Military Mothers: Adventures Unleashed

Serving as Lady Regimental Medical Officer in UN Peacekeeping Mission
Transitioning from an Army brat to an army officer to a military wife and eventually to a mother in arms has been an overwhelming experience.
First born in a military family, my father has always been my ideal, my hero, my confidant and my mentor and I have looked up to him for inspiration and advice. Going down memory lane, I remember being a keen learner, with such explicitness in ideas that I knew what my passion was. My childhood encompasses a multitude of memories of moving station to station, within the country and abroad, on account of my father’s postings who served in the Army Medical Corps (AMC), as a General Duty Medical Officer (GDMO).
Army has given me tremendous opportunities and exposure in the past six years of my service tenure. I have had the opportunity to serve in two Class A CMHs followed by postings to two Medical Battalions, on account of spouse adjustment, after my marriage to an infantry officer.

In April 2016, I was blessed with a daughter and her arrival made my world complete. It was a feeling like no other and things changed course after the arrival of my little one. Maham taught me that a successful woman is not just a competent professional who excels in her field but a woman who meticulously strikes a balance between home and work, who looks after her children just the same as a stay-at-home mother would and one who is physically available to look after her children for the maximum that her career allows her to. This became a turning point in my life.
Torn between the desire to become a practicing clinician and a hands-on mother, I chose to remain a GDMO and serve the AMC administratively. This gave me ample family time for the best possible upbringing, nurturing and grooming of my daughter. It is the timely and correct prioritization of things that matter most and so I have never had any regrets. 
In the spring of 2018, when I was blessed with a son, Muhammad Mustafa, my decision to remain a GDMO was further reinforced. Clad in Khaaki, one experiences a feeling of immense honour and pride, on seeing your three-year-old and toddler look upto you with glistening eyes. Rolling down your car's window pane, to stop over at the check post, and seeing your daughter literally jump out of her seat in sheer excitement, calling out loud to the guard on duty exclaiming, “This is Major Tayyaba and I am Major Maham." and returning back a salute, instills a wave of enthusiasm and joy in my soul. This feeling of elation, emotion and exuberance is something inexplainable.
Early this year, I got selected for United Nations Mission in Darfur. This was the second consecutive year I was selected for a deployment in a mission area. It came as a challenge. First it was a test of my judgment as it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to take in my life so far. The fear of physical separation from my children, at such tender ages, haunted and weakened my sense of determination. It is said, "Behind every successful man is a woman." I would like to rephrase it to, "Behind every successful woman is a big family support system: parents, siblings and a spouse who has confidence in your abilities." My family gave me the confidence to plunge into this adventure, to dare and to dream big. So here I am today, in the mission area beaming with optimism and trying to explore the good side of things. As a mother there are occasional swings of low mood, when away from children but Allah Almighty gives courage to those who dare. Children of mothers-at-arms are not ordinary; they are brave as they see the hardships of military life. My children came to see me off at the airport and we departed with broad smiles on our faces, something we had not imagined before.
I am often taken aback when I get to hear from my parents that my daughter is such an adorable display of positivity and hope that quite frequently she mentions, "My mama is gone to unit and will soon be back with toys." I am told that my son drops small pecks at the mobile screen while talking to me, expressing his affection. This gives me so much of energy and strength. 
Serving in the UN has so for been a wonderful experience. I feel highly honored and privileged to be part of the Pakistan Army Contingent in Darfur. I have been posted here as a Lady RMO, in Level-1 Hospital, attached as a health facility to an Infantry Battalion, Pak-Batt 8. The concept of Lady RMO is relatively new in Pakistan Army. Our batch of ladies here are amongst the pioneers as Lady RMOs and the experience of being a lady MO, in the field is pure thrill and adventure. 
I have recently had the opportunity to interact with the locals in Darfur, while on a short-range patrolling mission with my team. The misery and suffering of people of this region in general and of women and children in particular, was obvious during patrolling. The issues faced by the destitute locals here are manifold, including scarce clean drinking water sources, malnutrition, widespread fatal infectious diseases, poor maternal and child health, inavailability of adequate healthcare facilities, crippled communication system and road structure, poor literacy rate and poverty, to name a few.
The spark in the eyes of the deprived, barefooted Sudanese children, that I witnessed, when our vehicles approached them, lit up my face. They raised slogans of Pakistan Zindabad! and I felt a wave of pride and happiness gush through me. 
We conducted a Free-medical Camp on the eve of our Independence Day on 14th August, to serve humanity. After my deployment in UN mission area, I can very confidently say that Pakistani soldiers including female officers and staff are committed to the cause of peace world over. Our devotion to the people of war-ridden areas becomes obvious and a great source of pride when the common man and woman in the mission areas wave at us with matchless love in their eyes and gestures. We get the reward of our staying away from our families when we hear foreigners chanting the slogan, Pakistan Zindabad!  HH

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