The Joy and Sorrow of Becoming a Baghdad Parent

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Becoming a new father in Baghdad requires persistence and patience. And in the end, new parents are left wondering if it was a good idea to bring a new life into such an unstable society.


One of NPR's Iraqi staffers sent us a note from Baghdad. His name is Saleem Amer. And his note begins: I'm married, finally, and my wife is pregnant, finally. All my hopes for a rich family life have come together. Or so I thought.

Mr. Amer went on to explain how you prepare for a child in a war zone.

SALEEM AMER: First, I had to find a good pediatrician. So I asked my friends. They have good suggestions, four in fact. So I started looking. In Baghdad, it's not always easy running down people you need to find. After a month of calls, I found one. He was killed a month ago. Then I located another. He had left the country. Another was working in a Sunni clinic. No luck there. I'm a Shia. In the end, I found her, a doctor who only opened her clinic for an hour and a half a day due to the security situation.

When my wife entered her eighth month, the doctor said it was time to decide on a hospital. In Baghdad, we have two good maternity wards. Unfortunately, they are far from my house. They also want a reservation and money up front. If we don't show up on time, we get nothing. But how can I get her to the hospital on time with road blocks, traffic jams, and IEDs peppered throughout my street. At night, the police are supposed to provide an escort for a woman about to give birth. But can I trust them? These are things that I worry about.

People I work with think I'm lucky because I'm about to be a father and have nothing to worry about. I try my best to show this side so I won't have to think about the future. Why would I want to bring an innocent child into a bloody, savage world? I don't. I regret what I did. I got my wife pregnant in Baghdad.

INSKEEP: Saleem Amer's wife is due early this month.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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