Yar and her brother lost all reason to believe their mother and sisters were alive, but they hung onto hope. Yar told her brother folk tales of their country, not just to pass the time, but because they were stories of hope. Then just when Yar received news of her mother’s whereabouts, it was quickly followed by the announcement she had died from a snake bite.
It took until I was living in the United States for me to get news my mother and sisters were alive. I had a second younger sister whom I had never met.
Joy was abundant but again temporary. Before we were reunited in person, my mother died from a snake bite.
In life’s bittersweet way, on the heels of my mother’s death, I became a mother myself.
The waves of pain are spaced far enough apart that, in between each one, my mind travels, and I think: “If I were in Patok, South Sudan, I would be surrounded by familiar faces, and I would hear singing, the singing of hopeful, happy songs that come with the birth of a child.”
Instead, I hear the intermittent beep-beep of the machine hooked up to my belly, singing in its impersonal yet rhythmic way of the joy that is to come.
I see the face of the doctor, a man I only vaguely know, a man whose face reflects judgment of my situation and me.
Another burst of pain grips me, and I hear the nurse tell me to breath. “Breath, just like they taught you in the pregnancy class. Breath, to control the pain.”
I am handling it; I know pain.
I look down and see the scars on my feet.
The nurse makes no mention of the memories that consume me.
Like centuries of women who came before me, I am not fully prepared for the rush of emotions that overtake my body and mind, the memories that sear my brain, even as I push joy into my world.
True and lasting joy found its way to me.
The question of surviving another setback entered my mind when a second phone call came.
A “long lost” uncle was trying to claim my sisters.
The practice of posing as a family member in order to gain custody of orphaned girls was not new; young girls brought a significant bride-price to their family when they married, so unclaimed, orphan girls were often preyed upon by strangers.
My sisters needed to be saved, and quickly.
I contacted different aid organizations and wrote the U.N. for help.
The birth of my son Deng provided me with a distraction but, at the same time, served to increase the fervor of my efforts. I needed for my son to know his aunties.
In April 2007, after several years living in Kakuma refugee camp, my sisters were granted visas to the United States. Additional happiness came my way and as their guardian, I learned just how complicated motherhood can be.
The unexpected growth of my family brought me unanticipated strength.
My days were long, my sleep limited, my headaches were plentiful—ever tried raising two teenage girls? Yet, family surrounded me.
While I did not fear for my life, living continued to present me with challenges.
I faced the challenges with pride.
How would I prepare for an upcoming test? Had I proof-read my paper thoroughly? Did we have enough diapers to last until I grocery shopped next? Would I get the job at the pizza shop?
The list was endless, but I approached it with determination and knowledge that I would succeed. It could not be otherwise, as the futures of my son and my sisters would be made better for it.
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