Photography by Maisie Cousins

Photography by Maisie Cousins


The World Didn’t Stop

Words by Ayesha Martin

The blank page that has been blinking back at me for the longest time seems to reinforce just how trying it is to cast a true light on this topic—this role—this misconception that I battle through almost every day as I struggle to reconcile what is and what isn’t.

Because my experience of motherhood has erred on the side of brutal truths. Of “what if’s” and “if only’s” tainted with the oppressive societal norms that often mean the simplest perhaps innocent questions (or statements) are constant triggers.

And yet I am not a victim or a survivor. I am simply a mother. 

Holding my beautiful son in my arms after 13 hours of labour was, quite literally breath taking. All I longed for in that moment was the ability to nudge his spirit from the next world back to this one. How beautiful to see our son in the hands of his father, murmurs of praise in his right ear punctuated by the gentle folds of pristine white cloth that would embrace his tiny form for much longer than we ever could. We buried hope in a cemetery just outside London. 

I am not a victim... I am simply a mother.

I did all the things. Took on board all the suggestions. The world didn’t stop. I tried to gently proceed and hold high the few moments that we had shared in the space between love and loss. “Do you have any children?” they asked. “No,” I replied.

Our daughter took us by surprise. “Just wait until you hold her in your arms—everything will be ok!” they said. “Yes,” I smiled carefully.

I shared the news with my tribe. Marked the calendar for the next routine check-up, I put in notice at work. My friend Alex joined as Zaid, my husband was away.

And again. The world did not stop. Everything around me kept moving. My memory skips between lying on a table with three people crowded around me and eating spaghetti ice cream at a cafe in Nuremberg. I picture squeezing Alex’s hand as the needle punctured faith anew that, up to that point had grown in my belly. I see the struggle to reach Zaid to let him know. Then, a hospital room aptly empty except for a bed that would unceremoniously transport us from before to after. I remember the floor. For it was there that Leila would lie in solidarity fighting for me when I had surrendered yet again to the merciless will of the universe. The midwife was kind and gentle and German. When she passed me our little girl, I was overcome. All was lost. So lost. My spirit torn from my being. The only thing left to do—exist.  

“You’re back!” they said. Could they not see there would be no return? Days became months. “I’m here,” I lied.

And then Rumi. My beautiful, spirited, phenomenal baby boy. 

“Isn’t it all worth it now?” they ask. 

In some ways, yes, but in more ways no. For now, I have a concept of how great the loss of my children really is. The intricately beautiful, serendipitous process of watching him become paralleled by the almost tranquil ache of constantly letting them go.

“Do you have any kids?” 

When small talk becomes hurt talk. And my body and brain replies in a somewhat comatose state whilst my heart tears the truth from me.

I am the mother of three.