MarySmith’sPlace – Pregnant in Pakistan#02

I’m sorry I left you for so long wondering if Jon got out of his Afghan jail before our baby arrived in the world.

It was the shock when reading my diary at how very miserable I was stuck in Quetta waiting for news. Over the years I’ve succeeded in turning the story of Jon’s kidnap while I was pregnant into an amusing dinner party anecdote. If anyone had asked me how I felt being pregnant in Pakistan I’d have said it was absolutely fine – sailed through it.

In fact, I was an emotional, blubbering wreck who cried a lot and raged in my diary. I suspect it was writing my thoughts and fears every day which saved my sanity – and allowed me to put on a brave face in front of other people.

This was earlier in the year – loading supplies for the clinics in Afghanistan

I spent a lot of time in discussions with other aid agencies as the most powerful negotiating tool we had was if they let it be known they would stop supplies going in unless Jon was freed. I also had to carry on with my work although it wasn’t easy to focus on preparing budget applications when I was worrying about Jon.

One entry read: “His mother has sent his birthday card. Will he be back on time? I’m not going to tell her yet – she’d be worried sick and can do nothing. I just can’t imagine in what conditions he is living, how he is coping, how he is feeling – you’d think we’d be emotionally close enough for telepathy to work. Finding it too difficult now. I’m afraid I can’t cope for much longer and I’m becoming more and more afraid he will not come back.”

On November 22, I wrote: “Just heard on the BBC Thatcher has resigned. That stopped me thinking about Jon for all of 30 seconds.”

In competition to see who could carry the heaviest load

It was the day I received further news Jon was still in jail. I write: “Everyone is depressed.  Moosa [the office chowkidar] was so happy because he received a letter from his brother – first time he’s had news from home for ages. I wish I’d taken a photo of his happiness – such a smile. The family sent him almonds, which he brought to share with me. Lovely he wanted to share his gift and his joy but because we are all miserable because of Jon’s situation Moosa’s happiness is dimmed.”  

I was not alone – lots of people were around me providing support: Hamid Shah who was in charge of the Quetta leprosy programme would visit, sometimes sweeping me up to take me home for meals with him and his wife, Shanaz. Evelin, a German midwife who was working here was a good friend, frequent visitor and huge support and Linda, a health visitor who worked for a different NGO was always there at the end of the phone (when the damn things were working) keeping me calm. Nick and Debbie visited or invited me to their home. “It is good to know,” I wrote, “we have such good friends who really care. The only problem is – they weaken me – my stiff upper lip trembles at their kindness and I risk dissolving into tears.”

Office manager, Inayatullah hands a smiling Arif the key to his vehicle. Moosa third from the left.

And the baby? It seemed to be doing fine. I attended the ante-natal clinic regularly seeing Dr Shahnaz who assured me the baby was growing well. Although, one time she was concerned about my blood pressure being exceptionally high – at which point I burst into tears and explained the situation. She told me not to worry. “If your husband does not come back, I will be there for you. You will not be alone. I will even get into bed beside you when you are in labour.” I thought this a slightly over the top – as was the prescription she gave me for phenabarbitone. I threw it away. Usually used in the treatment of epilepsy, I knew it would cross the placental barrier. I played a lot of Eric Clapton instead.

Rahimy on the left and Jawad – on a picnic somewhere near Quetta.

One evening I received a message to go immediately to the French Bakery, a Hazara run bakery which was a bit of a Quetta institution. When I arrived the boss put a chair in the middle of the shop and handed me a sealed letter. I read it about three times before bursting into tears – of joy. Jon was free. I rushed round to Hamid Shah’s to tell him and Evelin so more hugs and tears all round.

My 2 am diary entry was full of waffle about the note, Jon’s possible arrival date and my gratitude for always having someone to keep me going through the nightmare. “Now, I feel really guilty about how little work I’ve achieved – I should get busy immediately.” Maybe not at two in the morning!

