When Zara Abbasi Wilkerson was 19, she was told she could never have kids. She had gone in for a routine checkup and received a call back from her doctor delivering the upsetting news.
By Amy Gordy
“I was at work, and got this call from my doctor who said he needed to send me to a specialist, but that my tubes didn’t work and I could never have kids. I was absolutely devastated. I had always wanted lots of kids, and to have a big family,” Zara Wilkerson said.
“I was so devastated. I remember thinking ‘No one is going to marry me.’ I wanted kids so bad, and how would I break the news to whomever I marry? I hate to place so much importance on a woman’s role to procreate, but it was so important to me. Luckily, my husband, John, didn’t care. He said, ‘We’ll adopt or figure it out.’ He was wonderful about everything.”
Because of Wilkerson’s low chances of conceiving, the couple chose to forgo birth control, and were thrilled and surprised to discover she was pregnant at age 28 with their now 8-year-old son, Razik.
“When I found out I was pregnant I was just so elated. That’s why my friends say I didn’t have any negative pregnancy symptoms—I was just so happy, none of it mattered. I was so ecstatic every day to see my stomach getting bigger and know that this is real,” she said.
Wilkerson was surprised again three days before Razik’s first birthday to find out she was pregnant with now 6-year-old Amila, whom she sums up with the word “sassy.”
After Amelia’s birth, the Wilkersons were heartbroken to lose two babies. “I had two miscarriages—one was last year, and the other the year before. So now I wonder that maybe the doctor was right, maybe Razik and Amila were just my two miracle babies,” she said.
Wilkerson was in law school while raising the two little ones. She and her husband were intending to move to California and were waiting for her license to practice to come through, but her career path took a different turn.
“I had both of my kids while I was in law school, and the plan was to be an attorney. I was in a weird limbo waiting for the results from California, I couldn’t sign on with a law firm, and a law clerk job wouldn’t cover the cost of daycare. John suggested I stay home with them, and let his dad watch them a few hours a week so I could try a job I liked,” she said.
She had always loved to cook, so Wilkerson approached the owner of Natchez restaurant, which is now closed, to apply for the job of pastry chef. She got the job and quickly gained a name around Little Rock for her exquisite desserts. She was hired to consult with several restaurants including 109 & Co., The Afterthought, The Faded Rose, Heights Taco & Tamale Co., and the other Yellow Rocket Concepts restaurants.
“What I would do is come in and meet with the owner, then develop a dessert menu and create the desserts. My motto was ‘Say yes, and learn later,’ and I said yes to the point that I ended up taking on too much work.”
Wilkerson was taking private orders and filling orders for seven local restaurants when she finally had to step back. “I finally said, ‘Hey I gotta stop. My kids are suffering and I’m suffering. Until I can get a bakery opened, there’s no way I can handle all this and be a mom.”
While this “miracle baker” is taking a step back now to focus on her family, she teases with something “secret” in the works.
“Hopefully I see myself in five years owning my own business and continuing baking in some form. I’ve become much more involved in the legal sphere because of the recent political transition. I’m getting lots of immigration legal questions. People are saying, ‘Hey, I know a Pakistani lawyer,’ and reaching out, and it’s been a great experience for me to use my education to help people.”
THE INSIDE SCOOP WITH ZARA
IF YOU HAD A DAY FREE FROM ALL OBLIGATIONS, WHAT WOULD YOU DO? I'd sleep in, then have a leisurely breakfast that I'd make for myself. I'd go to the gym and get a massage/facial. I'd go watch a movie and shop, and I'd end the day with a nice dinner and an extra long shower. I might even read a book!
WHICH QUALITY DO YOU MOST HOPE TO INSTILL IN YOUR CHILDREN? Ambition. I want them to truly reach for the stars and believe anything is within their grasp.
WHAT DO YOU WORRY ABOUT MOST? That I'm not doing enough for my kids, the world, for humanity.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY BALANCED? Hang out with family. My parents and brothers keep me laughing. My kids and husband keep me hopeful and positive.
WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO MEAL TO PREPARE THAT MAKES EVERYONE HAPPY? Unfortunately, everyone has different likes, but everyone is also easily pleased. The closest thing would be a roast chicken with vegetables and mashed potatoes.
WHAT'S YOUR IDEAL GIRLS NIGHT? I'm lucky enough to have an amazing group of girlfriends. We love meeting up for brunch or dinners and just talking. It's a great break from our schedules.
WHAT'S YOUR IDEAL DATE NIGHT? Depends on the mood. If we've had a rough week, then homemade ribeyes and a good rental movie. If we're in great spirits, maybe going to South on Main for a show.
WHAT'S THE HARDEST THING ABOUT PARENTING? Having patience and consistency for the kids. It's all about balance and it takes a lot of time to juggle your instincts with discipline and creating a positive atmosphere.
WHAT DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH MOST AT THIS STAGE IN YOUR CHILDREN'S LIVES? Keeping up with their messes! They have entirely too many toys and things and it becomes overwhelming to sort and clear them away. I feel like a hamster on a wheel cleaning the same things over and over again.
WHAT MAKES YOU MOST PROUD OF YOUR CHILDREN? I love their hearts. They are truly caring kids and have a genuine innocence I'd love to preserve. They are observant of their surroundings and absorb things quickly, and it makes me proud to know they use those things in a positive way.