Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The day I told Muhammed I was pregnant

College graduation photo, 1961
After we married in September 1960 we lived in Indianapolis where Bob worked at Ayrshire Collieries as a draftsman and I worked at General Mold and Engineering as a secretary. Neither of us had finished college. And once married, the daughters in our family were the responsibility of their husbands, according to my father.  Forgotten today is that there was a 10 month recession in 1960-1961 and although it hadn't been that difficult to find a job in July, by December when I quit due to sexual harassment, things were looking bleak. So I decided to go back to the University of Illinois, leaving my husband in Indianapolis where he lived not with his parents, but the parents of his best friend, Tom Moir. I found a room to rent with Maude Peters in Urbana, Illinois. Bob drove to Urbana every week-end, and would leave about 3 a.m. on Monday morning to get to work.

I never really had morning sickness when I was pregnant, but within a few weeks of beginning the spring semester I knew something wasn't quite right. I was signed up for a heavy course load, with student teaching scheduled for--gasp, high school Spanish--at Urbana High School, within walking distance of Miss Peter's home.

I had walked out of the main reading room in the university library where I studied (I think I had a ride to campus with Sandy who lived above me in Miss Peters' home) to look for a pay phone to call my mother.  I  ran into Muhammed Mustafa, an Egyptian civil engineering graduate student I'd dated the previous spring.  He was a nice man, lots of fun and he tried to teach me Arabic (or so he said).  One day a girl friend pulled me aside and told me to be careful--Muhammed had bought a new suit.  So? I asked.  Well, when an Egyptian student does that he plans to get married.  I was shocked.  I enjoyed dating many foreign students--Israeli, Russian, Chinese--and was strictly a secular Christian, but marriage to a Muslim was not my intention--just "cultural exchange." So I didn't date him anymore.

Anyway, although details are fuzzy after 56 years, he noticed the sad look on my face, and I told him I thought I was pregnant and we didn't have any money and neither of us had finished school. His face lit up like a Christmas tree.  That's so wonderful, he exclaimed.  What a blessing! I don't remember, but he may have even hugged me. Suddenly, finding just one person who was happy I was pregnant (and it certainly wasn't me) and that new life would be an exciting adventure, changed my whole outlook. I called Mom, who was always her practical, sensible self assuring we would get through this. She told me my sisters were also pregnant and it looked like the babies were all due the same week in the fall.

I've been watching a lot of programs this week (from bed since I've been ill) on EWTN about abortion, women's marches, pro-choice arguments, etc.  And I realize how just a small amount of positive feedback can change a woman's idea about life within her.  It's not that I'd even considered abortion--not sure I even knew what that was in 1961--but I was being flooded with hormones, thoughts of not finishing school and bills piling up. Lucky for me, I ran into a Muslim friend instead of a feminist or pro-choicer (we also didn't have that term then, but they were lurking).

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