Abu Mahmoud couldn’t have children until he was 60 years old, and from his third wife. He lived in a village in Dara’a and it was widely believed that test tube babies are forbidden by Islam, until a few years ago people’s views changed and he decided he will try. Abu Mahmoud married his first wife when he was young; Rabi’a was his first love and she has stood by him even when he married his second wife. And when he wanted to marry his third wife, who is 40 years younger than him, Rabi’a remained loyal and committed to her marriage. This family now lives in a caravan in Za’atri camp, and describing the past events Rabi’a said, “When my husband decided to marry a third time, I stood by him, especially when his second wife decided to leave him. I told him that when she brings you children they will become my children too. I will love them as if they were my own, and this is what happened because they truly are my children.”
We sat with the family talking and observing the children, who are a little over 4 years old, playing around us and between the two caravans that this family occupy. Isra’, Alaa’, Marwa, Samah, and Mahmoud’s laughs filled up the place as they jumped between their father and ‘mothers’. Um Mahmoud described her relationship with Rabi’a by saying, “No one believes that we are fellow wives; we are like sisters and we help each other out with everything. My children are very attached to her and love her a lot, they even call her ‘mama'”. Then she continued to say, laughing, “Rabi’a and I have been sleeping in the same room even before I had children, and we still do. Here we sleep in the same caravan and leave our husband to sleep the other one alone!”
Abu Mahmoud says, “Despite us being happy that we are here together and we’re all healthy we suffer from the lack of many things. Especially because we are a big family, and water is particularly a problem as we need large quantities everyday for the children; to wash their clothes and give them showers.” Um Mahmoud went on to say, “Life is really difficult here, we don’t have all that we need, and if we find it in the market it’s usually expensive. Milk isn’t available and that’s a big problem because my children need it along with other food that has calcium like yogurt and eggs.”
To find quintuplets is something rare, but to find them being raised is such a loving family is even more rare. Even in conditions such as those in Za’atri camp, the ties that bring this family together are great to witness. It is not something you see often in life.