Jon arrived back on December 01 – fit and healthy and looking in much better condition than I felt. He’d been reasonably well treated, had patients brought to him and was allowed out to play football every day. The worst part had been when they’d originally arrested/kidnapped him and accused him of spying. Unfortunately, Jon didn’t recognise the word for spy so had no idea of what he was being accused. They were hauling him into position to hang upside down to be beaten when someone higher up came into the room and told them to cut him down. It soon transpired it was money they were after, not a conviction in court.

And that’s when my euphoria at having him back safely rather evaporated. “How did you manage to get free?” I asked.

“I paid the ransom. I sent a note to Hussain asking him to bring whatever he had left in his budget.”

I was furious! All the running about, the meetings with WHO and other NGOs to apply pressure by warning no further supplies would be sent to the area, had been for nothing. They would think this was a very nice little earner – no one would be safe if they thought the ransom demand would always be met.

Jon was unrepentant. “I was afraid I wouldn’t get back before our baby was born.”  

I calmed down – not good for the baby to get so worked up. And now, Dr Shahnaz wouldn’t have to get into bed with me when I went into labour and I could look relax and enjoy the last few months of my pregnancy.

I should have known better.

Jawad and Rahimy on a picnic at Hanna Lake, Quetta.

89 thoughts on “MarySmith’sPlace – Pregnant in Pakistan#02

  1. Glad to read your husband was freed and back in time for the arrival of the baby. I would have been a mess to be honest. Thanks for sharing this episode as we have all been waiting. Take care, my friend. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is amazing how memory smooths over the rough spots. I often get a similar feeling when reading old journals. I always thought you were brave, Mary, but reading this story and imagining how hard it must have been on you further solidifies my opinion. You are one kick ass woman. You must have been elated to have your husband back in arms reach.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Ooooh. Can hardly wait to read the next instalment! Makes my first 2 pregnancies in the extreme west of Ireland in a thatched cottage sans water, sans electricity, sans toilet facilities and sans ceiling to stop sooty raindrops coming through sound like a stroll in the park 🙂

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  4. Oh, I do enjoy these Mary, and I felt the intensity of the sentence. “The only problem is – they weaken me – my stiff upper lip trembles at their kindness and I risk dissolving into tears.” Reading this alongside sharing your cancer blog emphasises the cyclical nature of our lives and the fragility and strength we humans encompass. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for your response, especially to that sentence. I always felt I had to put a brave and smiling face on when I was with the staff and friends, which is why recording how I really felt was such an important thing to do for my sanity.

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    • It’s funny the things I recorded – lots and lots of weeping and wailing then that line about Thatcher. Later, another line to say John Major was the new Prime Minister. I’ll try to complete the story next week, Jemima.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Learning from the master, Pete 🙂 I didn’t take anything during my pregnancy – I had a glass of white wine when I was six or seven months pregnant and the resulting heartburn ensured I never touched it again. I can’t believe she thought it was OK to give Phenobarb in pregnancy.

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  5. Thank goodness for diaries, Mary…its funny how our memories gloss over our fears and emotions…A sneaky ending my dear but most us would be back anyway just a little insurance on your part methinks/knows…lol…Stay safe 🙂 x

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  6. Go. Back. To. Scotland. Hmm, never thought I’d write those particular words as a dyed in the wool Englishman!. I’ve never experienced anything like that, Mary but the one time I’ve been caught up in a situation where someone I love is threatened over a period and there’s little to do but wait and hope, is so debilitating yet, to the outside world it’s necessary to pretend otherwise. Admitting how it felt even to myself, was hard, often impossible. And even now remembering what it was like to go through comes with difficult. That part of your experience I do understand and thank heaven it is now unpicked and included in the box of anecdotes to be rummaged in over dinner. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get there but at least it’s done and dusted and behind us.

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    • It never really occurred to me that going back to Scotland was an option. I couldn’t have gone with Jon still in jail and once he was free then we carried on. I’m sorry you had such a horrible experience to deal with. It’s odd how some of us feel obliged to present a brave face to the rest of the world and not let on how we are really feeling. If I hadn’t read my diary I would genuinely have forgotten how bad the situation was and how miserable I felt – if I hadn’t written it all down in my diary at the time, I’d have struggled to put on that brave face. Glad you’ve packed away the bad memories and, I guess, some things are never going to be dinner table anecdotes.

