Miriam Habib


Miriam Habib is a 24-year-old Saudi Arabian woman, who is married to Mohammed, a graduate student at PSU.The Habibs come from a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia, which allows them to live in an upper-income suburban neighborhood near Beaverton.They have a four-bedroom home, with a formal living room and dining room that are separate from the kitchen and family room.


The Habibs chose this house specifically because of its layout.Because they are devout, orthodox Muslims, they observe the strictest rules of pardah, which prohibits a woman from showing herself in public or in front of men who are not her husband or her children.This means that when Mohammed has male guests to the house, they cannot even see Miriam, who remains with her four children and the Vietnamese au pair in the kitchen or family room.


Miriam is four months pregnant with her fifth child.To some Muslims, seven is the ideal number of children.Mohammed would like seven children.Miriam is not so sure, but has not been very successful in asserting any protest.Her husband encourages her to take advantage of all the help the family can afford, which is considerable.Nevertheless, Miriam finds the process of pregnancy and childbirth difficult, particularly since she was born in Egypt and, like many Egyptian females, received a female circumcision when she was 2 years old.


Though her English still is not very good, Miriam is working on a bachelorís degree in early childhood development, at PSU.She also exercises three times a week at a womenís-only fitness club.She has several friends among other Muslim wives.


Except when at home or at her exercise class (where no men are ever present) Miriam wears full veiling (the chadar), with only a slit for her eyes, through which to see.Her hands are gloved at all times that she is veiled.As with many Muslim women, she cannot drive.Unless he is in class or in Friday prayers, her husband drives her wherever she needs to go, including the obstetrician.They have been fortunate to find an ob/gyn practice where all the doctors are women, as their Muslim beliefs would not allow a male doctor to examine Miriam or deliver her baby, even in case of an emergency.This practice is in Northwest Portland, and Miriam is scheduled to deliver at Good Samaritan Hospital, even though St. Vincentís Hospital is actually much closer to her home.