I had a long and thought-provoking conversation the other day with one of my old Harvard blockmates (we lived on the same dorm floor). Let’s call her Stacy.
She and I graduated in the same graduating class and are the same age. We were not the closest friends in college — I had my group of Muslim sisters and she had her group of non-Muslim friends. But we still saw each other regularly on campus and hung out together every now and then. She helped me go dress shopping before I got married (“Can I be one of your bridesmaids??” “Stacy, you know I’m Muslim, we don’t do bridesmaids!”) and she attended my wedding along with a bunch of other college friends.
And since we graduated, we have been loosely in touch over the years, texting and occasionally calling every once in a while. We are both extremely busy now, but life has taken us in very different directions.
During this most recent phone call, she caught me up on her life lately. She is still working at Google and recently married a guy also working in tech. She is mostly busy with work but has one other huge preoccupation: trying to conceive. She has problems with infertility.
She recounted to me the long and harrowing process of IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization), with its frozen eggs, hormone injections, egg retrieval surgery, waiting to find out test results to see how many eggs made it, waiting to see if it takes, etc. She described the constant anxiety it comes with. She told me about the deep depression that sets in with this exhausting process, which is draining physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically.
She was told by the doctors that in the wake of each IVF round, she is likely to experience some hormonal imbalances and some form of depression akin to post-partum depression. She has undergone 3 rounds and experienced 3 periods of depression where it was hard to get out of bed and hard to be around people. Her relationship with her husband became strained and tense, because he dealt with the IVF experience differently than she did. They fought and took out their tiredness and frustration on each other. They went to therapy to work on it.
I felt for her, and her words made me really pause and reflect. When she asked me what was going on with me lately, I didn’t know what to say. Kids. That’s what’s going on with me lately. But I didn’t want to say that to this poor woman who is living this life centered around trying to have kids. The words died on my lips.
What is stressing her out and occupying most of her thoughts and taking up most of her energy is not having kids.
What is stressing me out and occupying most of my thoughts and taking up most of my energy is having kids alhamdulillah wa mashaAllah.
I have almost no time to myself, don’t know how to stop working or when to take breaks, and am too busy for my own sanity. I love my kids with all my heart, but they are loud to the point of migraines. They are four active little boys with boundless energy and lots of needs and wants and who bicker constantly as little kids do at this age. But my sleep is disrupted and my energy is sapped. My nerves are generally shot from the constant work, stress, and hypervigilance of having young kids and trying to raise them a different way in today’s crazy world.
It just made me think about this Dunya and how most people are unhappy and dissatisfied. Regardless of what they have been given, most people look longingly at what they haven’t been given. The one who doesn’t have kids wants kids. The one who has kids worry about them constantly or wants a break from them. The one who doesn’t have money wants it. The one who does have money works desperately to keep it or gets tired and careless. The one who is single is desperate to get married. The one who is married is fighting with the spouse they married. The ones living near their parents are stressed out. The ones living far from their parents are missing them.
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Almost nobody is content. Regardless of circumstance.
Except for the Muslim who follows the beautiful advice of Rasul Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم , which is the only way we can break free of this perpetual cycle of discontent:
قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم : ” قد أفلح من أسلم، ورزق كفافا، وقنعه الله بما آتاه. ” (رواه مسلم).
“He is successful who submitted (became Muslim), and received sufficient rizq, and whom Allah made content with what He has given him.” [Muslim]
“ازهد في الدنيا يحبك الله، وازهد فيما في أيدي الناس يحبك الناس.” (رواه ابن ماجه وصححه الألباني).
“Have zuhd of the dunya and Allah will love you. Have zuhd of what’s in people’s hands and people will love you.” [Ibn Majah]
“يا ابن آدم ارضَ بما قسم الله لك تكن أغنى الناس.” (رواه مسلم).
“O son of Adam, be content with what Allah has decreed for you and you will be the richest of people.” [Muslim]
“لو كان لابن آدم واديان من مال لابتغى ثالثا، ولا يملأ جوف ابن آدم إلا التراب، ويتوب الله على من تاب.” (رواه البخاري ومسلم)
“If the son of Adam was given two valleys of gold, he would seek a third. And nothing fills his mouth except dirt, and Allah will accept the repentance of he who repents.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
“ليس الغنى عن كثرة العَرَض، ولكن الغنى غنى النفس.” (رواه البخاري ومسلم)
“Richness is not having many worldly things; rather, richness is the richness of the soul/ self.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
May Allah grant us contentment, ameen.