back. Then they said that they were sorry but that the baby’s heart wasn’t beating. After that birth, I didn’t have the strength to see my son’s body. I needed time alone, and I told the nurses not to let anybody in.

Mahir was very strong, but I was not coping. I started questioning God. We went on a trip to Jerusalem to strengthen my spirituality and a year later I became pregnant again. Then I found out that the pregnancy was ectopic and I needed surgery to remove the foetus.

It felt like something so precious from me kept on being snatched away from me with no warning and for no reason. Mother’s Day was especially difficult, but Mahir reminded me that I should celebrate it because I was a mother, and that my children were waiting for me in heaven.

After another year, I fell pregnant again. I was so anxious during the pregnancy, and had many sleepless nights and panic attacks about whether the baby was moving or not. But 9 months later, I finally gave birth to my healthy daughter, Maryam. That day was a joy like no other. Even after she was born, I would stare at her in the middle of the night to make sure she was breathing. And two years later, I had my second daughter, Rosary.

Now, we have two beautiful girls, 3 and 5 years old. Or course, they’re a handful, but it’s just an amazing feeling, to go to sleep knowing that I’ve got them both in my hand’s reach.

Arrived 2015

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