Should I Take the Pill? My Umrah Story

In Malaysia, especially among the Malays, the first question that goes on in your mind (and everyone else’s) as soon as you get married is, when will the pregnancy announcement come? After three or four months of someone getting married, our eyes are quick to scan new pictures that are uploaded to see if there are any tell-tale signs of a baby bump present. Some are even bold enough to ask, “Is there a bun in the oven?”

I am no exception to this cultural phenomenon.

I have several friends who got married knowing for sure that they wanted to wait one or two years before trying to get pregnant. But in my experience, this is normally the exception and not the rule. Family planning usually happens after the first child is born, not before. So it’s typical for new married couples to be scrutinized with expectant faces everywhere wondering when the pregnancy announcement will come.

This anticipation isn’t only from the friends and relatives of the new couple: most new couples would also wonder when they’ll see a double line on that pregnancy test. As Mufti Menk says: the greatest trial for any married couple is not having a child when they want one. It’s a painful test, and because of the fear, many couples never opt for any form of contraception whatsoever. I have friends who got pregnant within the same month of getting married.

It is a blessing for us, getting pregnant. We believe that a child brings rizq in all forms to marriage life.

So there comes my story. Three (approaching four) months into marriage, I had finished my Master’s and was in the midst of getting ready to perform umrah with my husband’s family. I knew a month before marriage that my husband’s family wanted to bring me along to Mekah and Madinah – a blessing that is too huge for me to capture in words, and I will forever feel indebted to my in-laws for taking me there.

I had been a wife for four months, to a man who was the eldest in his family – and also the first to marry, which also made me the only daughter-in-law. Which also meant that if I were to get pregnant, the child would also be the first grandson/daughter to my in-laws.

The dates where we were to spend such precious eleven days for umrah were set, coincidentally, roughly around the time when I would have my cycles.

So there comes the big question. Do I take pills to disturb the cycle so I can focus on performing the umrah, or not?

For a young couple, with family expectant of us getting a child soon, you have no idea how many weeks my husband and I had to think about this. We asked for opinions, we read up on side-effects. The vote was the majority advising me not to take the contraceptive pills, as it’s likely my cycle would come the week before flying to Madinah. So even if my cycle came, most likely I just wouldn’t be able to pray in Madinah but will still be able to perform the umrah in Mekah.

It was a big risk. If my cycle came late, there’s a chance it would continue until the day we’re supposed to fly back to Malaysia, in which case my presence in Mekah and Madinah would only be as a tourist and I would have missed my chance to perform umrah. Then again, if I took contraceptive pills, who knew if it would have some horrible side effect and affect the chance for me and my husband to have a child soon?

In the end, I was persuaded to opt to go without the pills – initially. Even if my cycle came and I wasn’t able to perform my umrah, I can still go again at a later date – so I was told.

Five days before flying, my cycle still hadn’t come. For sure now, if my cycle came, there’s a chance it could last even until we were in Mekah. I told my husband I wouldn’t take the risk, so we went to the clinic and I was prescribed a pill – to take once a day for the duration of the umrah. If any of you ever took contraceptive pills before, it should have been taken starting from the day after the last cycle. Me, I took it when it was about to come. The next day after going to the clinic, my cycle came, and the doctor told me it would take several days for the medicine to take effect and stop my cycle.

So, on the day when we flew from Kuala Lumpur to Madinah, I couldn’t pray. When we arrived at the hotel that was 300m away from Masjid Nabawi, I still couldn’t pray.

And the morning of fajr, when the adhan was called out for fajr prayers from Masjid Nabawi, I still couldn’t pray.

My husband tried to console me and said I should just follow along and see Masjid Nabawi while waiting for them to finish the fajr prayers. I refused. I said, what’s the point of going if I can’t perform the sujood there? It was literally the saddest day of my life, when I felt totally and completely alone.

As my husband and his family left the hotel for fajr prayers, it hit me how foolish I was. It hit me then how I had fallen into Satan’s game of putting doubt in my heart and the love for dunya and not akhirah.

If I hadn’t taken the pill, was I sure that I would be pregnant? No. Four months into marriage and I still wasn’t pregnant. If anything, taking the pill would have ensured that I could pray as much as I wanted in Masjid Nabawi and ask for what I wanted. But no. I had doubt in my heart, so I didn’t opt straight away to take the pill. So what price did I have to pay? Missing fajr prayers at Masjid Nabawi, when I could have prayed had I placed more importance on devoting myself to Islam.

I cried hard that dawn, in the hotel room in Madinah. I prayed to Allah, and I asked, “Please don’t let me leave this land before I can pray at Masjid Nabawi. Am I unworthy to pray here? Please let me pray here.”

Then, like a miracle, my cycle stopped that morning – the pill was finally working. And later that morning on the same day, my mother-in-law took me and my sisters-in-law into Raudhah, where I was able to pray and ask for my desire: to ask for a child.

For eleven days, Allah allowed me to devote my time to prayers. To see the places where Rasulullah SAW had fought for Islam. To see the Kaa’ba, and perform tawaf around it. I understood then that of course satan would put doubt in my heart. What could be a bigger accomplishment to him than to prevent a person from performing sujood in the holy land to chase for something in this world?

I was so mad at myself. Umrah is compulsory to be performed once in a person’s lifetime. Having a child, on the other hand, is a gift from Allah. I had been willing to let go of my opportunity to perform the compulsory, in hopes for a gift when I hadn’t proven myself worthy. What if I had died after coming back from Mekah, and I hadn’t performed umrah because I was in the middle of a cycle?

This is why we human beings are always at a loss. We put too much emphasis on what could have been, on what we want, rather than on what we need to do and what is compulsory for us.

The month after I came back from umrah, I became pregnant.

It was the biggest lesson I had learned, at a price that was almost unbearable. If I had missed my opportunity to perform umrah, just because I wanted the chance to become pregnant, I would never have forgiven myself.

Since then, my mindset has changed. I now place my future in the hands of Allah, and have stopped trying to control what cannot be controlled. I just control my own actions, and leave the rest to Allah. It’s not easy. We humans are always under the illusion that we are in control. But really, we never are. If Allah has decreed something for us, it will happen. If it has never been decreed for us, it will never happen.

Performing umrah was my greatest gift, and sweetest memory.

A day or so before coming back to Malaysia, my husband and I bought the bisht in the picture, as a way of prayer that Allah grant us a son someday. To me, I also bought it as a reminder, that I am never in control of any outcome, and that whatever I wish for, it is to Allah that I ask, and not through my own ‘actions’.

So now, I am expecting my first child, a son, in January. Only eleven weeks away.

May Allah always allow us to see past our filters for what truly matters for our akhirah, and not just for our dunya.


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