Trigger warning: This essay mentions pregnancy loss.
We are so honored to host author Saira Mir on our blog today. She talks about her experience as an OBGYN, pregnancy loss and her upcoming picture book, Always Sisters.
Hard Stories Can Be the Easiest to Write
By: Sara Mir
2019 was primed to be an epic year. My debut picture book was going to be released and I had joined a bustling new practice as a full-time OBGYN. The office was growing, along with my waistline as I inched toward my 20th week of pregnancy. A little girl named Nura was set to join our family. Juggling many roles was challenging, but my heart and hands were content being full. My debut picture book, Muslim Girls Rise, is a biographical compilation of contemporary Muslimahs who faced unimaginable challenges and still rose. I was eager for the book to hit shelves and celebrate these inspiring women who defined resilience. The irony is that before the book released, I’d face my own trauma and instead of rising, I fell and stayed down.
In early 2019, writing came to a screeching halt, as did my career as an OBGYN. I chose to end my wanted pregnancy at 20 weeks for a severe anomaly that had rendered my girl’s little chance of survival and an even smaller chance of a life without suffering. Saying goodbye to Nura was a mercy, but one that broke me. The complexity of caring for women after I suffered my own traumatic pregnancy loss was too much to bear. I hung up my white coat for an undetermined period of time.
For the first time in my life, I was completely lost. The only emotion I felt was pain - deep, searing, soul-crushing pain. The conflict I felt for creating strong women while I was curled up in my bed avoiding social contact while nursing an empty womb added a layer of shame. Years of grief and guilt later, I’d realize my definition of resilience was flawed. It doesn’t mean resisting falling. True strength is accepting the pain of loss. It is choosing to grow in compassion and kindness and empathy from each brush of grief.
After we buried Nura, I held my eldest child and watched her confusion as she mourned the loss of a baby sister she’d eagerly anticipated. A sister she met only once in the hospital, to say hello and goodbye. It wasn’t just the loss of a sibling, but of an entire family we had built in our hearts.
A select few friends and family surrounded us with comfort. Most shied away out of discomfort or uncertainty. What does one say when a baby dies? The deafening silence made me determined to break it. If not for myself, then for other children like my daughter whose grief was more heartbreaking than my own.
Pouring our family’s story into Always Sisters was therapeutic. I honored the beauty that goes into loving someone you’ve never met. I sorted through our stages of grief, confusion, and loneliness. I broke our emotions down into words a child can relate to - simple, but powerful carriers of loss. I intended to write this book for others, but it gave me the greatest gift of working through my tragedy.
As Always Sisters nears release, it feels like a full circle moment after years of hurting, healing, and hoping. In the book, the main character Raya learns that grief is love without a place to go. When that love is shared, the pain lessens. I mourned during my debut book release, but now I will celebrate and honor Nura with all the love that has been trapped inside for four years.
About: Saira Mir is a physician and author of the award-winning picture book Muslim Girls Rise, which she wrote for her daughter and other children to have Muslim feminist role models. As an OB-GYN, she has cared for many families through pregnancy loss, but could not find the book she needed to help support her daughter through grief over her own family’s loss, which inspired her to write Always Sisters. She lives in the DC area with her kids and is always on the hunt for the next best playground and bubble tea.
About the book: This much-needed picture book about navigating the difficult experience of pregnancy loss meets young readers at their level to offer a tender look at grieving someone who never entered the world.
Raya can’t wait for her baby sister to arrive. She’s already got a name—Nura—and Raya is certain they’ll be best friends. She’s got all kinds of plans for things they’ll do together like run through the sprinklers, play dress-up, and give piggyback rides.
But one day, Mama returns from the doctor with tears in her eyes. Nura won’t be coming home after all. Raya feels confused and sad, like all the love she has for Nura is trapped inside her. With the help of family, friends, and her school counselor, though, Raya finds a way to grieve this loss and to share the love she’ll always feel for her sister.
Links to purchase: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Always-Sisters/Saira-Mir/9781665901567
Head shot photo credit: Sosan Akhtar