It was an extraordinary Thursday in July that I had found out I was pregnant. My husband and I were ecstatic, excited and apprehensive all at the same time. Apprehensive not because we were afraid of failing at parenthood. No, we had convinced ourselves that we would be okay with parenting, and we were excited about the new challenge.
We were apprehensive because that was the year we were going to go for Hajj.
Hajj is an obligation for every able-bodied Muslim who is free from debt and other certain responsibilities. It is strenuous and frankly, it is one of the hardest journeys a person could perform. Earlier in the year, my husband met with an Arab from Saudi Arabia who casually remarked how this year would be the best for Hajj as from next year Hajj will fall in the summer months.
The seed had been planted and within the next two months we had booked and paid for our trip so by July it was too late to back out; nor did we want to. We believe you are called for Hajj as if by invitation and this was one invitation we did not want to rescind.
Pregnancy on its own is hard, but performing Hajj whilst pregnant was a feat. How could I manage the arduous walking, being pushed around by people at every turn, spending the nights sleeping on the floor and what if I get hit with morning sickness? What if I couldn’t walk for long or got tired too easily? What if I did something that would cause me to miscarry?
All these questions were plaguing us but before we could sit down to address our concerns, we had to deal with a more pressing matter. In order to get a Visa for Hajj, every applicant had to get a Meningitis vaccination.
Oh! The sleepless nights then ensued due to the conflicting advice we received from our doctors and nurses. On one side we were told to get the vaccination as there is no conclusive proof that it shouldn’t be given to pregnant women, on the other side we were told to not go for Hajj at all. The internet, for once, wasn’t much help as women who did do Hajj while pregnant hadn’t chronicled their experience in as much detail as I wished to find.
For those of you who are planning to perform Hajj while pregnant (from the UK), let me assure you that you will, in fact, be able to get a visa without a Meningitis vaccination provided your doctor signs a note confirming your pregnancy.
We went with the safer option of a doctor’s note. This advice was not found online, in fact, it was given to us by our Hajj Group Leaders. They assured us that many women further along in their pregnancy perform Hajj and they do just fine. Based on their reassurance, we went ahead with our plans.
Funny enough, on our first Hajj brief meetings, I ran into another girl who was expecting. It was nice to not be the only one. In fact, I later shared a room with another girl who had found out about her pregnancy five days before flying out!
My husband took care of everything and made sure I did not overexert myself. We prayed to our heart’s content but also made sure I had enough sleep. We ate relatively healthy, kept hydrated and we walked for as long as I could and then some!
My pregnancy was fairly easy, I didn’t suffer from morning sickness or any other aches and pains save one; intense pain in my lower back which was not helped by sleeping on the floor during the Hajj days. But what surprised me was that in my camp at Mina and my lodgings later, there was a midwife and a female doctor!
However, not everyone has it as easy as I did. The first girl I mentioned earlier had crippling morning sickness that rendered her unable to get out of bed, eat or even drink water. She too, however, managed to perform her rites with the help of her husband who carted her around in a wheelchair.
My Hajj experience was like everybody else’s; we went to same places, we performed the same rites. The difference between my Hajj and that of somebody else’s was that I was carrying a baby. But I wasn’t the only one and it felt good to know that there was someone in the throng of people who shared my situation.
If you are planning to perform Hajj and will be pregnant, let me assure you that while it may seem daunting and it may even be harder than normal, it is still possible. I did it and lived to tell the tale, so will you.