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  7. Blimey! Mary, this is intense and I felt I was watching a movie. What a terrifying time for you … thank goodness you had your diary … writing really is a life-saver! I’m so glad Jon was released in time for the birth of your child and I suppose he was pragmatic in paying the money. To be safely present with you all.

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    • Thanks, Annika. It was scary and I was pretty miserable – writing in my diary was indeed a life-saver – my own therapy. I was very glad to have Jon back in time – wasn’t really keen on the obstetrician climbing into bed with me when I was in labour 🙂

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  8. I think I have high principles but I’d probably have paid the ransom just to get out of a place where they nearly hung me upside down for a beating regardless of any baby being due! i hope you’ve forgiven poor Jon now.
    Juliet xxx

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  9. Pingback: Pregnant in Pakistan#02 ~ Mary Smith | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

  10. What a cliff-hanger. I’m so glad you had your diary and good friends for support. A diary/journal can be a best friend and confessional which doesn’t dissolve when tears, or coffee, are spilled. I miss carrying one in my purse but one of the reasons I stopped that practice was after losing my Vietnamese journal when my purse was stolen in Barcelona… We are all anxiously awaiting the next post and I can’t stop thinking what a great film, or two, your stories would make. xx

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    • My diary was definitely a life saver, Lea. I’m sorry you lost your Vietnamese journal. You may find it on eBay! I read an article recently about the number of people who buy and sell personal journals of strangers on eBay. It strengthened my resolve to destroy mine.

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      • When I moved to France, my books and a number of other things I shipped. Alas, when the crates were unloaded at a port in the UK, about half my shipment somehow disappeared. The driver who had the contract from the moving company dropped off a few boxes here and not with a pleasent attitude and said he knew nothing about it. There were nearly twenty years of journals among the missing so I do understand. I can’t imagine the journal turning up it has been eleven years and it was about the size of my hand. I doubt that anyone could read it as my writing has always been sketchy at best and these days, forget about it.

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  11. Oh Mary, you poor thing… being pregnant is not the easiest time despite people telling you how blooming you look… but to be in a foreign land, speaking a second language with a husband kidnapped must have been something else. As always I come away inspired and looking forward to the next episode and so pleased Jon made it back, despite the ransom.. money well spent…hugsx

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  12. Absolutely horrifying how people play with and threaten the lives of others. A ‘trumped’ up charge to extort money. I’m so glad despite the tyranny your husband came back safe. I’d have been out of there pronto. Wait, let me rephrase that, I’d never have been there in the first place. 😦

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  13. You have us all engaged for the next installment. I understand your anger, but I also commend your husband for his decision. It’s wrong, but he had to do what he could to get back.

    A doctor climbing into bed with you during labor. Yes, that is a bit over the top. Good call on the Eric Clapton.

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  14. Even though I thought I knew the outcome, I was terrified that he might not come back. Your anxiety and stiff upper lip were so well described I was on tenterhooks. Thank heavens he was back before you mentioned the bit about trying him as a spy and hanging him upside down. They talk about action-packed thrillers – I’ve not come across anything more action-packed and frightening than this series. (And it isn’t finished yet. There’s a really worrying cliffhanger!)

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    • Glad you are enjoying it – well, I hope you are. I think the worst bit was that they were accusing him of being a spy but Jon didn’t understand the word for spy so had no idea what they were accusing him of! Hope to see you next week 🙂

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  15. It is amazing at times how writing can clear the head, writing down fears and worries puts it out there, which allows the mind to free up ~ and while this was such a horrible situation, I do marvel at the care/concern the good people around you had (and understood), such goodness amid chaos is the one constant that makes me smile about the world. This constant push & pull between the good and not-so-good, good always seems to shine the brightest..

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    • I really believe pouring my thoughts and fears and worries onto the pages of my diary helped to me cope with the situations. I didn’t remember until re-reading them how miserable I was – I remember the public face. I was so lucky to be surrounded by people who cared and offered support. You are right – good usually shines through and there are more good people than bad in this world.

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  16. Pingback: MarySmith’sPlace – Pregnant in Pakistan#02 | Blog with Muddasir

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