Marhaba <<First Name>>,

I've been learning a lot about misconceptions formed about different cultures through the weekly BY DESIGN interviews. I realized that there is a misconception about Middle Eastern woman that I want to address briefly.

Middle Eastern woman are not oppressed.

In my Palestinian village, the percentage of educated and financially independent women overly exceeds the men. That doesn't mean oppression dons't exist, it's simply not as common as people assume.

This three part letter celebrates the amazing women that shaped my life, and who continue to inspire me on the daily. In my last correspondence with you, I talked about how my maternal grandmother engraved the importance of education in me at a very young age. Especially, once I learned that she's been illiterate most of her life, and what she did to change that.

Today, I'm going to share with you where my strength and empathy comes from. The second very important woman in my life, who's responsible for 99.9% of the person I am today is:

My Mother

My mom finished high school,  got married to my dad and moved from Palestine to Jordan all in one summer. Mom realized at the young age of 18 that she wanted to start a family as soon as possible. 

Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed of getting pregnant as soon as they make that realization. But that wasn't what happened to mom. She would get pregnant and a few months into her pregnancy she would lose the baby. Her body kept rejecting the babies and none of the doctors knew why. 

This nightmare continued for three years.

One day my dad woke up and relayed a dream he had the night before to mom, then he told her "we're going to have a baby, it's going to be a girl and we're going to name her Hebah." ( I'm happy to share the details of the dream with you in the future.)

A few months later my parents got pregnant with me! 

To prevent her pregnancy with me from terminating itself, my mom had to take a monthly injection of a drug that was still being tested in Europe. Fortunately, ten months later I was born; a blue eyed, black haired unicorn!

Fifteen months after I arrived my sister Maysoon was born. Unlike the first time, this was a normal pregnancy that progressed without the need of a monthly injection. But, I wish I could tell you that my mom's struggles ended there.

A year after my lovely sister was born, my parents noticed that she wasn't hitting her milestones. At first, they thought she was taking her time, but when she was approaching the age of two -  still wasn't talking or walking - they knew for sure something was wrong.
My beautiful sister is almost 29 years old, but in all those years her mind hasn't developed past the single digit age, and no one knows why. My parents spent every dime they made on doctors - in the middle east and in the U.S. - trying to figure out what was wrong. Maysoon's case is still a mystery. They tried putting her in specialty schools, but her brain was advanced for a specialty school and not advanced enough for a regular school.

My parents struggled for years. Finally, a specialty school - sponsored by a Jordanian princess - opened up that accepted special children with a wide range of needs. The school started by teaching children a normal curriculum, then moved on to teaching them daily life skills; like counting money and paying for goods.

You would think that mom would have stopped at two children. Especially, since her youngest - at the time - required so much attentions. But no, I am the oldest of six (the rest of my siblings are very healthy)

My mom dreamed of a big family, she had faith in god and she wasn't going to let a little hurdle in the way to stop her from achieving her dream. She raised us all the same, and we never felt like my sister was different until we matured. 

I admit I was wrong in the beginning of this email. I said that I got my strength from my mother, but in reality she is 100 times stronger than I would ever be.
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Watch this weeks interview
In this episode Ana Juan Gomez shares stories about her Spanish culture; which initiated from a small village of a documented population of less than 30 people. She shares her experiences visiting Spain growing up and how it’s sculpted her into the creative explorer she is today. Ana also be shares with us some of the most interesting and “not so primitive” traditions her family still practices today.

Make sure to visit my Instagram page. I share short stories under each post. I also share inspirational quotes and illustrations.

Much Love,

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