‘Like’ A Mother

The One ‘First’ I Experienced ‘Last’ 

Being the eldest of four sisters, I suppose I mostly experienced all the firsts …well… First. I was the first to go to school, drive, move out of home, go to university, graduate, get married, first to have kids. The Sisters followed suit of course, but as is the bane of every eldest child, I had the challenge of going through many firsts with my parents learning beside me too! (The first to buy teen magazines and have them banned from the house, the first to not be allowed on sleepovers – so the Sisters knew never to even bother asking). 

But there is this one ‘first’ I could only experience after all three of them. The one ‘life event’ they all experienced before me. That of being a Khala, meaning  ‘Aunt’, or more specifically Khala means ‘Maternal Aunt – your mother’s sister’. 

Exactly three weeks ago one of my sisters became a first time Mama and along with that her beautiful baby made me a first time Khala!

Throughout her pregnancy, I was secretly worried about having a Nephew or Niece. I have kids already and a third one on the way. Will I love her baby the way she loves both my kids? Will I see the baby’s photo and just see another baby or like my sisters will I see a child I will never tire of hearing each and every detail about?

Now when it comes to being ‘Aunts’ my sisters are are hard act to follow. They are the quintessential Fairy Godmothers of Aunthood. In the Kashmiri language we say ‘M’aas’ a word connoting ‘like a mother’  and indeed there is a saying of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) :

‘A mother’s sister is equivalent to a (real) mother (in status)’.

For my kids – YES! Younger, more fun versions of their mother. Forever ready to listen to them, feed them jelly sweets in secret, buy them the coolest gifts, send them the best postcards from travels around the world. They are Readers of the best stories and Writers of the best letters (complete with hand drawn illustrations).

And in my earliest Mothering days it was the Sisters who travelled across the Atlantic to be with me in the final weeks of pregnancy. One of them held my hands through labour. When she couldn’t make it for the birth of my second baby another one made sure she would be there. They gave me respite by whisking the kids off to sleep or to adventures I was just too tired for – to a circus,  a fire-station even to meals out with their friends. My then 4 year old would feel so special being taken by a Khala to a grown up restaurant with her grown up friends.  

So when my sister was calling me from across the Atlantic, asking advice about contractions and such … and in the midst of labour and dua’s and waiting … Came the news of the birth and a photo! This gorgeous perfect precious child. Who made my baby sister into a Mama and who as soon as I saw, wasn’t just ‘her’ baby anymore. She felt like mine already. All the khala hormones kicked in. It’s actually quite inexplicable … it’s just … like another of my sisters described so perfectly: SUCH HEART SQUEEZING PYAAR* AT HER LITTLE FACE

If I wasn’t in the third trimester of my own third pregnancy, I would be there right next to my sister as she was with me when I gave birth to my first child.

A few days after she was born, feeling jealous of the fact that there were all there in the same country being able to hold our new niece, squeeze her cheeks, share baby kisses.  I messaged my sisters on our group chat asking them if they had sent me ‘…every single photo you have of her on your phone?’

‘Ah! So You do know how we feel!’ came the reply.

Now I am officially part of the Aunt club. And now I just ‘get it’. All you ladies who can’t help but show everyone photos of your nephews and neices – I hear you!

I am so excited and happy to be your Khala little one! I don’t think I could ever be one as fun and cool as your mama but her example is one of the most amazing and I only needed your existence to teach me that it was all there. All the love. Already there already loving you like my own.


Photo of my daughter with one of her Khalas

*PYAAR means ‘Love’ in Urdu/Hindi

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  • Reply MummyBird December 17, 2016 at 8:12 am

    I have only just caught up on this post and it really brought a tear to my eye. It is so beautifully written and full of love and helped me, an only child who will never be an Auntie, to understand my Aunt’s addiction to photos and videos of my son, her new great nephew. It also brought a tear though that I won’t know that feeling, nor will I have two daughters who will know what it is to have a sister. However although I am sure it is not the same as a being a true khala, for those of you with sisters who have close female friends who are only children or have no sister, be aware that you and your children are the closest they will have to sisters, nephews and nieces, you are the’family’ they chose…. send them lots of photos too!!

  • Reply Ayesha December 9, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    Omg! Ma sha Allah Sumaya! You have such a way with words! It was like you were writing my feelings! I am the eldest of four sisters and the last one to become a khala. At first when I read the heading, i couldn’t really get what the article must be about. Couldn’t have been more beautiful 😘 Huge congratulations on becoming a khala and best if luck with those rushes of love you will feel staring at the screen. Believe me it gets worse when they start reacting to your voice! 😍😘😘😘

    • Reply khadija December 10, 2016 at 12:10 pm

      Always have a pleasant time reading your posts. You are just simply amazing with words… thanks

      You are now the latest khala in town! Lol. Congratulations to you and the mother. May Allah bless the baby and grant them good health.

      • Reply Sumaya December 12, 2016 at 1:07 am

        Ameen to your lovely dua Khadija! thanks so much for your comment.

    • Reply Sumaya December 12, 2016 at 1:10 am

      Aw! that’s sweet of you to say so. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and related. I shared your comment with my sister and we both agreed that we’d probably get on really well with you and your sisters! There’s something about being a party of four girls right?

      • Reply Ayesha December 20, 2016 at 10:28 pm

        Indeed! Even though we have a brother who is the youngest. We are four sisters first alhamdulillah. People used to presume I would wish for a boy when I was pregnant the first time, thinking I have had too much ‘girliness’ around me. Whereas I was hoping and praying it was a girl. (That happened after three boys. But that’s a different story). There is indeed something very special about a gang of girls! Or as my grandmother puts it after a famous Indian television show, ‘ chidiyan da chamba’ 😍

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